Jesus: Mission of disclosure

August 8, 2007 at 11:52 pm 3 comments

I’ve read the Gospel of John twice in the last month or so, and one of the themes I noticed very strongly was John’s emphasis on Jesus as a revelation of God the Father.

Now, if I asked the average Christian what was Jesus’ purpose on this earth, he or she would probably say it was to save humanity from sin, to pay our sin-debt, or to offer himself as a sacrifice.

The book of John, however, seems only minimally aware of these themes. Jesus’ purpose, according to John, was not so much to pay a debt or to make a sacrifice for sin; his main purpose was to make known the Father.

Jesus: Disclosing the Father

Specific evidence:

streetlamp.jpgJohn says that Jesus came to “explain” the Father (1:18) and to “testify” about God so that people may know “that God is true” (3:32-4; cf. 8:26).

In John, Jesus “manifests” the Father’s name (17:6, 26) and discloses to his followers everything God has communicated to him (15:15). Jesus also claims to speak plainly of God instead of using obscure speech as in the past (16:25). Tellingly, he describes himself metaphorically as “light” (e.g. 3:19-21).

Repeatedly throughout the book, Jesus is presented as a mirror of God. Jesus does nothing “unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (5:19). His words, his deeds, his teaching and his judgments all reflect those of the Father (e.g. 5:30, 7:16, 8:28, 10:25).

Jesus and the Father are described as being one (17:21-22), such that those who know Jesus know the Father as well (e.g. 8:19). Through his crucifixion, Jesus is glorified expressly so that God may be glorified (13:31-32; cf. 17:4-8)).

By merely beholding we become changed?

I find it quite fascinating that John focuses so much on Jesus’ mission of disclosing God.

flashlight.jpgWhereas Christians usually tend to think of Jesus sacrifice as being what saves them, John on occasion seems to imply that it is Jesus’ revelation of God that is salvific—as if simply seeing God clearly has saving power in itself.

For example, Jesus says that “everyone who beholds the Son [who is the revelation of the Father] and believes in Him will have eternal life” (6:40; cf. 3:33-36, 5:24, emphasis mine).

Most tellingly, just before his crucifixion Jesus directly equates eternal life with knowing God: This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God” (17:3, emphasis mine).

Gaze and be transformed

I think one of the implications of the Gospel of John is that merely knowing God’s true character—seeing him accurately for who he really is—has salvific power.

Just a guess, but perhaps this is true because of the principle (which I’ve discussed before) that by beholding we become changed: it seems that the mere act of gazing on the character of God has a transformative effect on the human soul.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ched  |  August 9, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    it seems that the mere act of gazing on the character of God has a transformative effect on the human soul.

    This is good. As already / not yet redeemed believers, we become who we are by beholding what he is.

    Reply
  • 2. Stephen  |  August 11, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    I like that quote as well. Surely if Jesus walked among us today, many people who came into contact with him would be won over and their lives transformed, as happened 2,000 years ago.

    And I agree that John makes Jesus-as-a-revelation-of-the-Father explicit, whereas it is more implicit in the synoptic Gospels.

    Of course, some folks became enraged when they encountered Jesus. This theme is in John, too: those who love darkness were not transformed by their encounter with Jesus, but were moved to murder him. Jesus is thus crisis-inducing. His presence divides the world into two camps: those who love the light and those who prefer darkness. So seeing is not always transformative, regrettably.

    In this post, you’re dwelling on one of the differences between John’s soteriology and that of Paul or Mark. Are they proposing two different models of salvation, do you think? Or is it merely a nuance?
    😉

    Reply
  • 3. Jamie  |  August 14, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Stephen: In this post, you’re dwelling on one of the differences between John’s soteriology and that of Paul or Mark. Are they proposing two different models of salvation, do you think? Or is it merely a nuance?

    I don’t really know. I haven’t studied their models systematically, but based on the study I have done, I think they probably are articulating different models. Each one has a unique emphasis. But I think the models are complimentary, not contradictory. (You knew I would say that, didn’t you. 😉 ) I mean, Paul and John are very different, but their models seem strikingly similar to me in some ways.

    Anyway, I’m planning to post about Paul’s model in Romans next, so maybe I’ll go into further detail about that question shortly.

    Reply

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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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