by Simon Hall
Somewhere along the line, without anyone ever quite saying it, I picked up the idea that Jesus was special because he wasn’t like his Dad (I mean God, not Joseph). Jesus was kind, caring, inclusive and gently revolutionary. He hated hypocrisy, confronted injustice, never said no to anyone who wanted to be well (even though it didn’t always work), and laid down his life for us. His Dad seemed to be distant, angry, retributive, needy, flaky when it came to healing, complicit at best when it came to injustice.
I got the idea that Jesus was special because he WASN’T like his Dad. In fact, Jesus came to SAVE us FROM his Dad. Jesus was special because he was a unique moment in which God’s love and compassion were made real in our world, but then he left and normal service was resumed as soon as possible.
John’s gospel is the reflective one. He opens with a classic tease: ‘No one has seen God, but the one and only son… has made him known’ (1:18). At that point, it’s not clear how that’s going to happen – John is setting us up for a big reveal later in the gospel.
Due to the lack speech marks, we can’t always be 100% sure which bits are Jesus and which are John. But John 14:9 is in the first person, so that helps – this bit is definitely Jesus:
‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’
That’s the payoff from chapter one. Jesus doesn’t make God known by teaching about God – there’s virtually none of that. Jesus makes God real in a human body: the religious word is ‘incarnation.’ The first Christians weren’t made to recite beliefs and doctrines, they met Jesus and learned to walk in his way.
Jesus is special not because he is different, but because he is the same as God. Yesterday, today and forever God is present with us, eager to love us, heal us, include us. Yes, God is angry with sin and injustice, but in Jesus God has already shown us that Father will go to any length to save us – from ourselves.
God wasn’t like Jesus for just 33 years, two thousand years ago.
God is like Jesus right now, wherever you are. God loves you, wants to see you safe and well*, wants to include you in the global family of Jesus, wants to work with you to make this world look more like the haven of justice and peace that it was intended to be.
That is a God worth knowing. That is special!
*That’s a complicated one – it doesn’t always work out the way we and God would like it to. We can talk about that another time, probably not on Christmas Day though…