“No one has ever seen God,” we read in John 1:18 (RSV). Artists, poets, and authors, of course, have attempted to portray Him. Michelangelo portrayed him as both ancient and strong. Jonathan Edwards portrayed him as full of wrath in his sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.” Bette Midler sang about an indifferent God who is watching “from a distance.”
Painters portray God in their own image, making him brown, black, white, yellow, or red. Some imagine his hair is blond, white, or some other shade.
We know some of his attributes: He is love, light, merciful, kind, life. We describe him as all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful. But what does he look like?
We are used to having an answer to that question. If you ask me what my sons look like, I can show you a photograph. People often carry photos around of their special ones — or, like me, they post them on Facebook.
But what does God look like? Icons, paintings, poems, and songs attempt to portray some sort of image that reveals God. But, like the ancients of Israel, we have not seen Him.
Oh, we say, “Look at the mountains and see God.” Or the oceans, or the vastness of space. Some even say, “Look at the miracle of birth and see God.” But, no. We do not. We see His works, the results of His activities, His creation, perhaps … but not Him.
“No one has ever seen God.” That’s not entirely true, of course. John is speaking about earthly man. According to the Bible, the angels have seen Him. Those who have entered into their heavenly home have seen him. In fact multitudes — more than can be numbered — have seen Him.
But not “earthly man.” Sometimes people will write books about how they have died and gone to heaven and seen God — I don’t know about that. I am skeptical. St. John says that “no one has seen God.”
Jesus, who was with God, has seen God. In fact we read that “In the beginning was the Word.” John is describing Jesus in this passage — Jesus before he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became “God with us.” And “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
We read of him that “All things came into being through him, and without Him not one thing came into being.”
John wrote, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
Jesus then, the Son, the second member of the Trinity, who was in the beginning with God … and was God … has made him known. How has he made Him known?
Certainly through His teachings. If we want to know the mind of God, we should study the words, the teachings of His Son.
We also see that Jesus makes God known through His actions. We see Jesus feeding the hungry, ministering to the sick, befriending those whom society has cast off. We see him turning the cheek when attacked — by the way, do we really think that God doesn’t do that? If He didn’t, scornful and mocking humanity would have ceased to exist long ago.
We see Jesus weeping when people are broken-hearted, we see Him reaching out to the seeker, welcoming the children, making a place at the table for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the down and out. We see him serving humanity, even when He is rejected in the most cruel ways.
We see him embracing the criminal at the cross, the morally bankrupt, the handicapped, those who had little importance in society. We see him rebuking the outwardly religious and saving his most scathing pronouncements for those who ought to have known better — the religious crowd.
We see that Jesus makes God known through his character. He loves, he is merciful, he forgives, he is patient — with the sinner and with the disciple. He walks in humility, although he can wield the whip when necessary. He IS for others. He came, as He said, to seek and to save that which was lost.
What does God look like? Even the disciples wanted to know. “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?’” John 14:8-9 (NASB).
What does God look like? He looks like Jesus.
John said that Jesus “has made Him known.” If you want to know God, you must come to know Jesus. If you want to know this one that John calls The Word, you must look into His revealed Word.
If you want to see God, you must be able to see Jesus. If you want to know what God looks like, you may see Him in his Son.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m.(www.ctkcec.org) He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]