Facing God

The intro to John’s gospel is a beautiful comparison of Moses and Jesus.  Moses was the man that met with God on Mount Sinai when Israel was wandering in the desert and the one to receive the instructions, including the famous Ten Commandments, for God’s people.  On one particular occasion, Moses asked God to show himself.  God responded, “I will make all my goodness pass before you… but, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” So Moses excitedly hid in the crack of a rock and caught a glimpse of the glory that followed the backside of God as he passed by (c.f. Exodus 33).  Moses came as close as any human could get to seeing God.

Until Jesus.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was [facing] God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1

Jewish culture and religion up until the writing of John’s gospel had accepted a second presence in creation, a certain duality of the God figure.  This verse would not have been offensive to the Jewish mind, but when John claims “The word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) he is speaking to the divinity of Jesus Christ, something the Jewish leaders obviously opposed.  John takes it a step further in the same verse and reinforces the Jesus/Moses comparison:  “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   This is the same language used to describe God as he passed by Moses on the mountain.

Finally, John brings it home:

And from his fullness we have received, grace [in the place of] grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is [in the Father’s lap], he has made him known.

John 1:16-18

Some interpret this “at the Father’s side,” but literally translated it reads “in the lap.”  What an intimate picture of relationship!  I think about my nephew Josh when I read this passage.  Josh is affected by a mild from of autism, which gives him difficulty in relating socially.  From the day he was born, Vicky and I made a huge effort to build a special relationship with him each time we visited; and all the more when we found out his condition.  Getting to know him meant picking him up, setting him in our laps facing us, and communicating.  Vicky and Josh even developed a sort of inside joke where they look at each other and let out a high pitched screech, something he now does the second he sees her.

Josh and Vicky

Unlike Moses, Jesus had seen God.  In fact, Jesus was in the beginning with God, sitting in his lap, facing him.

Christianity is all about following the Way and imitating Jesus, our teacher.  Let’s ask ourselves, are we facing God?  Are our lives consistently oriented towards the Father?  Are we sitting in his lap?

Getting to know God is our privilege and process… and I can’t think of any higher calling.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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