No one has ever seen God

No one has ever seen God;
the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Our souls have been made with the desire to see God and to be united with God.

The highest aspect of souls, of our rational nature, had this ability in the beginning. And whether a person believes in God or not, that desire to see God still shows itself in various ways.

In the modern world, it can be seen in a way in science, where people spend their whole lives seeking to understand what is behind the creation that we see, to understand what are the principles that govern the world we see. It inspires an intense search, and when new discoveries are made, there is a real rejoicing in the truth.

In the ancient world, it was shown in the confused idea that we could make a statue to represent the God who has power and somehow worship the image. In the Middle East all societies had their gods and their particular way of imaging them.

What creature is stronger than an ox? So if physical strength is what you think is the ideal, you worship that attribute – even Israel in their wilderness wandering, chose for a brief moment to make a golden calf. And what is more constant and steady than a star? So if constancy is what you think is ideal, you worship that attribute. Some of Israel fell for this one later in its history.

But all of these aspects of who God is, strength or constancy or whatever other attribute, if valued exclusively, limit our understanding of who is God is – we are blinded to the fuller picture in our minds of who God is, and it is also a confusion about worshipping the creature rather than the Creator.

The Greeks portrayed their gods in human likeness, which was a step up – they recognized in human nature something higher than in any other creature. And yet their gods were fickle, like we are; they could be immoral, like we are. They projected onto God what is fallen in human nature. And the later Greek philosophers saw that this could surely not be the case with God – they saw that God must be all Good and that God must be One. Remarkably, they came to conclude by human reason, what Israel already knew by revelation. And yet the Greeks failed to see how we could come to know the life of God – there was a distance, a coolness in their philosophical accounts about who God is, however sophisticated, and however clearer to the Truth than the primitive ideas of the gods in other nations.

The God of Israel was unique in the Ancient world in forbidding the making of images to portray him. In the second of the Ten Commandments God says: You shall not make to yourself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor worship them. [Ex 20:4; Deut 5:8]

God is who he is. And in forbidding images, God forbids us to limit our minds to imperfect understandings of who he is. Because God wants to be known by us in all his fullness. It doesn’t hurt God if we think less of him, but if we think anything less, we debase ourselves, we close ourselves off from growing in our knowledge of God and so in our likeness of God. Because we become like the one we worship. Idols don’t have eyes that see or ears that hear or mouths that speak, or feet that walk – and those who worship them become spiritually blind and deaf and mute to hearing and seeing and speaking the truth and paralyzed from walking in the way of love. [Ps 115:3-8]

Many give up trying to understand God and turn all that eternal longing for God into satisfying it with what is closer at hand – the good things of things of this created world, with earthly pleasure. And if we sin in particular ways, our minds are continually focused on those particular ways of satisfying our longing. And instead of searching out with our minds for the God who is beyond these creaturely things, we don’t even look anymore for the One who is beyond it and behind it all. Our minds get stuck and we debase ourselves.

Because humanity was only looking at the things of this world (the idol worshippers), or thought that the life of heaven was simply too high for man (the Greek philosophers) – God chose to enter into the Creation in the most intimate of ways – He became one of us.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [2 Cor 8:9]

God wants to open up to us the life of heaven – so that we might see it and in seeing it come to participate in it. Because when we see the Truth, we are seeing God.

And the Word (the Reason or the Principle behind everything) the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. [John 1:14,18]

And nowhere before or since will we see the Truth more clearly than when we look at Jesus Christ, who said of himself, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. [John 14:6]

When Philip asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. [John 14:9]

Jesus is not speaking about his physical body – but of knowing God with the mind – this is how we see God – not with the eyes of our body, but the eyes of our mind.

We can learn much about who God is and the glory of God from looking at nature – the power of the sea, the majesty of the mountains, the beauty of a sunrise and sunset, the vast expanse of the starry skies, the imaginative beauty and diversity of nature’s creatures, and the intricacy of its inner workings at the microscopic level or even at subatomic level. But nowhere in the created order can we see God as clearly as we see him revealed in his Son Jesus Christ. In Jesus we come to know God’s Wisdom, His Justice, His kindness, His forbearance, His power and majesty, in Jesus we see God’s love at its highest and revealed in a human life – in his life, in his sacrificial death, and in his rising again and ascending into glory.

Because Jesus is the one through whom all things came into being, he can speak to every soul, no matter how much we may have debased ourselves, to rekindle in us a desire for heaven. God comes to us in poverty, in the flesh – to meet us in our poverty, and he captures our imaginations and our hearts that are looking only into this world. And he lifts our minds and hearts to capture a glimpse of the life of heaven – and when we see it, we want that Life, He makes us desire God and the life of heaven. He became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

And we are not simply left with an eternal unfulfilled longing… Jesus makes us rich again, by helping us move beyond our failures, and then he purifies our vision, as we follow his commandments to love, and so He restores our souls. Now we see Him in a mirror dimly, but then we will see Him face to face! [1 Cor 13]

The riches of Wisdom, of understanding, of insight, of faith, hope and love, of eternal life become ours to receive, and ours to share.

Today our eyes are being lifted by Him, we will partake soon of His body and blood – a very visible way Jesus has left us – we will see with our physical eyes consecrated bread and wine – His Body, His Blood – that leads us to see with our minds the God who is unseen.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side,
he has made (and is making) him known.

Pantocrator Mosaic in Celfalu Cathedral, Sicily, AD 1145-1160

Almighty God who did wonderfully create us in your own image, and yet more wonderfully restored us through your Son Jesus Christ: Grant that, as he came to share in our humanity, so we may be made partakers of the divine nature; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.