14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen.
When you think about God the Father how do you imagine him? What does he look like? How big is he? What does his face look like? We might have our own thoughts about his appearance but you really can’t picture him, can you? I remember when I was in first or second grade I was supposed to draw a picture of God. I drew two really huge feet standing on the ground and you could see his ankles going up through the clouds. I wish I still had that picture. How do we describe the image of God? There is no actual description of him in the Bible. In fact God tells us that we cannot see him and live. Sure, there are times he has representations of his presence: a burning bush; a pillar of smoke and fire; a mighty cloud; a voice calling down from Heaven? But how use that to describe what God actually looks like? I have no idea. That’s a pretty common theme. And maybe that’s why the people of this world keep searching. They want to find what God looks like. Or make him in their own image.
The Jews struggled with that same thing, and they had the Word and promises of God. But they wanted more. They wanted a god they could look at and touch. Whether it was a golden calf, Asherah poles, or making other false gods for themselves they wanted to know what God looked like. And even when they turned back to the one true God they struggled. “ For the law was given through Moses.” (John 1:17a) They had this great gift, this Will of God for them. But then they would confuse it. They would change it from his Will into his image. If only they could keep it perfectly, follow it just right, cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s then they would know God. They thought the Law was easy: do this, don’t do that. Breaking the Law brought punishment. Obeying the law made God love you more. At least, that’s what they sometimes thought. But the truth is, that’s not how the Law works. The Law is great and wonderful, but it is not the image of God. You cannot know the image of God through the Law.
We face the same struggles and temptations that those Old Testament people faced. We want a God we can see, touch, understand. The world around us runs after all kinds of fake gods. False religions are everywhere. And for those who aren’t worshipping false gods, they praise other things. They keep holding up sin and calling it good. Not just good, but right, and if you disagree with it then you are bad. The world worships what God calls evil. And here we are in the middle of a world that praises evil. The very things our sinful nature wants so badly. But by God’s strength and his power we avoid those things. Usually. But to be honest we find ourselves turning to those evil things. Whether it is the false religion of gossip or the altar of anger and hatred. Maybe instead of Asherah poles we find ourselves hunched over our keyboards or tablets or phones running after all the sins that we can find online. We build up idols of arrogance, selfishness, and greed. Or maybe we find ourselves with the same problem of the Jews: falling for the false belief that the Law is the image of God. That if we keep it just right then of course he will have to love us. We pat ourselves on the back for not being a sinner like the rest of the world. Look at how great we are. We who like to think of ourselves as good people because we obey the Law (at least most of the time) are ignoring the clear truth: the Law declares us sinners. Every one of us.
But we are just so desperate to comprehend God. Do you want to see God the Father? Do you want to know who he really is? Don’t lie to yourself and think that you’ll find him in false religions or searching for him in the sinful things of the world. And don’t think that you’ll know God through self-righteousness.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) We’re going to get back to the Law in a moment but let’s just let that sink in. Do you want truth? Look at Jesus Christ. Do you want to see the image of God? You’ll find it in the one who was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before all things; who always has been and always will be one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. One God. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18) The image of God is not a tyrant; he’s not wrathful, spiteful, or miserly. Don’t picture God as just waiting for us to mess up so that he can punish us. No. If that’s what you think, you need a better picture. He is a Saving God who loves, cares, and rescues. Just look at Jesus. His birth was revealed to some shepherds and wise men. From the nearby and lowly, to the distant and powerful. In Jesus God revealed himself to be the one who loves the whole world and whose promises are for everyone. When he spoke to Adam and Eve he was also speaking so we could hear: “Don’t worry. Someone is coming who will take away all of your sins. He will suffer for you, but he will win the battle. He will destroy that liar, the Devil who threatens you.” And that promised Savior has already fulfilled that promise. Jesus suffered for your sins. Everything that the Devil wants to accuse you of, and let’s be honest, you and I are guilty Jesus has taken our punishment. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-10) Do you want to see the Father? Look to the Son. Do you want to know who God is? Look at his sacrifice, his agony, and his victory for you. In the Gospel you will see who the one True God is.
So does that mean the Law is useless? Of course not! God has given it to us for a reason. The Law cannot save. It is not show us the image of God; but it is important. It’s God’s Will for us. It prepares us to hear the saving message of the Gospel. It shows us our need of a Savior so that when the Gospel is revealed to us we will see the true image of our God. Out of thanks we see the Law in a new light. When God says “you shall” we want to, to show him thanks! When God says, “you shall not” we realize that God is trying to keep us from danger. All because we have been changed by seeing who are God really is: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The image of God brings us peace and joy. Instead of running after the lies and false things of this world we have truth. We have confidence through the faith worked in our hearts. We have God’s promise that we will never be alone because he is always with us.
It's completely different from what the world knows. They are still running after whatever they think will make them happy, but really will just leave them empty. Frantically they search but they look in all the wrong places. But you and I have the peace they need. “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Isaiah 61:11-62:1) Just as we know grace and truth because God has revealed it through Jesus, let us bring that peace to the world. Let’s proclaim the newborn king. Let’s reveal the Savior to the lost and let his Word destroy every false belief. Because only in Jesus will the world see the true image of God. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and f is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18) Amen.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Amen.