My Bible reading this morning included the “Johannine thunderbolt” from Luke 10:22:
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
What particularly struck me was those final words: “no one knows … who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
A few sketchy thoughts on what this tells us:
- It is possible to know who the Father is. When you think about it, it is far from obvious – indeed, it is mindblowing – that we should know anything of who the maker of all things is; who he is and what he is like.
- We can only know who the Father is if Jesus tells us. We shouldn’t be surprised that people around us know and understand so little about God. We shouldn’t be surprised by militant atheism, flaccid agnosticism or the wide range of other opinions about God that we encounter. It is impossible to work out for ourselves who God is and what he is like: Jesus must reveal him to us.
- Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to us as individuals. If we know who the Father is, then this is because Jesus has chosen to reveal him to us. That’s not a cause for drawing up carefully-constructed theologies about who is “in” and who is “out” on that basis, but for being (literally) eternally grateful that Jesus engages with us as individuals (in the gospel word spoken to us by individual Christians and by the church) and reveals the Father to us.
- As a result, we can be confident that we do know who the Father is. This completes the circle: it is not only possible to know who the Father is; Jesus promises us that, if we know him, then we do know who the Father is.
No wonder Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” when he contemplated all this; how much more should we, who are the recipients of this gift.