Seeing God

In John 9 we learn a Gospel lesson from the man who was born blind but who is given the gift of sight by Christ.  Toward the very end of that pericope, Jesus finds the man whom he has healed – the man has been expelled from the synagogue community for giving honor to Christ for healing him.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.

The implication in John’s Gospel is that an encounter with Jesus is an encounter with God.  To truly see Christ is to see also God the Father.  Thus the man born blind sees God, even though at the beginning of the pericope he is physically blind and can’t ‘see’ at all, and after his eye sight has been given to him, Christ is nowhere to be seen.

Only at the very end of the Gospel Lesson after he has come to faith and an understanding of who Christ is, does He come face to face with Jesus the Son of God.  Only when he has professed his belief about Jesus, confessed his faith in Jesus despite the persecution from the unbelieving community, does he experience the revelation in which he sees Christ.

“We need to return to the oft-repeated concern that ‘man shall not see me [i.e., my face] and live’ (Exod. 33:20, Judg. 13:22). We begin by noting that worldly reality is capable of experiencing theophanies, though not of producing them; the God-world relationship is of such a nature that God can appear without disruption. The intensity associated with certain theophanies does not happen because God stands in some fundamental disjunction with the world, requiring much ‘sound and fury’ to occur in God’s wake. Some of the most ‘face to face’ comings of God are very quiet, it should be remembered, even childlike. There is a certain ‘nexus’ here that cannot be denied. Although God and world are categorically different, they are not as irreconcilable as repelling magnets or oil in water. Statements about not seeing God and living seem to contradict such basic understandings, however, or at least qualify them in an important way. It has often been pointed out that Scripture does not say God cannot be seen; rather, it assumes God can be seen, but one cannot live if this happens. The issues is always a matter of life, not visibility. Even then, it seems that God is capable of allowing God to be seen by certain individuals who live to tell about the experience.” (Terence E. Fretheim, The Suffering of God, pgs. 91-92)

In Christ the unutterable truth that one cannot see God face to face and live, is irreversibly altered.   God reveals Himself to the world in Jesus Christ, and the eyes of all of those born blind to this truth are opened.