God is love are the words penned by the apostle John after his intimate connection with Jesus while working here on earth. (1 John 4:16). As John sat on the side of a hill listening to him preach, as he watched Him open the eyes of the blind, as he rebuked those doing wrong with tears in His eyes John comprehended the real mission of Jesus.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
The picture of God as revealed in the life of Jesus came in stark contrast to what men previously understood God to be like. As Jesus and His disciples were passing by a blind man they questioned Him:
John 9:2 …Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Their question revealed that men perceived God as a cruel dictator inflicting punishment on those who disobey him. The rise and fall of world empires until the time of Christ were forged through bloodshed and ruled with an iron fist reflecting human perceptions of the divine character as ruthless and revengeful.
There were witnesses proclaiming a different message. The beauty of nature, the vibrant array of flowers with their sweet perfume, the melodious birds that filled the air with their songs, and the majestic trees of living green all bore witness to the truth of a wondrous Creator and a loving Father. The fervent and dedicated love of parents for their children, and the caring intimate bonds of husband and wife also spoke of the tender heart of the Creator.
Fifteen hundred years earlier Moses, seeking to understand his maker, requested God to reveal His glory.
Exodus 34:5,6 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Yet despite these and many other evidences the prevailing view that existed was that God is harsh and severe and would eagerly punish those who offended Him.
Why did this view prevail? Because Satan had cast doubt upon the love of God from the very beginning.
Gen 3:4-5 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (5) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God did not have their best interest at heart. He convinced them that God could not be trusted. In telling Adam and Eve that they would not die in eating the fruit, he opened the way for God’s warning, given in love, to be understood very differently.
Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
If eating from the tree would not kill Adam and Eve then what would kill them? The only conclusion to be drawn was that it must be God, and when Adam next heard the voice of God in the garden we see the fruit of such thinking.
Gen 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
Why was Adam afraid of God? Because he feared death and that God would kill them for their disobedience. It was this fear of death through the idea that God would kill them that kept them in bondage to Satan. But God sought to:
Hebrews 2:15 …deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Satan suggested to our first parents that God was an executioner who would kill those who transgress Him and that He was a liar in telling them that eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge would kill them. Yet these were the very attributes of Satan, himself. In speaking to the Pharisees Jesus describes these attributes through their actions.
John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Through these deceptions Satan has enslaved the world; he has misrepresented the character of God in order to keep them from Him. The Son of God came from heaven to reveal the true character of His Father; He came to remove the dark clouds of misapprehension and show what the Father is really like. When one of the disciples made the request, “Show us the Father,” Jesus answered, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" John 14:8, 9.
In describing His earthly mission Jesus said:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:18.
With sacred imagination we behold the face of the widow of Nain when Jesus interrupted the funeral train and raised her son to life again. Our hearts are touched as we behold the story of Jairus and the joy that replaced his agony when Jesus raised his daughter to life again. Jesus would pass through whole villages, and not one sick person would remain. He fed the 5000 on the hillside out of His compassion for them, and He told them of the Father’s love for them.
So inviting was the presence of Jesus that mothers would bring their children to Him so he could bless them. In all His actions the glory of the Father was revealed. In every word He uttered the layers of darkness that had bound the world in slavery were dispelled by the light of His glory. Jesus did not use the power of positive thinking or flattery; He would always speak the truth in love and was not afraid to expose falsehood and unbelief. Yet tears were in His voice as He rebuked those in error. He only lived for others and every soul was of infinite value to Him.
The character of Christ on earth reveals to us the character of God. Christ said I do nothing of myself. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. The whole of the Father’s character was revealed in His Son. Jesus on earth revealed to humanity the express image of the Father.
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (50) And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak." John 12:49-50
While in earnest prayer to His Father, Jesus said these words:
John 17:3-6 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (4) I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (5) And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (6) I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Jesus tells us that He glorified the Father on earth. The glory of the Father is His character, and this is what Jesus revealed to us in His earthly ministry. He tells His Father also that He manifested the Father’s name or character to the disciples that were with Him. This is why Jesus could say with confidence to Philip that if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Philip did not have to witness all of the work of Jesus across all of human history to know what the Father was like. In just over three years Jesus showed us in every aspect what the Father is like.
The supreme revelation of this love was revealed upon the cross.
1 John 4:9-11 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. (10) Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
If Jesus had fallen victim to Satan’s temptation He then would have been lost forever, and the whole human race would have been lost as a result. The heavenly Father did not lend His Son to the world for simply thirty three years, He gave Him to us. There was a risk that all could be lost, and yet the Father in His great love for the world was willing to give up His only begotten Son that He might save us.
Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
This risk is revealed in the prayer of Jesus to His Father in the garden. There was a concern He would not endure the test; yet He trusted the will of His Father regardless of the cost.
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
How can we comprehend the breadth of that love? What words can express the wonder of the Love of God? Adam had not been willing to give up that which was most precious to Him, but the Father was. He spared not His own Son.
Jesus silently took the beating, mocking and ridicule of the mob that delighted in His suffering. He faithfully tried to carry His cross until the weight was too great for Him. He asked John to care for His mother while He was on the cross and asked His Father to forgive those who were killing Him.
Never had the universe witnessed such amazing love as this. The character of the Father blazed forth from His Son in glorious light. Truly the Father loves His enemies and forgives those who seek to destroy Him. All this was manifested in the character of the Son of God. Through death the Son of God revealed the murderer that Satan was and revealed the actions of the serpent. Upon the cross the murderer and the murdered were fully revealed. The spirit that moved Cain to kill his brother Abel was manifested in full light upon the cross, and the heavenly universe could see fully for the first time what a liar and a murderer that Satan was. His influence in heaven fell like lightning, and there was found no place for him in heaven any more in the hearts of the angels.
At the beginning of this journey we want to be able to obtain the correct pair of glasses to read the stories of the Bible. In the light of the cross of Calvary the attributes of God that have filled us with fear in the Old Testament become beautiful and attractive. Mercy, tenderness and parental love are seen to blend with holiness, justice and power. Through the lens of the stories from the New Testament we can begin to see the truth of the acts of Judgment in the Old Testament. This is the object of this series – to show that the life of Jesus on earth is the same yesterday today and forever and that this is exactly what our Father is like.