You know that exercise where someone says a word and you are supposed to think about the first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word? For instance, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word vacation? Do you think of a beach or a fun European city or a mountain cabin? What about God? What are the first words that come to mind when you picture God in your imagination? What about Jesus?
I did this exercise recently and realized that my picture of God was much different than my picture of Jesus. What about you? Should those two pictures be different? At first, I thought it was okay that those two pictures were different. I know they make up the Trinity which is the same God, but they are also three persons with three different roles. And yes, while they have different roles in salvation and in the Kingdom, should their personalities, their very beings look different?
The writer of Hebrews actually answers this question for us. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV) Read that again. Jesus is the “exact imprint” of God’s nature. Jesus, the Son of Man, is the exact representation of God to us. He perfectly reflects God’s person, His being, for us.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 1 John 1:1-4, ESV
John starts the epistle we are studying for Lent with the explanation that Jesus who was around from the beginning with God is the same Jesus that the disciples had looked upon and touched with their hands. Jesus’ life, the same Jesus who has been with God from the beginning and who was the exact representation of God on earth, was made known to John (and the other disciples) so that they (and we) could see God the Father and share with others who He is that we’ve never seen. We can share about who we’ve never seen because we have met Jesus. Jesus shows us exactly who God is through his life, words and deeds.
So, why was my picture of God so different than my picture of Jesus? Why is yours? I believe it has a lot to do with our life experiences and our relationships with our own fathers. God is our Heavenly Father which means we often put on God those things we have seen in our own earthly fathers. Jesus is historically easy to study through scripture, but God can seem somewhat innocuous through Scripture. Because of that, without us even knowing it, we project our own experiences with our human fathers on God. So, if our father was distant or unavailable or angry or lenient, etc., we tend to see God in that light as well. And, maybe for you, you see them differently only because you’ve never really thought about them being separate but also the same.
The challenge for me and for you, especially this Lenten season, is to remember that Jesus, the one we view as a healer, as a revolutionary, as all-loving, meek but also full of strength; is the exact imprint of God Himself. When we read the Gospels and look into the face of our Savior, we are seeing the face of God. My prayer this Lent is that my beautiful picture of Jesus would help me to create a beautiful picture of God deep in my soul. Out of that, I pray my relationship with my Heavenly Father would deepen and I could live out of the fact that I am His beloved and that fact would move from approval to prolific fruit for His Kingdom.