Seeing God was something experienced regularly and routinely by the community that produced “John’s Gospel” and is spoken of in this Sunday’s readings.
Seeing God. Is that even possible (John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16)? How can human beings see holy and absolute Mystery? God is beyond all comprehension and description. It’s impossible to see God! Right?! Check out the video…
And yet in this Sunday’s Gospel (John 14:1-12) Philip asks precisely for this (John 14:8)! He asks the Johannine Jesus to “show us the Father.” He is talking about seeing the Patron God of Israel. Moreover, doubting Thomas laments to Jesus that they do not know the way (John 14:5) to the Father’s house (John 14:2-4).
Seeing Death & Beyond
When ancient Mediterranean people get ready to die (a process, not a point in time, as with our Western death certificates), they get prescient. In deep concern for their loved ones, people they stick to like glue, these collectivists, close to the boundaries between life and death, begin seeing the forthcoming. They pass what they see along to their kin. This is what is going on in the Farewell Discourse that is John 14—17.
Farewell discourses with prescient seeing the forthcoming happens throughout Scripture. Jacob (Genesis 49), Moses (Deuteronomy 31–33), Paul (Acts 20), and Jesus (Luke 22; John 14–17) all give prescient farewells. They all do this getting ready for death. This is so weird for mainstream Americans, but expected behavior for Mediterranean people. In that cultural world when you get ready to die, you start exhorting your loved ones about the divine seeing that flows naturally with the process of death. The sacred texts were not written for, by, or about people of whiteness, I’m afraid.
Sometimes the dying warn about a calamitous forthcoming. Successors are often challenged to take up the words and work of the dying or departing one. Seeing God and what God has in store is often disclosed by the dying biblical hero.
Seeing Authentic Life
The key advice of the prescient Johannine Jesus’ farewell address concerns seeing. He lays it out in John 14:6, best translated by John Dominic Crossan—
“I am the authentic (truth) vision (way) of existence (life).”
Seeing God? That happens exclusively via the Sky Vault Man (“Son of Man”), Jesus (John 1:50-51). As he says, “no one comes to the Father except by me.” There is no seeing God except by Jesus’ access. What does he mean by that?
Seeing “The Godfather”
You can learn more about the Bible, Gospels and Jesus included, by carefully watching “The Godfather Trilogy” than taking a thousand hours of Scripture courses. This is because the first interpretation of the Bible is Mediterranean culture. Jesus is the broker or Son, like Tom Hagen, Sonny Corleone, or Michael Corleone are to the Godfather. No one is seeing the Don (the Patron or Godfather) except by way of the Broker (John 14:6b). This is Mediterranean patron-client relations. Face-to-face and face-to-grace relations! Watch the video…
Therefore to know Tom Hagen, Sonny Corleone, or Michael Corleone is to see the Father. They are the way to get into see Don Vito Corleone, the Patron. In the same Mediterranean way, to know Jesus is to see the Father. Just as there is no seeing Don Corleone except through the brokerage of his sons, so too there is no seeing the Patron God of Israel without Jesus’ brokering that deal (John 1:1-18). Capisce?
What Does the Seeing Involve?
But what does this seeing entail? Certainly the author of the Fourth Gospel didn’t have late Western Medieval devotions in mind. He wasn’t proposing staring at a Host surrounded by a golden monstrance hoping to be relieved of eye sickness or be blessed with better harvests. That peculiar understanding took over a thousand years to evolve.
For the other Jesus groups behind most of New Testament literature, seeing God meant experiencing Israelite theocracy (“kingdom of God”) soon to be inaugurated by Cosmic Lord and Messiah Jesus for Israelites in the Land of Israel. But what about for the Johannine Jesus group?
By the late 80s, the Johannine Jesus group didn’t give a damn for theocracy, immanent or otherwise. Like all other Jesus groups, this idea had been central to the Johannine believers in the 50s, surely. But that interest was long dried up by the time they put the final touches on their Gospel at the end of the first century. Turning to the respectful emic analysis of their writings we spoke of in an earlier post, the Johannine Jesus group regularly and routinely experienced the descents of the Sky Vault Man, Jesus, via altered states of consciousness experiences.
Experiencing God NOW
So “seeing God” happened all the time in that community. Who cares about a forthcoming kingdom when you have all the divine life right now? Why pray an Our Father asking for “thy kingdom come” when you already have everything? The Gospel called “John” doesn’t have the Lord’s Prayer, right? Think about that.
Tomorrow let’s talk more about this fascinating subject of altered states of consciousness and the earliest Jesus groups tomorrow…