September 5, 2016

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:8-9

I love to look at photos from the national parks, and with the Park Service celebrating its centennial last week, a burst of new ones have come out on the internet:

  • Okay, so this one’s not a nature picture, but it’s clever—1,000 people using brown, green and white umbrellas to make the Park Service logo on the National Mall
  • Vintage photos from the park’s early days
  • A slide show of 61 different park sites
  • Photos from and brief commentary about each of our national parks from the BBC— (while there are currently 413 units of the Park Service, only 59 are designated “national parks”)
  • A treasure trove of Ansel Adams photographs from the National Archives that you can view and order copies of
  • Vivid photos I bookmarked three years ago
  • A baker’s dozen of national park shots
  • On the National Parks Traveler website, more great photos and tips for taking your own

Why do we enjoy looking at pictures? For a couple of reasons, I think. Nature photos delight, inspire and leave us in awe. If we’ve ever been to the places they depict, they invite us to remember. Armchair travelers can visit the locations vicariously. Photos of people conjure up memories of those we loved and perhaps have lost (I should know: I have volumes of scrapbooks with photos and artifacts from over 100 years ago!).

We who are alive now have never seen Jesus. The paintings done throughout the years only guess how He might have looked—and many of them are suspect at best (A pasty white Jesus living in the Middle East? I don’t think so!).

No one who’s ever existed has seen God. Since He is spirit (John 4:24), no one can. Scripture does tell us of instances where He assumed visible form, though (Genesis 32:30, Exodus 24:9-10, Judges 13:22, Isaiah 6:1, Daniel 7:9). When Moses wanted to see God, his wish was only partially fulfilled and with several stipulations (Exodus 33:18-23).

But we do have a “picture” of God, in words. Philip, the rest of the apostles and all those who encountered Him some 2,000 years ago didn’t quite realize who He was, God in the flesh, fully human yet fully divine. Jesus told them He and God were the same (John 8:58, 10:30, 14:8-11, 12:45), showed it in the attributes He shared with God (holiness, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience—John 8:46, Matthew 28:20, John 11:11-14) and in the things He did that only God can do (forgive sins, raise the deal and judge—Mark 2:5-7; John 4:28-30, 11:43; John 5:22, 27, 10:38). Eventually the apostles understood and testified to the fact (John 1:1, 14, 18, 20:28; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).

Most of us have never seen all the parks depicted in these online photos, and perhaps never will. Yet we know they exist because we’ve read and heard about them, and viewed pictures.

Jesus realized the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants would never see Him either. He addressed that in some of His final words: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). So He left us that picture, the Bible, to remind us of God’s work throughout the ages.

Get out and visit the parks. Enjoy the pictures I’ve linked to. Just don’t neglect God’s “scrapbook.” In it you’ll find things that delight, inspire and leave you in awe (Romans 11:33). You’ll also find great love (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-19). You’ll find…life (John 10:10, 2 Peter 1:3).

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