Jesus and WIMPs: On "seeing" Jesus

By Jerry Truex

In John 14:8, Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Philip’s voice is heard in all generations. For example, Albert Ellis said, “When the New York Times reports the existence of God, then I’ll believe.” Similarly, we hear people say, “If I can’t see it, I don’t believe it.” In this way, Philip’s voice insists that God is nowhere.

In each of us, Philip’s voice threatens and makes demands of belief. In each of us, the father of the demonic boy shouts out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24). Each of us longs for a divine voice to break the silence and a divine light to vanquish the darkness. If belief and unbelief are struggling within you, I encourage you to consider two things: Jesus and WIMPs.

First, there is Jesus

What did Jesus say to Philip? It’s a mind bender, so brace yourself. The writer of John’s Gospel has Jesus say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9). For early Christians, like the writer of John’s Gospel, Jesus was remembered as if “God lived among us” (Jn 1:14). John’s Gospel invites you to walk with Jesus from Cana to Jerusalem, to hear his voice in long metaphorical monologues, to feel his calloused hands, to see his remarkable feats and, finally, to remain faithful even as Jesus is captured, tried, tortured, and executed. And on your journey, if you receive and believe (1:12), Jesus’ voice will break the divine silence (3:34), light will dispel the darkness (8:12), awe will push you backward (18:6), and you will gasp with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). In John’s Gospel, Jesus and God are one, yet not the same, for no one sees God (1:18). But, if you walk in the light (12:35), seeing Jesus is enough! Enough to know God is a palpable and present.

Of course, you and I haven’t seen Jesus physically. Still, historical Jesus scholars are helping us see more clearly the Jesus who really walked the dusty paths of Galilee and Judea. Like John’s portrait of Jesus, scholars are discovering a remarkable figure. Think of Mother Theresa (a healer unafraid of suffering), Albert Schweitzer (a brilliant teacher and physician), Mahatma Gandhi (a nonviolent social prophet), and the Dali Lama (a holy man without guile). Now take these individuals and wrap them into one peasant hero from Galilee and that is my vision of Jesus. And when I see Jesus, awe pushes me backward and I gasp with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

Then, there are WIMPs

WIMPs are Weak Interacting Massive Particles. Here is another mind bender, so fasten your safety belts and put on your helmets. According reputable cosmologists, what we ‘see’ in our universe accounts for only about 15 to 20 percent of the ‘matter’ that is really there. In other words, we cannot see 80 to 85 percent of the universe. This “dark matter” consists of WIMPs and despite their massive size, they pass right through visible objects from planets and persons. (See Timothy Johnson, Finding God in the Questions, 2004:35).

What would cosmologists say to Philip’s demand, “Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied”? On the issue of God, cosmologists might remain agnostic. But regarding seeing in order to believe, they would insist that most of “what is there” in the universe can’t be seen. With the writer of John’s Gospel, they might say, “Blessed are those who have not seen [WIMPs] and yet have believed” (cf. Jn 20:29).

Now, there’s one final point I want you to ponder. Many of life’s most important realities cannot be seen: WIMPs, gravity, neutrinos, moral values like justice and goodness, love, and God. In fact, to think God can be seen or empirically verified is a category mistake. A category mistake is a type of faulty reasoning, which assigns something a property that belongs to another category. For example, if I said, “Love is blue,” I’ve made a category mistake. Love has no color. In the same way, just as cosmologists think it is a category mistake to think we can see WIMPs, biblical authors insist that it is a category mistake to think we can see God (Jn 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16).

So, if you hear a voice saying, God is nowhere, I encourage you to look at Jesus, ponder the universe, open your inner eyes, and consider the possibility that God is now here.

Jerry Truex is the Pastor of the Mennonite Church of the Servant; instructor of Biblical Studies at AMBS-Great Plains.