How does the story go? The teacher says to the boy, “What are you drawing?” The boy responds, “God.” “But nobody knows what God looks like,” says the teacher. “They will when I finish!” the boy replies.
From the beginning of human history, people have been trying to draw God’s picture. They have taken the sun, moon or stars as representations of the divine. They have treated images carved out of stone or painted on a flat surface as representations of divinity. Michelangelo portrayed God as an old man with a beard.
In the Hebrew tradition, the presence of God was represented by light – dazzling, blinding light – and by cloud. They said that the Lord went ahead of the travelling Israelites as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. The story of the Transfiguration is an account of God’s presence shining through Jesus, God’s beloved Son.
However else divinity may be represented, it is as personality that God becomes most real to us; in particular, the personality of Jesus. Yes, light and cloud might be fitting images to represent the presence of God, but it is through the person of Jesus that God is most fully and powerfully represented. And strange to say, it is not the picture of Jesus sitting on a throne surrounded by a host of angels; it is Jesus on the cross, giving all out of love that predominates. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
- What makes light a suitable image by which to represent the presence of God?
- Look up Exodus 3:1-4; Exodus 13:20-22 and Psalm 27:1 as places where the presence of God is represented by light.
- What characteristics of God does the image of cloud represent?
- Can we, through Christ in us, represent God’s presence to other people?