I recently read a book about God and the human brain. In the book, researchers asked people what they thought God looked like. The question produced a lengthy pause in most adults. This was significant to the neuroscientist because it meant that a great deal of neurological activity was taking place as different parts of the brain attempted to put into words a concept that defies the parameters of language for many people. In this week's Gospel, we hear about someone who surely wrestled with a description of what God looked like.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. John 3:14-21
Nicodemus receives multiple images for God in his conversation with Jesus. The first is of the Son of Man, then he hears of God as a loving Father. Next, Jesus describes God as light coming into the world. What a profound experience this must have been for Nicodemus. What must his brain have been experiencing as Jesus' descriptions challenged his previous images of God?
When you read this Gospel what does God look like to you? I imagine two images. One is of Jesus suffering unbearably on the cross. That image comes in a variety of forms as I recollect everything from various crucifixes and paintings I've seen to the brutally graphic depiction of the crucifixion in the movie The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. The second image I imagine is more vague. In fact, I struggle to even explore it because I can't fathom its depth. As a father, my brain can't even begin to grasp what God the Father saw as life ebbed away from the body of His beloved Son.
What does God look like? I can't think of a better answer than, "God so loved the world..."