Triune God – Jesus Introduces the Mystery to His Disciples
The triune nature of God is subtly introduced to the disciples when Jesus prescribes the antidote for their anxiety: “You trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). We might well begin with the question: Since Jesus is God, what is the difference in trusting in God (the Father) and trusting in God (the Son)? We must first recognize the obvious: we have a different perspective than the disciples did at that moment. Jesus was physically still with them, although only for a few more hours, and they were just beginning to understand the implications of Jesus’ deity. They may have not pondered the mystery of the triune God. Jesus, they observed, was a person who claimed and demonstrated his deity, but they saw him often praying to the Father. They heard him speak of the Father. They saw his submission to the Father. The distinction between the Father and the Son was, at least for that brief season of history, something they seem to have been able to comprehend.
Of course, Jesus would begin to confound his disciples a few moments later as he interacted with Phillip: “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. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:8-10).
Triune God – The Mystery of the Trinity
We can well understand that the disciples were having difficulty comprehending at this point. They perceived that Jesus and the Father are not the same person, and they understood, “Trust in God, trust also in me.” Only moments later Jesus presented an apparent contradiction—to see Jesus is to see the Father because they are one. That apparent contradiction we have come to know as the mystery of the Triune God, and we ought not to be surprised if we cannot comprehend it. We are finite and the Trinity is an infinite reality.
Triune God – Trying to Comprehend Infinite Reality
Incredibly, human beings are created in the image of the Triune God. As such, the human psyche is complex and nearly incomprehensible. We are body, spirit, will, intellect, and emotions (together—according to some—will, intellect, and emotions make up the soul). And how all of those aspects of a singular person interact is nearly impossible to diagram or trace or measure. Yet we are one person. How much more complex and beyond our finite ability to understand is the psyche of the Triune God—the eternal one-in-three? If we could understand God in three persons, then he would not be God. Our difficulty, wrote the late Ken Kantzer, is that while God is one and God is three, he is one in a different way than he is three: “We are not saying something foolish or contradictory—that God is both three and one in the same sense at the same time. We are simply saying that God’s inner make up is different from ours. In one of His aspects He is three. In quite a different aspect He is one.”1 We need only look to quantum physics for an example. Light, when measured as a wave, has velocity (186,000 miles per second) but no mass. However, if we measure the same light as a particle, it has mass but ceases to have velocity. So from one perspective God is one; at the same time but from a different perspective, God is three.
Triune God – Illustrations Just Can’t Explain God’s Nature
A number of years ago I read a story in Reader’s Digest that illustrates our problem with the triune nature of God. A man came home one evening and discovered that an area rug from his living room had been wadded up and stuffed into his kitchen sink. He was bewildered how this could have happened in his locked apartment and attempted to extricate the carpet from the sink. He pulled at it, but to no avail. As he pulled, he heard yelling and cursing from the apartment next door. He went to investigate and found the building superintendent and a plumber frantically pulling on a plumber’s snake in the neighbor’s kitchen sink. As they compared notes, they soon realized what had happened. From the neighbor’s sink the snake had made a wrong turn in the plumbing tree of the apartment complex and emerged from the sink in the next apartment. The snake then extended into the living room, where it snagged the area rug. When the plumber sought to retrieve the snake, he could not because the hooked area rug could not fit through the plumbing tree. So it is with us. We can ask questions about the triune God, but most of the time what we snag in the way of answers are pieces of the infinite that will not fit through the finite pipeline of our own minds. The finite cannot process the infinite, and no apologies are needed.