Recently I re-read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) noting those places where God the Father speaks directly to Jesus, and those places where Jesus speaks directly to the Father. Since then, I have been reflecting on them in this way (suggested by my friend Mike Breen): to see the words the Father addresses to Jesus as being addressed to me, and to make the words Jesus addresses to the Father my own prayer.
On what basis is it valid to consider words spoken to Jesus to be addressed to me? On the basis of covenant. I am in relationship with God through a covenant made between Jesus and humanity, ratified (as true covenants are) in blood. A covenant is an exchange of identities. On the cross, to those who agree to the terms offered, Jesus took our identity and gave us his own. That is why we are called sons of God: it is not a matter of gender inclusivity/exclusivity, but a consequence of becoming one with the Son (in covenantal language, women must get used to being considered sons of God, and men get used to being considered part of the bride of Christ). Therefore, by virtue of being made one with Jesus, we can receive words spoken to him as spoken to us.
In the Gospels, we have recorded for us just two occasions where the Father speaks to the Son. The first is at Jesus’ baptism, where the Father declares:
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
(Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22; see also occasions where the Father says this of Jesus to others, Matthew 3:17 & 17:5, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35)
The second is in response to Jesus addressing the Father at the start of his final week leading up to the crucifixion. In response to Jesus’ prayer, “Father, glorify your name!” the Father replies:
“I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
The first word is a word of Covenant. A word about our identity, which flows from the Fatherhood of God, and is manifest in obedience to his will. A word about being; a word about our nature.
The second word is a word of Kingdom. A word about our authority, which flows from the Kingship of God, and is manifest in acts of (self-sacrificial) power that destroy the works of the evil one and set captives free. A word about doing; a word about our commission.
Covenant and Kingdom are the two threads that run through the entire Bible from beginning to end, underpinning and interpreting the whole narrative into which our story belongs.
What, then, might the implication of hearing these words spoken over us be?
Firstly, we need to know that we are loved by our heavenly Father, accepted into – and publically recognised as belonging to – his family, and experiencing his pleasure with us. That is very simple, but very hard – especially so for anyone who has not had a positive experience of their earthly father. It is also very hard for those who lean too far towards kingdom – to doing – to hear (especially as these words were spoken over Jesus before he had done any of his ministry). But it is the gift of God, which he longs for us to receive.
Secondly, knowing this love empowers us to live lives that glorify God, by being available to our Father to work through for his glory. And his greatest glory is for others to come to know that they are his son, whom he loves, with whom he is well pleased. Again, this is very simple, and very hard. In particular, it is very hard for those who lean too far towards covenant – to being – to hear. But it is not enough to hear the first word without responding in such a way that makes it possible to hear the second word. We need to hear the Father speak both words over us...