Today’s full reading is John 14:1-14
“For the Father is greater than I.”
Yesterday we looked at the destination of the Son, today we’re considering the relationship of the Father and the Son.
The greater Father.
This seems like a strange phrase to hear Jesus say. Is Jesus saying that the Father is ‘better’ as in ‘more godlike’? Is he saying that the Father is stronger or more powerful?
Whatever Jesus means it must be held consistently with everything else he’s said about the Father up until now:
All this leads me to rule out interpretations and explanations of our verse that might end up with a Jesus who is less than God. Therefore he is not saying ‘The Father’s the real deal, I’m just his mouthpiece, nothing more than a vessel of his will.’ He can’t be saying that having also said the above statements about himself and the Father.
What Jesus is doing instead is pointing to the inner workings of the relationship between him and his Father. He is giving us some insight into the Godhead. There is total equality in God, each person is God, there is one God. But, within the Godhead of Father, Son and Spirit there is also deference and submission. ‘The Father is greater than I’ means ‘I’m submitted to him and his authority’.
This appears to me as a strange concept since a lot of the things Jesus has said up until now has implied the opposite:
As much as the Son defers to the Father and submits to him there is also a clear delight in and deference to the Son by the Father. The Father has given the Son authority, rule and dominion over the earth. It is as though the Father has said ‘I won’t do anything on Earth without your permission,’ or even just ‘you’re in charge here.’ and in response Jesus says ‘I’ll only do what I see my Father doing, or what I know my Father would have me do.’
This is mind-stretchingly beautiful. The Father is a Father secure enough in his greatness and happy enough in his Son that he wants to give his Son as much authority and freedom as possible. How does the Son respond to such a Father?
‘The Father is greater than I.’
Who wouldn’t want to surrender to a Father like that?
It’s that question that leads nicely into our application today. Who wouldn’t want to surrender to a Father like that? The answer that comes to my mind is: ‘I don’t’. What I mean is that although I see the trustworthiness of the Father and although I can understand why the Son wants to submit to him, my rebellious self still would rather seek self-glory and self-reliance than the Father’s plan. Acknowledging this is perhaps the first step along the way. Having acknowledged the goodness of the Father and the rebelliousness of my nature I am better able to pray and build an honest relationship with him.
I love you Father, I am yours. Today I choose to trust you and submit to you. When I don’t want to obey you and when my passions run wild help me to remember the Son who submits to the Father and help me to also bring my will under your rule. You are a Father who cares and who knows best. I trust you today. Amen.