Today’s full reading is John 16:25-33
“The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
I don’t know if you’ve had this experience before, there’s every chance that I’m just a little odd, but as I sit here writing this my heart is beating fast at the truth contained in these words. I feel as though an answer to a question I’ve wondered about for some time has at last arrived.
It’s a question Amy and I were discussing together recently: ‘since the Father loves the Son so much (and it’s clear from John’s gospel that he loves him a lot), does he actually love me or is it only the bits of his Son he sees in me that he likes?’ Does he love me for me or does he just tolerate me because the Son softens his heart towards me?
Does God know me and love me for me?
It’s a valid question.
There are several ways of answering that question but in my opinion none of them are quite as definitive as this one from the mouth of Jesus.
When we come to God and ask him for things ‘in the name of Jesus’ that means we’re asking on the basis of who Jesus is; it’s on his reputation and authority that we stake our claims and requests.
What we’re not doing (as Jesus points out here) is asking the Son to ask the Father as though he’s in the next room. We don’t hand our requests to the Son and then wait nervously in the corridor for the Father’s answer. Jesus says that explicitly: ‘I won’t ask him on your behalf’ but rather, he says ‘the Father loves you.’
It may be temping to skip onto the next phrase from Jesus mouth ‘because you love me’ and have it sour the statement ‘the Father loves you’ but before we do, allow this to sink in — the Father loves you. Jesus says so, explicitly.
You. The personal pronoun, you. The you mentioned here are the disciples he’s speaking to, so do we have permission from the text to apply that ‘you’ to well, me? Let’s hold that question for now.
We can come to the Father (in Jesus’ name) and ask knowing that he loves us, individually.
God the Father lavishes us with his love and kindness and generosity; based on what? Based on the fact that we share a common love: ‘because you love me’ he says.
Understood like this the phrase that could sound like a reluctant condition to the Father’s love ie ‘only because you love me’, starts to taste a little less bitter and a lot more sweet. It isn’t ‘I love you — BUT — only because you love him!’ but rather ‘I love you because you have turned away from loving the things that stop me from knowing you and have come to love the object of my affection as well.’ It is this phrase (the ‘because you love’ the Son phrase) that gives me permission to claim the first part of Jesus’ statement for myself: The Father loves you. This makes it true not only of Jesus’ original hearers but of me as well since I also love the Son as they did (and this answers the question above that we put on hold).
The Father loves me. The Father loves you. We don’t pass our prayers onto the Son who reads them to his Father. We can come in, we can have an audience with him. Why? On what basis can we be so bold? Because he loves us. He loves us. The good and pleasant things we receive in this world do not come to us neutrally. They come from a Father who is good and who does good and who loves us. You are loved.
This also means that the bad and unpleasant stuff in life doesn’t come to us as punishment or as evidence of God’s disdain toward us. These things come but they do not change the truth of Jesus’ words one bit. He loves you.
Thank you that you love me Father. Thank you that you are always inclined to bless me, to shower me with goodness, to lavish me with your kindnesses. Thank you Father that I can stand before you, or sit or kneel (or sleep!) and know that you love ME. Me. Little old, smelly old, flawed ME. Yippee.