Today’s full reading in which the Father is mentioned several times is John 5:19-47
The context is picking up from the issues raised in the previous verses. Since Jesus speaks as one who has authority over the Sabbath, the question is raised — where does his authority come from? To which Jesus answers with the following:
“truthfully I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and show him all that he himself is doing.”
These are remarkable words that reveal a lot about who the Father is and what the Father is doing. I’m struck by a couple of key ideas here:
Firstly it’s clear that the Son is tethered to the Father. By that I mean that he is a servant of his who lives to ‘do his bidding’ (to put it crudely). It isn’t only that the Son doesn’t do anything except what the Father reveals to him, it is that he can’t; ‘the Son can do nothing of his own accord.’
For Jesus to be the Son he must be perfectly consistent. For him to act in a way that is uncharacteristic of God would mean that he had temporarily ceased to be the Son. His identity and his behaviour are therefore intrinsically linked.
Secondly Jesus acts in the way that he does because this is what God the Father is like. The traffic flows this way: The Father is → the Son acts.
It isn’t that Jesus was a nice and kind person who tried to teach us and show us God. It is that the Father is kind and generous and so Jesus imitated him.
When I look at Jesus I see the behaviour traits of the Father. The Son eats with sinners because the Father does. The Son loves the lost because the Father does. To work out his life’s mission Jesus didn’t only read the scriptures and pray, he watched to see what the Father was doing — and he did the same. Since God is love, Jesus’ life was characterised by love.
Thirdly we notice that the Father shows the Son everything he does. The Father isn’t a dad who’s poor at communicating or silent. Since the Son’s ‘job’ is to behave and act in a way that reveals the Father, the Father isn’t restrictive about what he shares with his Son. He isn’t remote and mysterious, requiring obedience but slow in giving instructions. The Father communicates clearly and lovingly.
This is our heavenly Father. This is what God is like. Regardless of what we feel God is like, this is God — and it’s soul-satisfyingly glorious. I can see why Hebrews says: ‘whoever would draw near to God must first believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’ To not believe that God rewards is to not believe in the right God. The Bible’s God, the real God, is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is God and all other imitations are idolatrous.
It can be hard sometimes to believe this about God. Our circumstances, the state of the world and unanswered prayer can make it hard for us to affirm and enjoy the goodness of the Father. It’s important at times like this that we cling to the authoritative revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We have to allow our experience to play second fiddle to the Bible when it comes to our thinking about God.
At times like this we have to, perhaps through gritted teeth, in humility and (no doubt) a fair amount of pain affirm the goodness of the Father. We have to ask for him to reveal his love to us in fresh ways and ask that since he is a communicative and kind Father that he would speak to us and show us kindness. Prayer may not remove our affliction but it can transform our experience of it.
Father, thank you for how you revealed yourself to us in Jesus. Thank you that I’m not left having to guess what you’re like, you’ve made it obvious in Jesus. Thank you that you’re a sacrificial, kind, good and generous Father. Help me today to know your goodness and kindness to me in fresh ways. I need you. Without you I have nothing. Amen.