Before anything existed, Father and Son decided in the unity of the Spirit to share their own life with us. They wanted to create a new family unit, thereby enlarging the scope of their own familial relations. This is the deep background of the Triune drama unfolding before us in the Jesus’ story.
The Son’s lowly appearance in history wasn’t a surprise. Nor was it a Plan B following Israel’s failure. The Son came as Jesus because of a joint plan conceived in eternity between the Father and Son in the Spirit. In love, the Father decided to send his Son and in love the Son consented to being sent. The Son who always existed in the “form of God” wanted to serve his Father in the “form of a servant” among us. And so the Son’s identity as lowly servant-son among us is identical with his identity in eternity. For the Son’s way of being God is to be the one sent as lowly servant. And to be sent as the dearly loved Son who does all things joyfully in response to his Father’s love.
Hence it should come as no surprise that the Son’s mission on earth is “to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4.34; cf. John 5:30; 6:38). This is who he always wants to be in response to his Father’s love for our sake. And let us remember that this mission is what Father and Son decided on together because they want a large family of son’s and daughters in union with the Son.
John often records personal communications between Father and Son in the Spirit. These communications open to us God’s inner life. One of the most significant conversational topics is the mutual glorification of Father and Son in the Spirit. Jesus is the dearly loved Son who lives in his Father’s love and responds by loving his Father and doing all things to glory his Father. All through his ministry, Jesus wants his Father to be truly honoured. And he wants this to happen in and through all his actions as the Father’s Servant-Son.
When Jesus realises that his hour has come he says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12.27, 28). Even in deep distress, Jesus expresses more intensely his desire for the glorification of his Father. And he wants this to happen in himself as dearly loved suffering servant so that the Father will be glorified in the Son. As the hour moves even closer, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).
Father and Son love each other so deeply in the Spirit that each one desires the glory of the other. And soon their mutual glorification happens in Jesus’ humiliation on the cross followed by his exaltation with the name above every name to the glory of God the Father.
God’s own life is a ceaseless activity of free and loving communication. The beginning and end of this communicating is triune communion. The Father communicates with his Son in the love of the Spirit. The Son communicates with his Father in the love of the Spirit. This personal, dynamic and relational communicating is unveiled to us dramatically in the Jesus story. We often hear Jesus communicating with the one he calls Father in love. In one place Jesus says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5.20). In love, the Father showed Jesus what he was doing to heal a lame man. Jesus saw what the Father was doing and in love for the Father moved into action to do what his Father was showing him. This communicating in love was going on all the time during Jesus ministry.
In another place Jesus says to his Father, “you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17.24). God does not, therefore, become love in the events that make up the Jesus’ story. These events rather show us what God has always been as a communion of love. In eternity, out of the fullness of his love, the Father showed his Son all he was going to do in and through him by the Spirit. And in love, the Son saw what his Father showed him and gladly responded with a resounding YES!
Showing and seeing in the love of the Spirit are two aspects in an ongoing communication between Father and Son in the Spirit. Both in eternity and all through the Jesus story we see that “God is a communicative being” (Jonathan Edwards).
Within Scripture, we see the unfolding of Triune Drama. However, we are not simply an audience looking at the drama as it unfolded long ago. The drama continues today where we are. And we now participate in the drama personally.
This begins for us as the Living Word speaks to us personally, by his Spirit, in and through the drama portrayed in the written word. As the Living Word speaks to us faith is born within us. This is itself drama. Your experience of it may not have felt so dramatic, but the communication that brought you to faith was dramatic. And it was part of the ongoing Triune Drama today.
But this is only the start. The Living Word goes on encountering us today, by his Spirit, in and through the drama portrayed in the written word. The encounter is itself dramatic and through it we now live within the triune drama. We participate in the ongoing dramatic action as the Living Word continually communicates with us in and though the drama portrayed in the written word. This communication isn’t merely the transmitting of information but rather God communicating himself to us. The Triune God of the drama is the communion of joyful love and he brings us into the drama for the sake of communion. He wants to open his own communion to us so that we enjoy ongoing communion within the ongoing drama.
When we watch a drama on stage or TV we meet various persons relating to one another. Within Scripture, we see the unfolding of Triune Drama. The Father moves into action reconciling and renewing all things through his Son and by his Spirit.
As we look at this drama we meet God as three persons communicating with one another as a communion of joyful love. The Father communicates with his Son out of his love for the Son. He communicates with his Son in joy and delight as they move together in mission. The Son communicates with his Father out of his love. He too communicates with his Father in joy and delight as he serves his Father in mission. And both Father and Son communicate with one another in the communication of the Spirit.
Within the drama, this Triune Communion also communicates with us. The Triune communion has a purpose that they share in together. Their purpose is to include others within the communion. They want others to share in the joyful communication within the communion of joyful love. Of course, we humans don’t want this inclusion. We wanted to go our own way. Nevertheless, the Triune communion goes on and on speaking and acting with purpose to reconcile and restore humanity to the communion of love. This purpose is all worked out in a great drama that reaches its goal in a new creation with God and humanity together in God’s new world.
The Meaning of our Lives
As we live out our own stories here and now we want to know the meaning of it all. We discover this meaning in the climax of our stories and that is Jesus. All things, including ourselves, were created by him and for him. Even now, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. And hidden in God we share in Jesus’ communion with his Father by the Spirit. Furthermore, when Jesus appears at the end we shall appear with him in glory for our lives are bound up with his. In that moment, we shall become like him as we are totally transformed into his image.
Communion is the goal of the cosmos and our destiny in union with Jesus. And we now live in that ultimate meaning by the Spirit who is the presence of the future in us. In the Spirit, we now grow up in every way into Jesus. Moving ever deeper into Jesus we continually discover who God is for he is the human face of God. Moving ever deeper into Jesus we continually discover who we are for the meaning of our lives is bound up with who Jesus is as one of us. We so easily slip into looking at ourselves as individuals apart from Jesus and in that way lose the meaning of our lives. We are in him; he is in us. Our lives are hidden with him in God; indeed he is our life. Our ultimate destiny is Jesus and sharing the communion he enjoys with his Father in the Spirit. This is the meaning of our lives.
God calls on us to put our faith in Jesus, his Son. Why have we done so? Is it because we have the ability within ourselves to respond? No. We must admit that the reason for our faith lies outside ourselves. We come to faith in Jesus because Jesus comes to us. He isn’t a Jesus who once lived in the past; he is alive right now. And by the Spirit, this living Jesus comes to us meeting us where we are in our unbelief. He has stepped into our world encountering us personally in all the astonishing power of his love for us. And in response, we say “Yes!” to the living reality of Jesus.
As we come to faith, we may feel that we have grasped Jesus and so we have. Nevertheless, we have grasped him because he has grasped us. He comes to me calling me to himself. And I now see that he wants to become more real to me than I am to myself. There and then, I realise that the only proper response is an unqualified “Yes”. So my whole self becomes a single “Yes”. A free, cheerful and obedient “Yes” to the God who is love and who has come to me in love. Thus faith is not a human initiative (to which God responds) but a human response created in living encounter with Jesus by the Spirit.
John opens his gospel by speaking about The Word who was with God. The Greek word translated “with” literally means “towards” and may carry the idea of two persons face to face. The Message paraphrases,
The Word present to God,
God present to the Word
So before anything existed there were two persons in relationship: the Word and God. Towards the end of his prologue John will call The Word “Son” and he will call God “Father”. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (NRSV 1:18). So God’s very being must now be understood as essentially personal, dynamic and relational.
In another place, John tells us that God is love (1 John 4.16). John does not say God has love or God is loving. He says, “God IS love”. When we hear the words “God is Love,” we usually think first of God’s love towards us. No wonder! His love towards us is so wonderful! However, before we talk about God’s love towards us we must talk about God as love within himself. Our God is love because he is three persons in love relationship. (John will speak later about a third person). The Father has always loved the Son. The Son has always loved the Father. In the love of the Spirit, these two have always been turned towards one another in self-giving love. And God’s love for us is an expression of God’s faithfulness to his own eternal life, which is essentially communal love.
Father and Son always knew each other with love’s own way of knowing in the Spirit. So when the Father’s Son became one of us he always made the Father known to us as his Father. Jesus didn’t proclaim a general idea of the Fatherhood of God and then say that is my Father. No! Jesus made God known particularly as his own Father. He continually tells us that he was sent by his Father. He joyfully served his Father. In love, he always obeyed his Father even unto death on a cross. Indeed, he said he was in his Father and his Father in him.
The Father also made known that Jesus is His Son, his unique Son. We hear him saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” So, we don’t make God Father by becoming his children. He has always been Father of the dearly loved and unique Son. And the Father was always finding his greatest joy in this Son who was always close to his heart before anything was made.
Flowing out of this Father-Son love relationship, the Father wants a large family that shares the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29 NRSV). So, one day Jesus will stand before his Father saying, “Here I am and the children God has given me”. We are that family of sons and daughters in union with the Son. And even now, by the Spirit, we enjoy our belonging within this circle of family love.
“Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth… (Luke 10: 21)
Through Jesus’ praise, we are given a glimpse into the inner relations of God. Within the Triune life, the Son is always delighting in the Father with great joy through the Spirit. He is doing so, as the dearly loved Son with whom the Father is always well pleased. Does this joy of God loom large in your thinking about God? When you hear the word “God” do you instantly think of a communion of joyful love? Or does your concept of God not allow you to see fully the mutual joy of Father and Son in the joy of the Spirit? I ask because I think too many live with a view of God that that lacks a joyful heart. And so they are not likely to rejoice freely in God.
Through Jesus, God has revealed himself to us as a communion of joyful love. And the Spirit of joyful love now joins us to Jesus so that we share in his joyful praise before the Father. We don’t try to work up glad praise we simply allow ourselves to share in Jesus’ delight before his Father. For by the Spirit of God’s Son we cry abba Father and that is the joyful cry of the Son that we now share in. We are in the joyful Son and he is in us as joyful children in the joy of the Spirit.