In one of his prayers Jesus says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (Luke 10: 21-22). Jesus is always aware of his Father as Lord of all. He always acknowledges that he was sent by his Father to do his will. He always looks at what his Father is doing so that he can move into action with his Father. In the agonising struggle of Gethsemane he offers himself to the Father in trustful obedience, “not what I want but what you want”. Then, on the cross, he is obedient to his Father unto death. And in the end, when all the kingdoms are subject to Jesus, he will hand them over to his Father, because in his eyes the Father alone is Lord of heaven and earth.
In his prayer, Jesus addresses his Father as “Lord of heaven and earth”, but just a few sentences later he says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Luke 10:22). The Father is Sovereign Lord of all, but he has chosen to hand everything over to his Son. Why? Because he loves his Son and is well pleased with him. In another place Jesus says, “The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands…” (John 3:35). The Father does not hand over sovereign rule to his Son because of some fixed rule. No! He has handed everything over to the Son because he loves his Son deeply.
Right now all things are in the hands not of some remote divine power who determines all things according to some fixed decree. Rather, the lowly servant Jesus, whom we know and trust, is Lord over all. He is so because he is the one that the Father loves.
I am glad to know that all things are in the hands of Jesus.
The moment that Jesus was baptised his Father sent the Spirit to remain on him. The Spirit who came to Jesus from the Father is the Spirit of joy in the Father. And so there were moments when the heart of Jesus, the Father’s Son, was full of joy in his Father through the Spirit.
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” (Luke 10. 21-22)
Jesus is the unveiling of God as the circle of love overflowing with joy in the Spirit.
The joyful relating of Father and Son in the joy of the Spirit can only be grasped as Jesus, the living word, comes to us in living encounter as the overflow of God’s joy. Yes, the joy of the Triune God spills over towards us as the Father’s Son encounters us through the Spirit opening up to us the joy of Triune life. In this encounter we do not simply stand at a distance observing the communion of joy we are included so that we share the Father’s joy in the Son and the Son’s joy in the Father by the Spirit.
The God who is love meets all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. But this does not mean that our relationship with God is entirely need-centred?
Jesus wasn’t driven by meeting his own personal needs nor the pressing needs of those around him. He was rather continually turned towards his Father looking at what his Father was doing and responding to him. In Gethsemane he struggled over the Father’s will, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” But he came through, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He totally surrendered to his Father’s will and purpose.
Jesus gives the Spirit to us that we may live in trustful obedience to Abba as dearly loved children. The Spirit cries Abba Father within us and we cry Abba with him. That was the agonising cry that came from Jesus’ heart in Gethsemane as he struggled over doing Abba’s will. Out of that agonising struggle he emerged with firm and quiet resolve to be obedient to Abba even unto death on the cross. We now cry Abba with Jesus as those who are led by the Spirit into a life of trustful obedience to Abba.
We may slip into thinking that Jesus gives the Spirit simply to meet our personal needs. The Spirit fills me with peace and joy and makes me really happy. What we need most is for God’s Spirit to take us out of ourselves so that our lives are centred in the Father in union with his Son. In this way, all that we are flows out of loving and joyful response to the Father in the freedom of the Spirit.
God’s Spirit brings Christ to us and us to Christ in living encounter. He unites us to the Father’s Son so that we participate in the Son’s relationship with his Father. It is only by the Spirit that Father and Son become living reality to us. So the Spirit must never be forgotten! Nevertheless, it seems that the Spirit himself wants to be forgotten as the object of our devotion.
The Spirit wants to draw our attention to Christ as the object of our heart devotion. Jesus said,
“He (the Spirit) will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you”.
The Spirit glorifies Christ before the eyes of our hearts. He is actually Christ himself living within us as individual disciples of Christ and among us as the body of Christ. So within his body we gaze on the glory of Christ and are transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory. We are The organic body of Christ that lives and moves by the Spirit of Christ.
As the Spirit of Christ, he also wants to draw our attention to the Father as the object of our heart devotion.
“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
The Spirit of the Father’s Son does not draw attention to himself, but rather to Abba. And in Abba’s presence we are aware of his Fatherly nearness to us and our dearness to him as Father.
Truly, we are not to forget the Spirit, but rather depend fully on him, but in his fullness we are full of Father and Son as the objects of our heart devotion.
No one has ever seen God,
not so much as a glimpse.
This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
who exists at the very heart of the Father,
has made him plain as day
(John 1: 18 The Message).
To see the Son is to see the Father. If we try to look at the Father without looking through the Son we are no longer looking at the Father. We are simply projecting our own image of the divine being onto the one we are calling Father.
Our imaginary “divine being” is simply the first cause that was needed to get everything started. The intelligent designer required to account for purpose and order in the world. A mere concept – abstract, remote and anonymous in splendid isolation. Our imaginary “divine being” is also likely to be the God of religion whose “otherness” fills people with dread. The Supreme Judge whose prime concern is that everyone be declared legally right in his court of law. The contract God who says do this right and only then will I bless.
We need to stress over and over again that we only see who the Father really is when we keep our eyes on his Son! Then we see the Father drawing near to relate rather than remote. We see him among us in lowliness rather than exalted in splendid isolation. We see him as love wanting to relate rather than the legal God who just wants everything to be declared upright.
Seeing the Father through his Son we are drawn into love relationship with him as dearly loved children with Jesus, the beloved Son. And by the Spirit of the Son we cry, Abba Father!
The Father of Jesus wants to draw near and relate to us as our personal Father. He wants to be a living reality in our daily lives. He comes close to us as Father by the Spirit. The Spirit of God’s Son makes the Father so real to us that we cry Abba Father, which was the cry of the Father’s Son during his earthly life.
Jesus also wants to draw near and relate to us personally as our brother. He too wants to be a living reality in our daily lives. He comes close and relates to us personally by the Spirit.
Jesus said that it was better for his disciples that he go away from them. For when he returns to his Father he will send the Spirit to them. The Spirit who would make Jesus real to them. Indeed, the Spirit who would be the living reality of Jesus himself within them. With the coming of the Spirit Jesus would be more real to them than when they knew him in the flesh. We too know Jesus as personal reality by the Spirit within us. And in living union with him we draw near to the Father in personal intimacy.
The mark of being filled with the Spirit is personal relationship with Father and Son as sons and daughters in the Spirit. By the Spirit we become deeply aware of the Father’s nearness to his Son and the Son’s dearness to him. And by the same Spirit we become deeply aware of the Father’s nearness to us and our dearness to him in union with his Son.
Can we be so Christ-centred that we forget the Father? I think we have to say that if holding Christ at the centre means we forget the Father, we are not looking at the true Christ. Jesus was sent from the Father. He prayed to the Father. He lived for the Father in trustful obedience. He died crying out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He was raised by the Father. And to the Father he returned. Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the Father. His words and works are the Father’s words and works. When you look at Jesus you cannot miss the Father.
Can we be so Christ-centred that we forget the Spirit? Again, we have to say that if holding Christ at the centre means we forget the Spirit, we are not looking at the true Christ. Jesus served his Father in the power of the Spirit. He was filled with joy in the presence of his Father in the Spirit. If you want to know what a Spirit-filled life looks like you look at Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus now pours out the Spirit on his own. And he continues to work out his mission in the world in and through us by the power of the Spirit.
Furthermore, the Spirit is always taking the things of Christ and making them known in us so that he always glorifies the Son to us. And he does so to transform us into the image of Christ. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. When you look at Jesus you cannot miss the Spirit.
Can we really be too Christ-centred?
We may feel that we are free when we choose what we want from a number of different options. God is free in an altogether different way.
The Triune God is love and he is free as he expresses who he is as love. That means The Triune One is free as the three persons are with one another and for one another in love. For in this fellowship of self-giving love the One God is expressing who he is as love.
In the freedom of His love, God became one of us in Jesus in order to bring us back to himself in love. We did not want to be with God. But the Triune One is love and so he still wanted us and refused to be God without us. He acted in the freedom of who he is as love to become one of us in order to reconcile us to himself. He refused to relinquish us to ruin.
The Father’s Son is himself fully divine and yet he was free to become fully human. He is free to be with God and for God as one of the Triune communion in love. He is also free to be with us and for us as one of the human race in love.
Christ is also free in his Spirit to work within us so that we are set free for God. Apart from his working within us we are not free for God at all. We are turned in on ourselves pursuing only what we want for ourselves. God is free for us in Christ, but we are not free for him. But in the freedom of who he is as love God encounters us personally in Christ by his Spirit setting us free. Now we can be with him sharing in his communion of love.
Christ crucified is God himself descending deeply into the realm of evil. Even into the depths of its ultimate domain in death itself. The Crucified One penetrated the realm of darkness at the point of its supreme thrust against himself in order to judge it. At the same time, the Crucified Christ not only judged evil but also saved the world from its domain reconciling all to God. This is the triumph of the crucified over the powerful rulers of this dark age through his once for all self-offering in weakness.
This triumph over evil has taken place once and for all and cannot be repeated. And yet God is still active within the world working out the effects of His triumph over evil. He does so through the same crucified One. He is the lamb enthroned at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. And he continues to serve his Father in the world by the Presence and Power of his Spirit.
As head over all things Jesus, the enthroned lamb, reigns with supreme authority with his Father by the Spirit. He does so, however, as the true human who has fully aligned himself with us in our desperate condition and is now constantly present with us in all our distress under the menace of evil powers.
So we are always confident, not in ourselves, but only in the Crucified One who was raised in triumph over all for our sake. In this confident trust there is no place for triumphalism! We always follow the lamb as his cross-shaped servants in the way of power through weakness by his Spirit.
In Jesus, the Sovereign power of God was demonstrated in human weakness He did not remain aloof from us ordering his royal will from a distance. He actually became one of us to work out his sovereign will within our frail human existence.
In Jesus, the Sovereign power of God was demonstrated even in dying our death. This kind of power is entirely different from any that we can ever imagine.
- It is power that is absolutely supreme over death for it accomplishes the actual death of death. And yet it does so in lowly weakness submitting to death in order to destroy its power from within.
- It is power that demolishes anything that attempts to oppose God’s purpose of fellowship with us. And yet it does so through lowly weakness in the dark abyss of forsakenness.
Such power we can never even begin to imagine.
In Jesus, God’s kingly power now guides the world to its final destiny. For God has appointed Jesus as head over all things. Yes, the same Jesus who demonstrated God’s kingly power in human weakness now reigns in power as the exalted man at God’s right hand. There he moves all things to their final destiny and he does so as the end to which all things now move.
As we await this future with expectation, he is able to do in us immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.