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).