His Trusting Relationship with His Father
Another key aspect of how Jesus changed the world is his trusting relationship with his Father. Not even the Son of God changed the world apart from the power of God, and this should profoundly affect our thinking and actions.
Jesus’ regular practice of referring to God as his Father speaks to his special relationship with him. The relationship is also evident in his praying and in a number of statements recorded in John that describe how close he was to his Father. I’ll mention some key aspects of his relationship that John gives us and include some of his recorded prayers that tie in with each of those aspects.
First, Jesus knew his Father was working (John 5:17). Jesus was working too, of course, but not on his own. The same goes for us. One primary work his Father did was to give the true bread from heaven (John 6:32), that is, Jesus himself. Jesus also said his Father was a vine dresser who worked to prune branches (believers) and make them more fruitful (John 15:1-2).
Since he believed his Father was working, it is not surprising that he often withdrew to pray to him (Luke 5:16). Indeed it would have been surprising if he had not. On one occasion when he was praying, his followers took note and asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). His example (cf. previous post) of prayer gave him the opportunity to do the additional work of teaching his followers to pray about God’s working (v. 2), provision (v. 3), and ability to care for us (v. 4). Clearly we, too, are to believe that our Father is at work and express through prayer our trust that he will do so, just like Jesus did.
Second, Jesus exemplifies a close relationship with his Father. As noted, his regular use of the word Father itself indicates this. This profound relationship is communicated with the simple language that his Father was in him, and he was in the Father (10:38). We sometimes note that Jesus called us to remain in his love by keeping his commands (John 15:10a), but we don’t always mention that he himself did this too. He kept his Father’s commands and remained in his love (John 15:10b). Again Jesus is setting an example—this time one of obedience and remaining in God’s love. The beautiful, extensive prayer in John 17 gives us an additional glimpse into the close relationship between him and his Father, including once again his obedience (vv. 4, 6, 8) and his Father’s love for him (vv. 23, 24, 26)
Because of this intimate relationship between Jesus and his Father, to know Jesus is to know his Father (John 8:19; 14:7). Jesus is in the Father, we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in us (14:20). If we are in him and keep his commandments, we love him, and so we will be loved by his Father (14:21, 23). Indeed, he and his Father will come and make their home with us (v. 23). Likewise, eternal life is described as knowing both the Father and the Son (17:3). Conversely, to hate Jesus is to hate his Father (15:23). Because of the unique and special relationship between Jesus and his Father, our attitude toward Jesus is our attitude toward God.
Third, Jesus sought and received direction from his Father. He did not come in his own name but his Father’s name (John 5:43). He spoke of what he had seen with his Father (8:38), and he made known to his followers all that he heard from him (10:15). He received authority from his Father to lay down his life and take it up again (10:18). Likewise, he did all his works in his Father’s name (10:25), and he even said that if he wasn’t doing the works of his Father, people shouldn’t believe him (10:37). Sadly, that very thing often happens today. People claim the name of Christ but then do not do the works of Christ with the result that many in fact do not believe in Christ.
Several of Jesus’ prayers also show him finding direction from his Father. Early in his ministry, he slipped away to pray and emerged with a clear focus on where he should continue his mission (Mark 1:35). Before he chose the twelve, he sought God all night long in prayer (Luke 6:12). After feeding the five thousand and dismissing the twelve and the crowd, he spent time alone in prayer (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46). Apparently, this was the occasion when the Jews were going to take him by force and make him king (John 6:15). It may be that Satan’s earlier temptations for him to gain his kingdom without the cross once again reared their ugly head (Luke 4:13), driving Jesus to prayer. Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane may also be considered prayers for direction and submission to his Father’s will (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46).
Fourth, Jesus sought not only his father’s will but also his glory. Jesus was interested in his Father’s will as noted (see also John 6:40). He also sought the glory and honor of his father (John 8:49; 12:28) and taught that his disciples, too, could honor him by bearing much fruit (15:8). Conversely, his Father wanted to glorify him as well (8:54; cf. also 17:4-5), again indicating the closeness of their unique relationship.
Interestingly, it was while Jesus was praying that he was transfigured before three of his disciples, with the result that they saw his glory (Luke 9:28-32). Jesus also sought the glory of his Father in his above-mentioned prayers in the Garden, where he expressed his own desire but submitted himself to God’s will, just as he had stated previously (John 12:27-28).
Fifth, Jesus was confident that he was going to return to his Father (John 13:1; 14:28; 20:17). His beautiful prayer in John 17 expresses that same confidence (vv. 11, 13).
Jesus did not change the world on his own. His life, words, and prayers show that he believed his Father was working, had a close relationship with him, got direction for his ministry from him, sought his Father’s will and glory, and was confident that he was returning to his Father. Not even the Son of God dared try to change the world independent of his Father.
With all the technology, media, research, surveys, and creativity at our disposal, we are ever tempted to think we can change the world on our own. Jesus’ relationship with his Father rebukes us and reminds us that this simply is not so. Is there an aspect of Jesus’ relationship and prayers to his Father that you’d especially like to bolster in your life? Doing so is a step of faith toward changing the world like Jesus.