God The Father: Hears the Son

Devotional studies in the character of the Father from the gospel of John.

Scripture

This morning’s full Bible reading can be found here.

Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe you sent me.’

John 11:41

Observation

I love listening in on Jesus’ prayer life. When he talks to his Father you can sense the familiarity and intimacy that exists between them and yet also the authority Jesus has in prayer, it’s majestic.

At Lazarus’ tomb, we can learn a lot about Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and also learn something about what the Father is like as well.

‘Father I thank you.’

Jesus begins by lifting his head, a physical act that focuses his mind and makes it clear to all onlookers that he’s praying.

He then begins by addressing his Father. Up until now he has been talking about God using the word ‘God’ to discuss him. As he prays suddenly it’s ‘Father’ – Abba. He speaks with tenderness and familiarity to God.

‘Thank you.’ 

Jesus begins with gratitude. It isn’t for the sake of maintaining an appearance of piety that he does this or because he knows it’s ‘appropriate’ but because he’s got his eyes open to God’s work in the world. Saying ‘thank you’ can only happen as you look around and notice the things you’ve got to be thankful for. A mouth that says ‘thank you’ reveals a heart that’s free from bitterness and selfish self-righteousness.


What is he thankful for?

Jesus is thankful – that God has heard him. This means both that God was aware of his plea but also that God granted it. God granted his request to glorify his Son. This is a recurring theme. It is becoming almost too repetitious to mention. The Father is motivated by the idea of drawing positive attention to his Son. Time and again this is the case:

The Father loves the Son
The Father listens to the Son
The Father grants the Son’s requests.

Paul says in the letter to the Colossians that it is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ and to the Corinthians ‘In Christ you have become the righteousness of God.’

This is how it is that Jesus can affirm as he does several times in John’s gospel ‘whatever you ask in my name, you will receive’ the emphasis falling on the ‘in my name’.

He knew that his Father loved him and knew that his Father would hear him when he prayed. It was this double knowledge that gave him confidence and boldness when he prayed.

Application

I see it so clearly. I’m convinced of it. Jesus, far from being my only hope, is the greatest hope. He is the apple of the Father’s eye. The Father delights in him, and since I’m in him – the Father delights in me too.

When we pray we can pray with the same level of confidence and gratitude knowing that our Father hears us and welcomes us when we come on the basis of his Son.

Prayer


Thank you Father. Thank you for all that you do for me. Thank you for all that you’re going to do for me and thank you that you hear me when I pray. You listen to me, you grant my requests and you welcome me to keep coming and asking you for various things. I come in the name of Jesus and for his sake and for his glory I ask everything I ask. Amen.

God The Father: Won’t Let Go

Devotional studies on the Father from John’s gospel


Scripture


Today’s full Bible reading can be found here:

‘No one will ever snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me, is more powerful than all, and no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’

John 10:29-30 

Observation

There is a lot of devotional wealth to be mined in these verses and there is a lot that can be said about the Father.

First. In this passage we’re given the assurance from Jesus that the Father is more powerful than all the forces that would try to snatch his sheep away. There is the reassurance that those under Jesus’ care will not be lost.

Jesus says ‘no one can snatch them from my hand‘ and then ‘no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand‘. Well, which is it? The answer comes – ‘I and the Father are one.’ Jesus and the Father are of one mind and heart in this regard. The sheep in his care will remain in his care. Case closed, matter settled.

Now, I have plenty of questions about this – especially in light of friends I’ve known who’ve walked away from God. Friends who it seems were ‘snatched’ from God’s hands. What about them, I wonder?

Questions like this are important but cannot easily be answered in a general Bible study like this, especially since in the Bible passage we’re looking at it’s not a question that is asked. The truth announced by Jesus here is that ‘no one can be snatched’ from his hand.

How we examine the lives and faith of others must not contradict that statement of his. Besides I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that ‘the end has not yet been written.’ I often say to people ‘God is good and by his grace, life is long’ – who knows what will happen in the future. Besides that, answers to these questions are found most commonly through prayer and reflection. For this morning’s devotion let us draw out from the text the truth about the Father revealed in these words:

  • The Father gives ‘sheep’ to the Son.
  • The Father is more powerful and greater than all.
  • The Father won’t let go of those in his hand.
He is a rescuing, generous, strong, active, protective Father. We also learn from Jesus that:
  • Jesus and the Father are one.
Is that ‘of one mind’ or ‘of one being’? The doctrine of God as Trinity is a tricky one to understand but the answer to those questions is found by looking at what happened next in the Bible passage: ‘they picked up stones to kill him.’ Whatever Jesus meant, his audience clearly understood him to be assuming a place of privilege that had up until now only been reserved for God. They heard the apparent blasphemy in what he was saying; the claim to divinity. Whether of one substance or mind, Jesus is claiming a harmony with God the Father that no human being has ever had before.

Application

The Father is saving, loving, protecting and preserving the people he loves. We were once straying like sheep but now have returned to the shepherd and overseer of our souls. 
The Father is my shepherd and the reason Jesus behaves so ‘shepherdly’ toward us is because he is ‘one’ with the Father.

Prayer


Thank you Father. Thank you that keep us safe in your care, that you love me and have shown me great kindness. Today I choose to trust you and look to you as the one who is able to answer all of my deepest questions. Please help me to understand many of the big questions I can’t work out on my own. Amen.

God The Father: The Reason for His Love

Devotional studies on God the Father from John’s gospel

Scripture

Today’s full Bible reading can be found here.

‘For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. This is the charge I have received from my Father.’
John 10:17

Jesus says the words ‘For this reason…’ when describing why it is that the Father loves the Son. I’ll be honest, these words jar in my mind. ‘For this reason?’ It sounds initially like Jesus is saying ‘this is the reason he loves me.’ which sounds like a love based on a job Jesus does. This is out of step with everything else Jesus has said about his father up until this point. So it can’t mean what I might initially think it means. In which case, what does it mean?

The thrust of the sentiment Jesus is conveying is more like: ‘this is what my Father loves about me…’ or maybe even ‘the reason for my Father’s love is because of how I trust him even to the point of laying my life down.’

The Father loves the Son and one of the main reasons for this love is because of the Son’s complete and utter trust in the Father. He is willing to obey him even when that obedience costs him his life. Who wouldn’t say ‘I love that about you?’ to someone who does that?

This is astonishing. The Son here shows a trust and obedience that means (in his case) death by crucifixion. Speaking, as he is here, a short time before his death, the Son clearly shows a single minded awareness of and compliance with his destiny.

He lays his life down because he loves the sheep, certainly; but also and most remarkably of all, he does it because he trusts his Father. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully man. As a man he would quite likely have received his destiny to die simply from reading about it in the scrolls. He would have read Isaiah 53 and concluded ‘that’s me, that’s what I shall do and shall have done to me.’

Wonderful Jesus. Is it any wonder the Father is made up with delight over him? The Father loves the Son… and so do I!

Application


The Son is glorious but the Father is utterly trustworthy. Jesus read about his destiny in the scrolls and didn’t deviate from it even though it would likely have been hard to do so. What is there in your life that you know the Father wants you to do? What habits is he asking you to give up? What people is telling you to love that you don’t want to?

Jesus trusted him because he is trustworthy. He hasn’t changed. You can still trust him today.

Prayer


Father thank you for Jesus. Jesus thank you for the obedience to your Father’s plan you demonstrated. Holy Spirit please help me to trust my Father in the same way that Jesus did. I love you Father, I need you. I trust you. Amen.

God The Father: Knows Me

Devotional studies on the Father from John’s gospel.

Scripture

This morning’s full reading can be found here.

‘I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay my life down for the sheep.’
John 10:14

Observation

Jesus speaks these words immediately after explaining that ‘bad shepherds’ (hired hands) run for the hills at the first sign of trouble. He, the Good Shepherd, (in contrast to the hired hands) knows his own and his own know him.

The contrast draws out the meaning of exactly what this ‘knowledge’ is.

When you truly know someone you can’t just up & leave them at the first hint of trouble. The knowledge that Jesus is talking about here is an intimate familiarity with someone. It involves commitment and belonging. In the Bible ‘knowing’ is a euphemism for having sex with them:

‘Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,’

Genesis 1:4

Jesus’s knowledge of us isn’t sexual of course but the euphemism helps all the same. Jesus knows (read: is committed to and joined with) his people and us to him – our fates are one and the same. Jesus knows me and I know him. In other words – he has looked into the depths of my soul and into the whites of my eyes and said ‘I’m never giving up’ and he has said to me in effect: ask me any question you like.

This is wonderful but it doesn’t stop there.

Jesus then reveals that the committed knowing, faithfulness and intimacy that he has with those he loves; he also has with the Father:

‘…just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.’

Amazing.

We are brought into the relationship Jesus has with the Father. The model Jesus uses for how he interacts with and knows his people is the relationship he has with the Father.

For as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, in that way the Son loves the church

Application

This is what the Father is like, imaged and presented to me in the form of Jesus’ sacrificial generous knowing of myself.

The Father loves with a deep, committed, familiar love. He loves without regard for his own well-being. He loves by laying down his life. He loves by not giving up or leaving when trouble comes. What a good God we have. How wonderful it is to be loved by him!

Prayer


Father I am lost for words when it comes to expressing how grateful I am for you and your love. My brain cannot fully understand how rich and deep your love is. Thank you that in the way Jesus behaves toward me I see a picture of what you’re like. Please help me to know you more and to love you more today. Amen.