Jesus Christ, the Son Intimately United with the Father

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 8 July 1987, the Holy Father spoke on the special bond of unity between the Father and the Son.

"Abba—my Father"—all that we said in the previous reflection enables us to penetrate more deeply the unique and exceptional relationship of the Son with the Father, which is expressed in the four Gospels and the whole New Testament. If more passages which stress this relationship are found in John's Gospel ("in the first person," one could say), yet the Synoptics contain the passage which seems to contain the key to this question: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27; Lk 10:22).

The Son, therefore, reveals the Father as he who knows him and had sent him as Son to speak to humanity through him in a further and definitive way (cf. Heb 1:7). Indeed, the Father has given for the salvation of the world precisely this only Son, so that in him and through him man might attain eternal life (cf. Jn 3:16).

Frequently, but especially during the Last Super, Jesus insisted on making known to his disciples that he is united to the Father by a special bond. "All that is mine is yours, and all that is yours is mine" 17:10), he prayed in his priestly prayer, as he took leave of the apostles before going to his passion. He then asked for unity for his present and future disciples in words which emphasize the relation of such union and communion with that which exists only between the Father and the Son. He asked "that all may be one as you, Father are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one, as we are one—I living in them, you living in me—that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you love me" (Jn 17:21-23).

Praying for the unity of his disciples and witnesses, Jesus at the same time revealed what kind of unity and communion exists between himself and the Father; the Father is "in the Son" and the Son "in" the Father. Jesus explained it saying, "All that is mine is yours, and all that is yours is mine" (Jn 17:10). It is a relation of reciprocal possession in the unity of essence, and at the same time it is a relation of gift. In fact Jesus said, "Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you" (Jn 17:7).

The signs of attention, of wonderment and recollection with which the apostles heard these words of Jesus in the upper room at Jerusalem on the eve of the paschal events can be gleaned from John's Gospel. But the truth of the priestly prayer had already in a certain way been expressed publicly by him antecedently on the day of the feast of the Dedication of the Temple. In reply to the challenge, "If you are the Christ tell us openly" Jesus stated: "I told you and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me." Later Jesus stated that those who hear him and believe, belong to his flock by virtue of a gift from the Father. "My sheep hear my voice and I know them.... My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:24-30).

In this case his adversaries' reaction is violent: "The Jews took up stones again to stone him." When Jesus asked them for which of the good works from the Father which he had performed did they wish to stone him, they replied: "For the blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God." Jesus' reply is unambiguous: "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I did them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father" (cf. Jn 10:31-38).

Let us note well the significance of this crucial point of the life and revelation of Christ. The truth about the particular bond, the special unity between the Son and the Father, met with the opposition of the Jews: "If you are the Son in the sense expressed by your words, then you, being a man, make yourself God. In such case you utter the greatest blasphemy." His hearers therefore understood the meaning of the words of Jesus of Nazareth. As Son of God he is "God from God"—"of the same being as the Father"—but for this very reason they did not accept his words. Indeed, they rejected them in the most firm and absolute way. Even though in the conflict of that moment they did not arrive at the point of stoning him (cf. Jn 10:39), nevertheless on the morrow of his priestly prayer in the cenacle Jesus will be put to death on the cross. And the Jews present at the execution will cry out, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Mt 27:40), and they will mock him saying, "He trusted in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said 'I am the Son of God'" (Mt 27:42-43).

Also on Calvary Jesus affirmed his unity with the Father. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb 5:8). But this "obedience unto death" (cf. Phil 2:8) was a further and definitive expression of the intimacy of his union with the Father. According to the text of Mark, during the agony on the cross "Jesus cried out 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mk 15:34). This cry—even though the words reveal the feeling of abandonment experienced psychologically as a man suffering for us—was the expression of the most intimate union of the Son with the Father in the fulfillment of his command: "I have accomplished the work which you gave me to do" (cf. Jn 17:4). In that moment the unity of the Son with the Father was manifested with a definitive divine-human depth in the mystery of the world's redemption.

Again in the cenacle Jesus said to the apostles, "No one comes to the Father but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.... Philip said to him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.' Jesus said to him, `Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?' He who sees me sees the Father.... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?'" (Jn 14:6-10).

"He who sees me sees the Father." The New Testament is completely marked by the light of this Gospel truth. The Son is the reflection of the Father's glory, he is "the very stamp of his nature" (Heb 1:3). He is the "image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15). He is the epiphany of God. When he became man, taking on "the form of a servant" and "becoming obedient unto death" (cf. Phil 2:7-8), at the same time he became for all those who accepted his teaching "the way"—the way to the Father, whereby he is "the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

In the difficult ascent to be conformed to the image of Christ, those who believe in him, as St. Paul says, "put on the new nature" and "are renewed through a full knowledge of God" (cf. Col 3:10) according to the image of him who is the model. This is the solid basis of Christian hope.