In my last post I wrote that receiving the affirmation of God’s love is critical in moving forward in life. This is true for every believer not just for leaders. Receiving the blessing of our heavenly Father’s love is basic to forming our identity. It becomes our inner compass and anchor in life. It is key to finding security and satisfaction as well as empowering us to fulfill our roles as adults, husbands, wives, parents, friends, and leaders. I believe this was the secret of Jesus’ success. Even though he was fully God he was at the same time fully human and in his humanity Jesus drew the power and ability to live well from this intimate, child-like, “Abba relationship” and so can we.
He gave us an inside peak at the nature of his relationship with Abba when he said, “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what he sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes him in everything he is doing…” (John 5:19-20; The Message) He’s telling us that he was intimately dependent on his father. He was an obedient son who wanted to do his father’s will and to do that he needed to stay close to his Father and hear his voice of direction.
So here’s a thought: What if in his humanity Jesus, who showed the full range of emotions during his time on earth, also felt some anxiety during stressful times (we know there were plenty of them). What would calm his heart and make him feel secure so that he could wait to hear from his Father? Jesus tells us that it was the knowledge of his Father’s love (v. 20).
The word for “love” he uses in that statement is phileo. This is the affection demonstrated between close friends and family members. It’s a word used to describe the warm experience of love. It’s different than agape love that conveys God’s transaction, covenantal love at a distance. “God loved so he sent…” But phileo is different. It’s God’s love up close and personal. It’s his natural, demonstrated, tender family affection. It expresses God’s love coming close to us and actually touching our hearts. It’s a father’s big warm hug that secures a child’s heart. Apparently Jesus experienced his Father’s tender embrace quite regularly and it made all the difference in the world for him.
One of the most dramatic illustrations of Jesus receiving his father’s warm loving embrace was his baptism. This is a key event in his life while on earth.
At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” (Mark 1:9-11, The Message)
His baptism is all about his humanity. If you miss that you miss the point of this event and the hope that it holds out to us. As a fully human person Jesus comes to the baptism waters in human weakness, maybe even apprehensively. Remember Jesus is a human being with emotions like ours. The main thing on his mind is the mission ahead. At the Jordan he’s publicly accepting the work of redeeming mankind by identifying with our sin and committing himself to lay down his life. The future of the world rests on his shoulders. It’s understandable if he’s got a case of the nerves. I imagine he came to the Jordan in weakness and dependency with great human need to be loved and affirmed. He needs a big warm hug to energize and encourage him and that’s exactly what he gets and more.
The three most powerful words in the English language are “I love you”. If we hear them from our fathers when we are young accompanied by a loving embrace it has a powerful effect for good on us. If we don’t, the insecurities that result can severely undermine our success in life. Jesus heard those words and the Spirit brings the tender, reassuring touch of his Father’s affection. His heart was secured and his identity affirmed. He could absolutely say, “I am my Father’s Son! Yes, I’m loved! He’s always with me so I can face whatever life throws at me.”
I find the timing of this event important too. It comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He receives his Father’s all-important blessing before he accomplished anything. In other words, he didn’t have to perform for it. It was given unconditionally. The Father’s love comes with no strings attached.
Henri Nouwen comments: “This event reveals the true identity of Jesus. Jesus is the Beloved of God. This spiritual truth will guide all his thoughts, words, and actions. It is the rock on which his compassionate ministry will be built.”
I believe this was the key event in Jesus’ earthly life. It secured him. It empowered him. He didn’t need to prove himself. It freed him form having to perform for the approval. It was the key to living a sinless life. He had no need to compromise himself or to seek affirmation and acceptance outside of his relationship with his Father. He couldn’t be bribed or threatened. He had the Father’s love to satisfy his human need for love, significance and approval.
This is what was missing from my life. I constantly needed that big warm hug. Even after I became a believer. But that all changed when Jesus shared that blessing with me.
…To be continued