Whatever the external manifestations were, the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan was an awesome personal experience. The heavens are split, the Spirit descends in the form of a dove, and Jesus hears the words, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11). The Father speaks to him with words of tender love. Jesus’ lifelong response, rising from the depths of his soul, is Abba – a term more intimate than Father, which after that day is forever at the heart of his prayer.
The Abba experience is the source and secret of Christ’s being, his message, and manner of life. It can be appreciated only by those who share it. Until we meet the Father of Jesus ourselves and experience him to be a loving, forgiving Daddy, it is impossible to understand Jesus’ teaching on love.
In order to comprehend his relentless tenderness and passionate love for us, we must always return to his Abba experience. Jesus experienced God as tender and loving, courageous and kind, compassionate and forgiving, as laughter of the morning and comfort of the night. Abba, a colloquial form of address used by little Jewish children toward their fathers and best translated “Papa” or “Daddy,” opened the possibility of undreamed-of, unheard-of intimacy with God. In any other great world religion it is unthinkable to address almighty God as “Abba.”
Nor, according to Joachim Jeremias, does “Abba” have any parallel in Hebrew literature – prophetic, apocalyptic, or any other kind. Jesus alone knew God as Daddy. “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27).
Abba. The overtones of this small word will always escape us. Yet in it we sense the intense intimacy of Jesus with his Father. We touch the heart of his faith. We come to understand the mind of Christ.
You and I not only are invited but actually called to enter into this warm and liberating experience of God as Abba … We are privileged to share in the intimacy of Jesus with his Father. We are called to live and to celebrate the same freedom that made Jesus so attractive and authentic.
How does viewing God as a father affect how you relate to him? What words would you use to describe God the Father? What steps can you take to help you know God more intimately as your father?
Devotional by Brennan Manning found in the NIV Men’s Devotional Bible.