Moltmann Monday: Jesus as a Child of God

Happy Moltmann Monday! As we prepare for the beginning of Lent this Wednesday, I thought I would share this lovely passage from The Way of Jesus Christ about Jesus’ relationship with the Father.

The special characteristic of Jesus’ relationship to God is made clear in the ‘Abba’ prayer… In Aramaic, ‘Abba’ is baby language. It is the word children use for their original person of reference. Whether it be mother or father, the important point is the sheltering, intimate closeness on which a child’s basic trust depends. So when Jesus calls God ‘Abba’ he is not emphasizing the masculinity of a Father God, or the sovereignty of a Lord God. The stress lies on the unheard-of closeness in which he experiences the divine mystery. God is as close to him in space- as much ‘at hand’- as the kingdom of God is now, through him, close, or ‘at hand,’ in time. The kingdom is so close that God can be called ‘Abba’; and when God can be called ‘Abba’, then his kingdom has already come. Jesus demonstrates this nearness of God by ‘having mercy’ and ‘compassion’ on the poor and suffering…

In his relationship to this Abba God, Jesus experiences himself as God’s ‘child.’ Again, stress is not on the masculinity of God’s son, but on his ‘childlike’ relationship…

The relationship to God described by the name Abba evidently influenced Jesus’ understanding of himself quite essentially, for the results of this relationship to God are clearly evident in the scandalous behavior passed down to us by tradition. He leaves ‘his own people’, his mother and his family, and goes to the poor among the people.

I’m going to stop there, but Moltmann then goes on to quote the verses from Mark 3:31-35 where Jesus’ family comes looking for him and he answers that he is already with his mother and brothers, as he sits among the crowd. Jesus’ relationship to God as Abba naturally allows him to expand his sense of family to include others.

I think it’s lovely to ponder that Jesus himself experienced God as Abba, and also experienced himself as God’s beloved child. God is, to quote Moltmann, his “original person of reference.” And indeed I think that is the intent for us all, to find in God our original-and most consistent- person of reference. My professor Dr. Loder told us that the face that meets a child over the crib is the face of God for that child. That is an enormous responsibility, but it speaks to the fact that we are always mirroring this kind of deep intimacy with one another. We know ourselves by how we are received from others. And, though our human parents are not guaranteed to be faithfully consistent mirrors, God definitely is.

This Wednesday as you prepare to receive your ashes, take time to ponder what it means for you to be a child of God, what it means for God to be your original person of reference. May the closeness with which Abba God draws to us bring us deeper into the divine mystery, and, by extension, the coming kin-dom of God, where all become like family.

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