This week, Americans will pause to honor their fathers. Germany, where we are spending the summer, did so a few weeks ago. Every nation and every culture recognizes the important role of fathers in the life of children.
As a twelve-year-old boy, Jesus rewrote everything we ever thought about fathers and everything we think about God. He had returned to Jerusalem with his parents to observe the Passover as was their custom. The Passover was a family event. Relatives and friends traveled in caravans from Nazareth to Jerusalem once a year to visit with distant relatives and observe this significant historic Jewish custom. When the group started their journey home, they were struck with the horror of a missing child. Jesus had been left behind on the streets of the capital city.
Mary and Joseph left the returning caravan and traveled a full day’s journey back to Jerusalem to find him. After three days of anguish, they found him in the Temple engaged in discussion with the religious leaders. Hardly able to control her emotions, Mary asked him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Don’t you know your father and I have been anxiously looking for you?” His response shocked her. He said. “Did you not know I must be about the things of my Father?” Mary and Joseph did not understand what he was talking about. (Luke 2: 41-52) The reason for Mary and Joseph’s confusion is rather simple. They had never thought of God as Father. Like all faithful Jews, they considered God too holy for his name to be pronounced. Only the priest could approach God in the holy of holies and that only once a year.
This became a dominant theme in Jesus’ ministry. He revolutionized prayer by teaching us to pray, “Our Father who art in Heaven” and encouraged us to bring all our requests to God saying, “Which one of you if your son asks for an egg will give him a stone, or for a fish will give him a snake? If you being evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father which is in Heaven give what is good to you.” "Take no thought saying what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things ..." "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." With his final breath upon the cross, Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” From his first recorded words to his last, Jesus redefined God as our Father.
Faith takes on an entirely different dimension when we discover God as Father. He is more than a theological or philosophical concept to be debated. He wants to know us, love us and transform our lives forever.