Why the Father loves the Son: The Ground of Our Salvation

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

John 10:17-18

We have approached Easter this year. We will gather in congregations to remember the ground of our salvation. The New Testament resounds with importance of the resurrection. It is unavoidable: if you want to understand the depth of your salvation, you must have a theology of the resurrection. Paul states,

  • "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:34).

  • "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:17-20).

I have been lingering over the above verses from the Gospel according to John, and I thought it would be edifying to share my thoughts.

A Charge Given

The Father commanded the Son to do something. What is it? A quick answer could be to sacrifice his life for the sheep. Expounding upon the exultation of the Father over his Son's sacrifice, Piper writes, "God deeply and joyfully approved of what the Son was doing in that hour of sacrifice. In fact, he had planned it all together with the Son. And his love for the God-Man, Jesus Christ, on earth was owing to the very obedience that took Jesus to the cross. The cross was Jesus’ crowning act of obedience and love. And this obedience and love the Father profoundly approved and enjoyed." Have you ever thought about the attitude of Christ as he carried the cross? Did he grumble the entire way? When he sent Judas, did he do so second-guessing himself? Would that have been pleased the Father? Does a grumbling son bring honor to a father's command? The Father commanded the Son to do something. Our quick answer that it was to sacrifice his life for the sheep is only part of the story; it's on the way to something deeper. Let's dig. Of course, the sacrifice does fit the context and is part of the answer. However, what else do we see?

Purposeful Obedience in Joy

We read in verse 17 that the Father loves the Son because

  1. The Son lays down his life.
  2. The Son does so purposefully.

What do we know about Jesus' attitude concerning the cross? Jesus knew the agony and ignominy of the cross. He was to be crushed by the Father for the sake of the lambs' sins. However, we see in Hebrews 12:2 that he despised the shame of the cross but endured it. Why did he endure the cross? It was for the joy that was set before him! What was the joy that was set before him? It was the glory in the resurrection. There, he inherited the name above all names:

"After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs" (Hebrews 1:3b-4).

In the sacrifice, Jesus purposefully and joyfully laid down his life. He declares that the reason the Father loves Him is because his sacrificial laying down his life is grounded in his purpose of taking it back up again. We read later that Jesus prays to the Father:

"Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:1-5, emphasis mine).

The Ground of God's Love for Us

It is Jesus' joyful, purposeful obedience to the Father's command that provides the basis for God's love for us. In our meditations on the cross and resurrection, our thoughts are often a repetitive, common phrases and stories. Paul states, "[Faith] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:24b-25). It would be good to bring our hearts to linger over passages instead of just checking off a reading list. There are those little phrases that should bring us to are knees.

For this reason the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
John 10:17