Like Father, like Son: Ten Ways Jesus Christ Reveals God’s Identity

In the Old Testament, God’s people of Israel knew of God as father, but only in a general sense. For instance, since God is creator of all things, he can be called “father.” Jesus Christ, however, reveals an entirely distinct fatherhood of God: he reveals, as St. Paul writes, “Abba” (see Romans 8:15), abba being a Syriac word that signifies “my father.” 

Abba is a word that intentionally relates familial imagery, a word of intimacy. In other words, God is not just father in the abstract sense as creator, but in a familial, intimate manner with his creation. Furthermore, this Abba is also not just calling upon God as father in a familial, intimate manner, but calling upon the Person of God the Father, First Person of the Most Holy Trinity. For in Christ, we not only get to call God Abba, but we also receive the revelation of the paternity of God the Father from Jesus the Son, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, who is eternally begotten of the Father. 

We read in John 1:18, for example, that “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Or as we read in Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

How, then, does Jesus reveal the Person of God the Father? Let us look at 10 ways (among others!) that the revelation of Jesus draws us into the mystery of his filial relationship with God the Father.

1. The Incarnation (John 1:1-14) 

Adoration of the Shepherds, Matthias Stomer, ca. 1625 

The Incarnation is the external prolongation and extension of the procession of the Son. As we read in John 8:42, “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.’” The justice and mercy of the invisible Father and his love and providential care of his beloved creatures has a face in Christ because of the Incarnation.

2. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51) 

The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, William Holman Hunt, ca. 1854 

As Jesus says to Mary and Joseph upon their reunion, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” A Father different, of course, from St. Joseph himself, who is but the foster-father of our Lord.

3. His Preaching (Matthew 5-7)

The Sermon on the Mount, Carl Bloch, 1877 

We read in Mark 1:14 that “after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.” This preaching is most famously captured by the Sermon on the Mount, which emphasizes the fatherhood of God. In fact, God is called “Father” in the sermon 17 times. Why emphasize God’s fatherhood in the sermon? Because Jesus is God the Son, who is calling us to be sons of God ourselves, through him and with him and in him.

4. His Works (John 5)

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco, ca. 1570 (http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436572)

Not only do the words of Jesus testify to God the Father, but so, too, do his works. The healings, miracles, and all other acts by Jesus show forth his splendor as the Son of God. As our Lord himself says, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

5. His Interior Life (Luke 3:21-22; 9:28-36) 

The Agony in the Garden, Raphael, ca. 1504 (http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437371)

We see in Christ’s interior life that his life of prayer is all about his turning as Son to the Father and the Father turning likewise in testifying to his Son. In both cases of the Baptism and Transfiguration, for example, Jesus Christ is praying, and as he is doing so, a voice from heaven proclaims him the beloved Son. By uniting ourselves to the interior life of Christ, we pierce the heavenly mysteries.

6. The Passion (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 13-19)  

The Crucifixion, Fra Angelico, ca. 1420-23 (http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437007)

Nothing reveals the love of the Father so much as the Passion of Christ, which shows that the Father’s infinite love for mankind doesn’t even spare his only-begotten Son. The Crucifixion especially signifies the love that the Father has for the world, a love which sends his only begotten Son to death to redeem us of our sins. Jesus’ own obedience to the will of the Father, captured no more powerfully than in the agony of the garden, shows forth his own union of will with the Father’s.

7. The Church’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) 

Ascension, John Singleton Copley, 1775 

Just prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus gives his Catholic Church her mission: to teach all nations and baptize them. The formula for baptism itself reveals to us the three persons in one God: when we are baptized into the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, it is in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The three persons in God are distinct, yet consubstantial, coequal, and coeternal.

8. The Sending of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)  

Descent of the Holy Spirit, Duccio di Buoninsegna, ca. 1268 

We read in Acts 2 of the first Christian Pentecost 50 days after Easter, which marks the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit descends upon the faithful as the founding gift and soul of the Church. What does this have to do with God the Father? Everything, for Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). ⊲

9. The Infusion of Faith (John 3:36) 

The Last Supper, Jacopo Tintoretto, ca. 1592-94 

The revelation of God the Father is made even more personal to us with the infusion of the theological virtue of faith into our intellect. For as Christ speaks in the Gospels, faith is eternal life already begun: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (Jn 3:36). Note that he says “has eternal life,” not “will have.” But what is eternal life if not the knowledge and love of the Triune God? As Christ says, “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3). ⊲

10. Our Own Testimony to Christ (Matthew 10:32; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26)

Christ Carrying the Cross, El Greco, ca. 1577–87 

The Christian life of faith, hope, and charity is most fully perfected in our conformity to Christ crucified, for the savior demands that we pick up our cross as he did. But this carries with it a great promise, as well, of coming before the Father victoriously clad in our suffering: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32).

These are not the only ways in which our Lord reveals the Father, but these ten ways capture a comprehensive, if only brief, overview. Jesus came to do the will of the Father (John 6:38), and the will of the Father he did indeed. It is through Jesus and his obedience to the will of Father, culminating in his Passion, death, and resurrection, that we ourselves return to our Father in heaven. 

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more like it, then visit our website at sjvlaydivision.org to see the different class offerings we have for the Biblical and Catechetical Schools starting in September. Classes will be offered both in-person and online, so taking a class with us will never be easier. It doesn’t matter what part of Colorado you live in — you can take a class! There is something for everybody — classes in Scripture, Catechism, Catholic culture and art, prayer…you name it. Classes begin on Monday, Sept. 13. Visit sjvlaydivision.org to see all of the options for information sessions, class locations/times, and to register. Make the choice to learn your faith and come to know and love Jesus Christ!


Featured art: Ceiling fresco of Holy Trinity, Gian Domenico Caresana, 1616 

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”