The Goodness of God As Father in Matthew’s Gospel

[June 29, 2014] Today I want to speak about the Fatherhood of God in the Gospel according to Matthew and in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. In Matthew’s gospel, it is only on the lips of Jesus that we hear God called “Father”, 44 times in all; never is God called “Father” by either the narrator (Matthew) or the disciples or by anyone else. The first occurrence is in the Sermon on the Mount, 5:16; the last is in the Great Commission, 28:19. Twenty-one times Jesus speaks of “your” Father, with “you” usually being plural but sometimes singular (in 13:43 he says “their” Father, that is, the Father of the upright); fifteen times he speaks of God as “my” Father; four times he addresses God as “my Father” or simply “Father; and four times he speaks of “the” Father.

In the ecumenical Nicene Creed we say, “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” In the much later Apostles’ Creed of western Christendom we say, “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Let us leave aside the second part of this confession, belief in God as the creator, for another time.

“One God, the Father the Almighty”

We sometimes say, “Father Almighty” or “Almighty Father” but we cannot find that usage in the Bible or in the early church. Early sermons and commentaries on the Apostles’ Creed do not treat “Father Almighty” as a single title but “Father” and “Almighty” as separate descriptions of “God.” “Almighty” occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures as YHWH Sabaoth (Lord of armies) or El Shaddai (Mighty God, or All-Sufficient God), hardly at all in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 6:18; the Book of the Revelation). In the New Testament, on the other hand, we frequently see “God the Father,” usually in Paul (though in the original Father is attached to God without the article). This title is common in early Christian literature from the second century on.

The earliest formula, then, was belief in God the Father, based on the baptismal formula of Matthew 28. “Almighty” was an addition, identifying the Father with the God of the Hebrew Scriptures, with the God of Abraham and the covenants. The word the creeds used for almighty, pantokratōr, does not really mean what we mean in English by almighty (omnipotent). That word would have been pantodunamos, which has to do with capacity. The word the creeds used has to do with the actualization of capacity (according to J. N. D. Kelly). It means “all-ruling” or “all-sovereign,” that God’s rule encompasses all things. Thus Jesus says to God, “I extol you Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Matthew 11:25). In fact, as Augustine points out, God’s omnipotence was limited by God’s will; the expanse of God’s rule however is unlimited.

The Nicene Creed adds oneness to God, but this too identifies our faith in God with the faith of Israel (the She’ma: Deuteronomy 6:4) and is an assertion that our belief in the Trinity by no means compromises this fundamental premise.

In the early church the Fatherhood of God was most closely associated with the Father of the Son. God is Father in relation to the Son. Unlike in modern times, this was not a description of God’s relationship to humanity (as such). However, we do find in early sermons that God is the Father of the believer by virtue of the new birth (by which we become the children of God) and of the “sonship” (the majority in relation to our inheritance) to which the believer is entitled and is being brought. This gives our understanding of God its particular Christian content.

Together these words, “Father” and “Almighty,” assert that the fatherhood of God extends over all things in heaven and on earth and that everywhere, and with respect to everything that God rules, God is the Father of the Son and our Father. Moreover, it is as such a Father that God has brought everything into—and sustains everything in—being.

The creeds make this assertion in the face of the prevailing views in the gentile world. Whether the Christian revelation de-mystifies nature, I doubt. We believe in the presence of the divine in all of nature, and it is not contrary to our faith to believe that consciousness is pervasive in creation. We understand what the New Testament means when it says that there are many gods, many powers, and many principles. What we are asserting is that there is one God over all who rules over all; that the divine which is everywhere immanent in the creation is the same with the divine that is transcendent, and that the divine is One. Moreover, we assert that this “divine” is personal, not in the modern sense of personality, but in the sense of possessing “I”-ness and of dynamically relating to Another in communion; indeed, we assert that this is true of God even apart from the existence of anything other than God. God is personal communion within God’s own being (i.e., the Trinity)—that this is actually the essence of the divine nature apart from anything else (that is, apart from there even being a creation).

But the Nicene Creed makes this assertion, concerning the oneness of God and the rule of God encompassing all things (even to the extent that all things derive their origin from God), to confront another belief: the belief that there are two supreme gods, one good and one evil, each combating the other. This idea comes from Persia, from Zoroastrianism, and enters Judaism, particularly in its apocalyptic tendencies. Its threat to Christianity becomes apparent in the church’s struggle with Docetism, Marcionism, and the various versions of Gnosticism. These beliefs circulated within the church and on its fringes in little study and prayer groups. People today hear many positive things about “Gnosticism,” not realizing that most of these positive things were shared by “catholic orthodoxy.” The problem that the church had with their beliefs had to do with the idea that the material creation (the body!) was evil and the product of the evil god and that what is good is purely “spiritual.” According to orthodoxy the material cannot in reality be separated from the spiritual; this separation only occurs in our perception, our soul, and this alienation is what leads to all kinds of evil. The spiritual quest is to free the spirit from the body. The danger here was that the language used by everyone was very similar; the differences seemed subtle. In reality they were not.

This dualistic belief has been associated with Platonism, and bears some resemblance to versions of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, but we should notice that Plotinus, the great neo-platonic philosopher (and fellow-student of Origin, the great Christian theologian) was as opposed to Gnosticism as the Christians were. Gnosticism was a misunderstanding of Plato and probably of Buddhism and the Vedanta. Many people, however, then and now do misunderstand these philosophies in this way.

I see evidence that this misunderstanding entered the churches in the decades of the seventies and eighties. We already see it threatening, however, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in Colossians, and in First Epistle of Peter. It is there in Jude and certainly in the writings of the disciple John in the nineties. The decade of the sixties created a leadership vacuum in the churches on account of the Roman persecution of Christianity, and when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed and Christ did not return, confusion ensued and morale was devastated. The beliefs of Gnosticism that the church opposed were rooted in this time of pessimism, doubt and despair.

This leads to the question of creation, but as I said, I want to leave that aside for now. For the present I want to focus on the fatherhood of God. For this has not only to do with the unity of God and of creation, but with the goodness of God, and therefore with the inherent goodness of all that God has created, is creating and is sustaining in creation, the goodness of all that is, in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible. What is evil either is a lie and therefore does not actually exist except in our individual or collective soul (the world), or has to do with the will, which has to do with the direction of one’s intentions. Even the intention itself is rooted in what is good; evil is a perversion of the good, a perversion based on a lie. But we have to leave this question (the question of evil) aside also because it is too huge a topic to undertake right now.

We Know the Fatherhood of God by our relationship to the Son

The question of the fatherhood of God goes back to Jesus himself, to his relationship to the Father. For us to know God is to know God as Jesus knew (and of course, knows) God. Jesus knew God as his Father and in prayer addressed God as “Father” or “my Father” (“Abba Father” only occurs in Mark 14:36 and in Paul, but reveals the intimacy that Jesus felt with respect to his heavenly Father). When Jesus called disciples to himself and brought them thus into that special relationship to himself of fidelity or fealty to his Person (the allegiance that is translated “faith”; though “faith” in Matthew—pistis in Greek—always refers to confidence and trust: see 8:10; 9:2, 22, 29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21 and 23:23), they enter into a special sphere in which God becomes “your Father in the heavens,” that sphere being the sphere of Jesus’ own Person (“person” here being a relational term, not a reference to personality). In Matthew Jesus always refers to “your Father” (the possessive being either plural or singular) or “my Father” (or the vocative, “Father”). In 11:27 Jesus speaks objectively of “the Father” twice in relation to “the Son.” In 28:19, the expression is likewise objective: “the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In these cases, it is also relational: the Father is the Father in relation to the Son.

In other words, the disciples’ relationship to God becomes Jesus’ own relationship to God on account of their relationship to Jesus. God becomes their Father as God is his Father. However, never does Jesus say “our Father” except in 6:4 (the Lord’s Prayer) in which he is instructing the disciples how they should pray. Therefore, even in this instance, Jesus is putting “our” on the lips of the disciples, it is not necessarily inclusive of Jesus. Notice here, though, that even though the disciples never themselves call God “Father” (“my Father,” or “our Father”) Jesus does ask them to do so, at least when they address God. So there is a qualitative distinction between Jesus and ourselves. Our relationship to God is derivative of his. Nevertheless, by the time we get to the Gospel according to John, in the resurrection of Jesus God becomes “my Father and your Father” (20:17). Even then, though, “our” is never inclusive of Jesus.

In the Lord’s Prayer the “our” refers to us disciples, but God is our Father as the Father of Jesus. We pray, as it were, within Jesus’ relationship to the Father, within his “my Father.” When we pray “our” Father, it is in fact inclusive of Jesus, but not on equal terms, as if God were both of our father on independent terms, as it were. No, when we pray with Jesus, we are always in a dependent relationship to him.

Connotations

But what is the significance of God being Father in any case. Besides being a description of “merely” the relation of Son to Father (the denotation, which is the emphasis of the Gospel according to John), what does “Father” connote?

First of all, it has nothing to do with masculinity. While we distinguish fathers and mothers by gender, and they are distinguished for procreation (mothers do not generally procreate without a father), when we speak of God, the gender connotation needs to be put aside. For even were we to say that the Father begets the Son by the procession of the feminine Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is never the “mother” of the Son in the sense that the Father is the “father,” for then the Holy Spirit would also be begetting the Son (which she does not). If we are looking for a human comparison (as when Paul says, “I speak in human terms,” anthrōpinon le), then the Father has to be both the Father and the Mother of the Son, though as one hupostasis.

We have our own connotations that we associate with the word “father,” and we need to be careful not to read these into the text. For such connotations derive from our experience of our own father(s) (or lack thereof), the experiences of others, or perhaps from our experience of being a father. We want to see what Jesus associates with fatherhood.

God the “Father” in the Gospel according to Matthew

In Matthew 5:16 others glorify “our” Father when they see our upright works. This is because our upright works correspond to who our Father is. In 5:45 we become “sons” (achieve our majority) when we become like our Father. How do we do this? When we love our enemies, for the Father is completely impartial when it comes to the divine generosity (causing the sun to rise and the rain to fall). The perfection (teleios) of 5:48 has to do with something being complete: which in this context has to do with not only loving those who love us but loving everyone, even our enemies and those who persecute us.

In Matthew 6:1, 4 and 6 the Father is the one who sees what we do in secret and rewards us. In 6:6 and 9 the Father is also the one to whom we pray (in secret). This implies that the Father is aware of our interior, that is, what goes on in our consciousness, our thoughts and motivations and, indeed, our subconscious. The Father is aware of our awareness of him. In 6:8 the Father knows what we need before we pray, for the Father is paying attention to us all the time. There is nothing in our situation that escapes the Father’s notice. This is not why we pray. Nor is there any need to twist the Father’s arm—this is also not why we pray—for the Father wants to be generous to us. In 6:14-15 the Father judges or forgives his children on the basis of how they judge or forgive others. Depending on how we treat others, our Father treats us, and disciplines us as need be (see 7:1-2). So not only is the Father aware of our interior, and aware of our situations, but the Father is also aware of our relations to others, and that awareness is characterized by care. The Father is caring and has us under his care, and treats us according to his all-encompassing awareness of us.

In 6:26 Jesus tells us not to be anxious about the things we need because the Father will take care of us better than the Father takes care of the sparrows, whom the Father does take care of. Again, the Father knows all the things that we need. We do not need to be anxious like the gentiles (6:32) but can leave all the kinds of things that they worry about to the Father, who will give all these things to us, if we seek the more important things—the things concerning his kingdom and “righteousness”—which the Father will make sure that we obtain. The Father sees what we need, wants to give to us, and is able.

In 7:11 Jesus compares human fathers to “your Father”: “How much more will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those who ask him!”

7:21 is the first occurrence of “my Father.” No one will enter the kingdom of the heavens “but the one who does the will of my Father who is in the heavens,” even if that person be a disciple. The disciple is thus not only under the Father’s oversight, the Father who is always paying attention and who can be counted on to provide all that the disciple needs, but the disciple also comes under the Father’s discipline, being treated by the Father in the manner that they treat others and, if necessary, even being excluded from the kingdom of the heavens (though not excluded from their paternity—they are still the Father’s child, still redeemed by Christ: in John’s language they still have eternal life even if in the synoptic language, they are barred temporarily from the enjoyment of it in the kingdom).

So more than anything else, we see that the Father pays attention to us, attends to us, is good and generous to us, and treats us as we need, that is, the Father keeps us under the discipline of the Father’s government (the kingdom).

In 10:20 the Spirit of the Father speaks in (en) us when we are brought before pagan governors and kings for Jesus sake to give a testimony to the gentles. Again, do not be anxious for what we should speak will be given to us in that hour. The Father is the giver, and gives through the Spirit who is inside us, in our interior.

10:29 reminds us again of the Father’s care for the sparrows. Not even one sparrow falls to the earth outside of the Father’s providence. Therefore we have no reason to fear. If our Father cares for the sparrows, the Father certainly cares for us. Even each hair on our head is numbered. No detail of our lives, in other words, escapes the Father’s care. If we fall to the earth, it is not because the Father has let go of us, but it is precisely because the Father is taking care of us. It happens by the Father’s goodness.

In 10:32-33 Jesus again speaks of “my Father.” The first time in 7:21 it was in reference to the judgment. So here again. How we stand with respect to the Father depends entirely upon Jesus (the Son) declaring himself for us or his disowning us (if we disown him, like Peter did).

In 11:25-27 Jesus turns to his Father in prayer. “I extol you Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Nothing happens in heaven or earth outside of the Father’s lordship. The Father is the ruler of all, the pantokratōr, hiding things from the wise and intelligent and revealing them to little children. Why? Because “it has been well-pleasing in your sight,” that is, the Father does simply as it pleases the Father. This does not mean that it is arbitrary, but rather that the Father has the power to do what is according to the Father’s will, and nothing and no place escapes the Father’s jurisdiction. Indeed, Jesus says that whatever happens to him has been “delivered to me by my Father.” Whether people perceive who Jesus is or not is entirely up to the Father; it has been delivered to Jesus by the Father.

Jesus also says that “no one knows the Son except the Father.” No one knows what it means that Jesus is “the Son” except the Father. This makes sense, for this sonship can only be understood in relation to the Father, and “no one knows the Father except the Son,” for no one has that relationship to the Father that the Son has. We know God at best as an overpowering reality and at worse as a mental abstraction. Only God knows God. The Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father and “the things of God also no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Jesus goes on to say, however, that a person can know the Father if the Son wills to reveal the Father to that person! He says this in verse 27, and in verse 25 he said that the Father has revealed “these things” (i.e., the Gospel) to little children (what Jesus calls his disciples). We know the Father and the Son only in relation to each other, and only through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, which is both as it is well-pleasing in the Father’s sight (verse 26) and as the Son wills (verse 27).

That such knowledge has to be “revealed” (apokaluptō) means that it is not accessible except as a gift. To know God as the Father can only happen when we, by the Father’s initiative, enter into the personal relation of disciple to Jesus and thereby, by the Son’s initiative, share the Son’s relationship with the Father. All this takes place through the Holy Spirit arranging our circumstances and working within us.

In 12:50 Jesus says that “whoever does the will of my Father who is in the heavens is my brother and sister and mother.” This is the third time that Jesus speaks of “my Father.” Our being Jesus’ sibling and thus having God as our Father, depends upon our doing the will of Jesus’ Father (see 7:21). The Father’s will is that we place ourselves into the relationship to Jesus of disciple, that we give Jesus our allegiance. This means that he becomes our lord. There has to be a correspondence of wills between us and Jesus. We have to want the same thing. This takes place when we give Jesus our allegiance.

No one, in actuality, always does the Father’s will beyond giving—by grace—our allegiance to Jesus. If we say we give Jesus our allegiance and yet do not want what he wants, namely the Father’s will, we are either deluding ourselves or Jesus has accepted our allegiance and in fact takes responsibility for us, in which case, we come under the Father’s discipline. If he has indeed accepted our fealty, then there is no escaping the Father’s will. We will learn to do it, even if it must wait until the age to come. Until then, however, most of us have only what we offer—our personal fidelity or loyalty—and this only by God’s grace. Most of us are, when we get down to it, like Peter.

13:43 says that, once the coming Son of Man purges his kingdom of “all causes of falling and all who do evil,” those who remain, namely the upright, “will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The upright are those who have responded to Jesus’ coming and gotten right with God. This purging seems to refer to the time of the coming kingdom. The manifestation of the Son of Man as such (Daniel 7:13) is the judgment, for we are all judged in the light of who he is (Jesus, the crucified Son of God). Those who “shine forth in the kingdom of their Father” are those for whom God has become their Father by their peculiar relationship to the Son.

In 15:13 Jesus speaks of “every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted,” referring to the Pharisees who were giving him a hard time, who represented those who reject the “unclean” people, namely the gentiles and sinners, but are themselves unclean before God. Whether someone comes to Jesus depends upon whether the Father plants them (see 11:25-26).

In 16:17 Jesus says that it was “my Father who is in the heavens” who revealed to Simon son of Jonah (Peter) that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” See 11:25-27. This knowledge cannot be revealed by flesh and blood but only by the Father who alone knows the Son.

16:27 says that the Daniel 7:13 Son of Man will come in “the glory of his Father.” This means that the Son of Man is the Son of God and shares the glory of the divine nature with the Father. His coming in the glory of his Father means that he—the humble and crucified one—will be simultaneously manifested in his divinity. His coming at that time—when his reality, imperceptible apart from divine revelation, becomes manifest—will be the disciples’ judgment (as in 7:21-23; 10:32-33; 13:41-43). We will be judged by how we correspond to his humility, that is, did we deny ourselves, and take up our cross and follow him; in other words, did we lose our soul for his sake, as he laid down his own soul for love of the Father for our sake.

18:10 probably means that if we despise even the very least of our fellow disciples Jesus’ Father knows about it and will discipline us accordingly (with the fire of Gehenna). Jesus’ Father takes it personally. 18:14 says that “it is not the will of your Father who is in the heavens that one of these little ones perish.” This emphasizes the Father’s protective care of all the disciples, especially those whom we might think do not matter that much. When we are in harmony when we pray (verse 19), “my Father who is in the heavens” will do what we ask, for when we are gathered into Jesus name, Jesus is in our midst. In other words, Jesus’ Father is paying attention to Jesus who is the one symphonizing our prayers. The last versed in chapter 18 (verse 35) reminds us that the Father disciplines us according to how we treat each other, even to the extent of barring us from enjoying the coming kingdom (instead, we will suffer under the Father’s kingdom, or governance, as all things are brought under the headship of Christ).

20:23 also concerns the coming kingdom. Jesus’ “Father,” by means of his discipline in this life, is preparing those who will “sit on my right and on my left.” This concerns those who attach themselves to Jesus, who consequently have God as their Father also. While this is a delight, because it means the Father cares for us and loves us as he loves the Son, Jesus, it also means that we are measured by that standard and thus come under the governance of the Father, which in our case means the Father’s discipline.

In 23:9 Jesus tells his disciples that they are to consider no one on earth their father, for the only Father we have is our Father who is in the heavens. On earth, in other words, we are in the same position as Jesus himself.

In 24:36 Jesus tells us that no one knows the day and hour except the Father, not even the angels or even the Son. This refers to the coming of the Son of Man (of Daniel 7). This must include Jesus, and probably refers to the Son of Man (with whom Jesus identifies). Whether Matthew was cognizant of it or not, theologically these words cannot refer to God the Son but only to Jesus in the limitations of his human nature. (However, the text does not make this distinction. We make it only because we—the church—take it upon ourselves to interpret Matthew’s gospel canonically, that is, in the light of the rest of the Scriptures.)

25:34 refers again to the Son of Man but in his capacity as the judge of the gentiles (people who are not Jews and not Jesus’ disciples called out from among the gentiles). Those who offered hospitality to the little ones (the least of Jesus’ disciples, who Jesus here calls his siblings, as in 12:50), are called “blessed by my Father.” The Son of Man, as their King, tells them to come and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In verse 46 they are called “the upright” and go away “into eternal life.” They are being given the reward of the upright, indeed the reward of the disciples, the “little ones” (10:40-42). During the time of the kingdom, they do even better than the disciples of Jesus who come under their Father’s censoring discipline at this time. Jesus does not say, however, that God is their Father, not yet anyway, but that they are blessed by his Father. Usually in the context of the coming judgment, Jesus speaks of “my Father,” so this is what we might expect. My impression, however, is that what is granted to these gentiles is something completely new and surprising and unexpected. They had not known God as their Father, and yet the Father of Jesus is taking them in at this point and granting them the blessing of the kingdom which we first saw in the beatitudes of chapter 5. This is pure grace.

In 26:39 Jesus is either referring to his ascent to the Father’s right hand—where he is now—as “the kingdom of my Father” (which would be unprecedented) or he is referring to the coming kingdom, as he usually does, as “the kingdom of my Father.” It is probably the later, since 13:41 and 43 distinguishes the kingdom of the Son of Man as referring to the time in which we live and the kingdom of the Father as the coming kingdom.

26:39 and 42 Jesus addresses God as “my Father” in the place called Gethsemane. Here we see Jesus making the sacrifice of his intention, laying down his soul, offering it up out of love for the Father in obedience to the Father’s will. It is what the cross is all about. Here the Father is the recipient of the Son’s sacrifice, the Son’s love, the Son’s obedience, the Son’s active surrender. Here we see the dynamic of sonship in relationship to the Father, the Son in the communion of the Trinity. The Father is silent.

The act before the Father was completed by his prayer. Yet Jesus has complete confidence in the Father—their relationship is always such—that he can beseech his Father and the Father will provide him at once with more than twelve legions of angels. The Father is the Lord of Hosts, YHWH Sabaoth.

The last occurrence of the word “Father” in Matthew’s gospel is in 28:19—“Go therefore and disciple all the gentiles, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them …” How are we to understand these words before the existence of a theology of the Trinity, even before the writing of John’s gospel? Probably we have to recall the beginning of Jesus’ “coming out” when he received baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. There Jesus was taking the role of a penitent (that will take him to the cross) for which the Father (the voice from heaven) declares, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I have found my delight,” at the same time that the Spirit of God descends upon him to anoint him with power for the accomplishment of this role.

This dynamic (the name) of Father, Son and Spirit is that into which the disciple is also being baptized. The disciple must follow Jesus, must also take on the role of a penitent and lay down her soul. By giving her allegiance to Jesus, God also becomes her Father, and the Spirit is given to equip her for this life. So baptism is the mark of this act of allegiance, this commitment of fidelity, this fealty to Jesus. It is, indeed, a public confession of belonging to the Three, and, as the church would later come to understand, a public taking upon oneself the dynamic of the communion of the Three in response to the will of the Father that has made us Christ’s by the working of the Holy Spirit in the individual’s life and within the individual’s interior.

Conclusions

We can draw several conclusions about the Father from this brief survey: we only can know the Father when we are in the peculiar relationship to Christ of disciple, and then we know the Father of Jesus as our Father. The Father is relational, the Father is the Lord of all absolutely, the Father is absolutely free, the Father is watchful and attentive, caring, and generous, and good.

This peculiar goodness is what Francis of Assisi called the “sweetness” of God. Like the apostolic tradition, Francis saw this through the prism of Jesus. The goodness of the Father has a reflection in the innate goodness of human beings—yes, the poor, sick, insane and violent—and of the earthy creation. The fall of humanity does not eradicate this goodness; to say so would be to denounce Christianity. What is absolutely astonishing about the Christian message is that reveals that goodness is at the heart of reality.

In relationship with the loving Father we encounter the Father’s goodness in our own earthy and disfigured condition, in our weakness and sickness, in our sin, and in our death. Instead of being repelled by our created wretchedness, we can touch and handle the goodness of God everywhere in it, even in the suffering of the crucified as he bore us all, bore our very being in this world. The goodness of the Father is not to be found only in the things that please us, but everywhere, in our poverty and suffering and ignorance and delusion, and even in our death. It is our disconnectedness to Jesus that blinds us to this reality.

The goodness of the Father is not apart from the Father’s judgment, but his judgment is in fact an expression of his goodness. So when Jesus took on the role of a penitent, even though he was sinless, deliberately placing himself in solidarity with us under the Father’s judgment, it was because he saw the goodness of the Father in this path, and tasted its “sweetness.” Can we follow him?

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