The Gospels are books about Jesus Christ. But these four books also tell us much about God the Father. Even though he is often hidden behind the scenes, he is the most important person in the story. Everything depends on him. Even Jesus’ importance is best understood when it is seen in relationship to God — Jesus is the Son of God, the the One sent by God, the Messiah anointed by God. Jesus’ importance is received from God; his authority, power and teaching come from God the Father. His mission was to serve God, to bring glory to God, to further God’s purpose and God’s kingdom and God’s plan for the salvation of his people.
The Gospels make no effort to prove that God exists — they seem to assume that the readers already believe in the God revealed in the Old Testament. They believe that he is eternal, almighty, personal, omnipotent, omniscient, holy, righteous and gracious.
A basic understanding of God is assumed in the Gospels, and important additional information about him is revealed. Let us survey the four Gospels to see how Jesus and the apostles understood God.
1. Did Jesus speak with authority? Matt. 7:29. Where did he get his authority? John 5:19;8:28; 12:49; 14:10. Where did he come from? John 8:42. Why was he sent? Luke 4:43; John 3:17; 4:34; 5:36; 6:38-39; 9:4.
Comment: These are just a few of the scriptures that tell us that God the Father sent Jesus the Son into the world to accomplish the Father’s purpose. In John, more than 30 verses tell us that the Father sent the Son, and in 14 additional verses, Jesus refers to “the one who sent me.” Jesus is telling us something about God — not only is Jesus identified as the one who was sent, the Father is identified and described in terms of his relationship to Jesus. The God we are interacting with is the one who sent Jesus.
2. During Jesus’ ministry, it was revealed that he was the Son of God. What did he then reveal about the Father? John 1:18; 14:9; 17:26; 17:4. And what did the Father himself reveal about Jesus? Matt. 3:17; 17:5.
Comment: Jesus shows us what God the Father is like. He shows us the Father’s love, his compassion and mercy, his righteousness, humility, authority, words, work and truth — even his glory. In Jesus Christ, the Father is made visible so that we can know him. We worship a Father who is very much like his Son.
Although the Father is greater than the Son, they are also one. They have a reciprocal relationship: the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son. Jesus brings glory to the Father, and the Father gives glory to the Son. The Son testifies concerning the Father, and the Father testifies concerning the Son.
3. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the Father. What kind of love does the Father have? Matt. 5:45. Can he be trusted to take care of us? Matt. 6:8, 26-32;18:14. How should we respond to him? Matt. 5:44; 6:33.
4. Does God reward his children? Matt. 6:1-6. How do we speak to him? Luke 11:1-13;18:1-8. What are we to pray for? Matt. 5:44; 7:11; 9:38; 18:19. Whose will is to be done, in prayer as well as in other aspects of life? Matt. 6:10; 7:21; 12;50;26:39, 42.
Comment: Jesus’ ministry was all done under the direction of the Father. Throughout the Gospels we are reminded that Jesus worked according to a plan. It was predicted in Scripture, and it had to be done in a particular way to fulfill what God had already predicted.
The Father directed Jesus in what to do and what to say, and the Son was obedient. Jesus prayed often, and he knew his Father’s will. His authority and power came from the Father, and the Father supported him and honored him for his work.
6. How did Jesus describe his relationship with God? John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 14:3;17:24. What special term did he call him? Mark 14:36. Where was he to go after his work on earth had been done? John 13:1; 14:28; 16:10; 20:17.
Comment: In the Old Testament, God is called Father less than 1 percent of the time, never in prayer. Yet Jesus always addressed God in this way (except when he quoted an Old Testament prayer). His disciples only rarely called God Father; almost all the occurrences of “Father” are spoken by Jesus.
Jesus had an unusually close relationship with God, as shown by the word Abba. This was an Aramaic word for father, used by children and adults to refer to their human fathers. Jesus used this familiar term when he prayed, and apparently he taught his disciples to use it, too. Paul used this Aramaic word when he wrote to the church at Rome, confident that they also knew the word because it had been taught to them (Rom. 8:15).
Abba shows a personal and close relationship — Jesus was aware that he had a unique relationship with God. He was loved by the Father, even before the world began, and he loved and trusted the Father. When his work was done, he returned to the Father to be with him in his glory.
Comment: Jesus gave us the right to become children of God — yet we are not children in exactly the same way that Jesus is. He was a born Son of God; we are adopted children of God. We experience a Father-son relationship with God when we have faith in Jesus as the Son of God (John 8:42). We are to respond to him with worship, praise, honor, prayer, love, faith and obedience — to the Son as well as to the Father.
Parables of the Father
1. Some of Jesus’ parables tell us what the Father is like. Jesus tells us that the Father will act like the king in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:23-35). Was the king willing to forgive the debt? Verse 27. Why was this forgiveness taken away? Verses 28-35. How did Jesus make the same point in the Sermon on the Mount? Matt. 6:15. How is it expressed in Luke 6:36?
2. In the parable of the workers (Matt. 20:1-15), the Father is like the landowner who paid each worker a day’s wage, even if he worked only one hour. What does this tell us about God? Verse 15.
3. In the parable of the tenants (Matt. 21:33-43; Luke 20:9-16), the Father is like a landowner who eventually sent his son to collect rent. What happened to the son? Luke 20:15. And what happened to the tenants? Verse 16.
4. In the parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:2-13), the Father is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Who is invited to the wedding? Verse 9. What happens to those who don’t respond properly? Verses 7, 11-13.
5. In the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:3-10), the Father is represented as a man or woman who seeks something that is lost. What is the point that Jesus made? Verses 7, 10. In the parable of the prodigal son, the Father eagerly desires the return of his son (verse 20). How does he greet him? Verses 22-24. What is the lesson we can learn? Verse 32.
Comment: These parables do not give a complete portrait of the Father, but they do sketch some important aspects. Here we see a Father who is generous, willing to forgive, eager to invite and eager for us to return. In fact, the Father is so eager for our salvation that he took the initiative to send his Son to seek for us, to invite us and to ensure that we can come.
In the parables, we also see another aspect of God: a Father who makes requirements, who is critical of people who do not rejoice when sinners turn to God. Moreover, the Father is willing to judge and punish those who disobey. “Be afraid,” Jesus said, “of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt. 4:10).