“From servitude to sonship by the grace of the Father”

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:17–18, ESV)

Jesus makes the strangest pronouncement to Mary.  “Go to my brothers, “he says, [Bob Utley points out: “The resurrected, glorified Lord calls these cowards “brothers”] “and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Why all the “my” and “your” action when Jesus could have just said, “our Father” and “our God?”  I’m glad you didn‘t asked.

Jesus is at once making a distinction and making a connection.  God is the Father of Jesus, but different from the way that he is a Father to the disciples [and us].  Cyril of Alexandria points out that God was the Father of Jesus by nature, and he is the Father of the disciples [and us] by adoption. Then he writes:

“For however high the privilege we have received of saying in our prayers, Our Father, which art in heaven, yet the gift is of loving-kindness. For we call Him Father, not as having been by nature begotten of Our Father which is in heaven; but having been transferred from servitude to sonship by the grace of the Father, through the Son and Holy Spirit, we are permitted so to speak by ineffable loving-kindness.”

We should not, however, miss the connection that Jesus makes.  God the Father is the Father of Mary Magdalene and the disciples [and us!].  It is no accident that this is the statement Jesus most wants his disciples to hear.  This is the result of the cross and Christ’s resurrection.  The disciples and all who follow Christ by faith are now able to call God their own Father in the same way that God is Jesus’ Father.  We are now joint heirs with Christ. Paul puts the truth this way:

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15 NAS95)

The moment Jesus speaks these words, from that point and going forward into eternity in the future, those who follow Christ by faith have a home with their own Father and their own God in heaven alongside Jesus Christ.

Signed and sealed at the cross.   Delivered at the resurrection.

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