“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have
seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace
and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was
he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead
of me because he was before me.'”) From his fullness we
have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given
through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is
close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
This is an “Aha!” moment in the Gospel text. This is the moment my English teacher would have called the “denouement”, as here the plot starts coming together and things become clear. It is like that moment Dr. Seuss’ Grinch hears the joyful music coming up from Whoville and discovers Christmas is not about getting presents. For this is the first time John’s Gospel makes clear that the eternal Word who was God and was with God is none other than Jesus. From this point on, John’s Gospel refers to God the Word by His historical name, Jesus.
What’s more, we learn this peasant carpenter from Nazareth is “close to the Father’s heart.” I cut my teeth on the King James Bible and its translation of this as Jesus “in the bosom of the Father”. Both versions, “close to the Father’s heart” and “in the bosom of the Father”, are translations of the Greek word kolpos, which expresses the closest imaginable intimacy. In the Septuagint, i.e., the Greek translation of the Old Testament, kolpos denotes close physical intimacy of a man and woman as well as of a child nursing at the breast. It is the closest of relationships.
To say that Jesus is “close to the Father’s heart” corresponds to the earlier statement that the Word was in a close face-to-face relationship “with God” (John 1:1). Jesus as kolpos speaks of His deep and unceasing communion with God the Father. “It is as if God has reached into his very being and plucked out his own heart in sending Christ to us.” (Bruce Milne, The Message of John) For a world that does not know God, Jesus perfectly reveals God’s essence and glory: “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
In revealing Jesus as “close to the Father’s heart” the Gospel introduces a “chain of intimacy”. Jesus models this chain “into which all believers are drawn, first with Jesus and then through him with the Father.” (Brendan Byrne, Life Abounding: A Reading of John’s Gospel) The next link in this chain of intimacy is seen in the next and only other time kolpos is used in John’s Gospel. We see it in that moving scene at the Last Supper as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” is reclining close to Jesus’ heart, or His kolpos (John 13:23). Here is a beautiful word picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Jesus, who is close to the Father’s heart, takes us with Him to be close to the Father’s heart. “He is the Son of God sent to this world of ours by His Heavenly Father to reveal to us what He experiences from all eternity in His intimate life with the Father.” (George Maloney, Entering into the Heart of Jesus)
Yes, this is a wondrous “Aha!” moment in the Gospel text! Jesus is God’s love released on the world to draw us into the very life and love of God! He draws us close to His heart.
“Mary held in her arms the God of love
That we might hold in our hearts the love of God.”
(Christmas card by Printery House)
- What does it feel like for me today to be “close to the Father’s heart”?
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.
Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.