Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.
- Dave opened our series by looking at Jesus the Divine Word.
- Dave wrote on seeing but not believing.
- Today Nick writes on the revelation of the Father and the Son.
Among the plethora of references to the Deity of Christ recorded in Scripture (Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2; John 12:36-41; Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-21; Philippians 2:5-11; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:16, etc.) none are quite as profound as that found in the oft overlooked prayer of Jesus recorded in Matthew 11:27. One might expect such an intimate discussion between the Son and the Father to be found in the Gospel of John–which is, as John Calvin once noted, the Gospel that “reveals the soul of Jesus,”1. Instead it is tucked away in Matthew and Luke. It is somewhat unique to the character of the synoptic Gospels to enter into the secret counsel of the Godhead, since they are preeminently intent on giving an account of the acts, miracles and teachings that attest to Jesus. Matthew’s record has to do with Jesus as both true Israel and Israel’s Lord; Luke’s with Jesus as second Adam and physician of the soul. But, as we make our way through the record of Jesus’ Messianic ministry of recapitulating Israel’s actions–and as second Adam–we stumble across a brief record of intimate communion which Jesus had with His Father. Matthew 11:28-30 are some of the most frequently quoted sayings of our Lord–and for good reason. But it is that verse immediately preceding them that give vv. 28-30 their real significance, and recapture our attention concerning the Deity of Christ. Matthew writes:
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father,Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 prepares the reader for what Jesus would ask Peter at Ceasarea Philippi in Matt. 16:13-21. There, Christ would reveal His divine Person to the disciples. Caesarea was the place where the first New Testament Confession of Faith was drafted. There are actually three confessions about who Jesus is at Caesarea Philippi. The first is Jesus’ own confession about His divine Person. When He asks His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” He takes the Messianic title, “the Son of Man,” to Himself (see Dan. 7:13-14). He is, in a very real sense, giving the answer to His own question when He asks it. As evident as this may seem, blind unbelief is sure to err. The disciples quickly told Jesus, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These were the opinions of the Old Covenant people with regard to Jesus’ identity. This is the second confession at Ceasarea–a confession of unbelief. Though they may not appear so at first, these were actually highly insulting identifications of Jesus. As Dr. John Skilton once aptly observed, “High thoughts all these views were, they were nevertheless infinitely inadequate. Those who held them did not elevate Jesus above a precursor or forerunner of the Messiah; they stopped short of affirming that He was the Christ. They did not have a right conception of Him or of His mission.”2
Geerhardus Vos explained the significance of Jesus’ statement in Matt. 11:27 when he wrote:
Matthew 11:27 (Luke 10:22) is by far the most important seat of the testimony which Jesus bears to His sonship. In fact it marks the culminating point of our Lord self-disclosure in the Synoptics. The Christology is so high that the words have a pronounced Johannine sound…In verses 25 and 26 the term “Father” was occasioned by the form of prayer there assumed by the discourse, but here in verse 27 its occurrence requires special explanation: it serves to account for the absoluteness and comprehensiveness of the task of the revelation entrusted to Jesus. Because God is His Father, and He is the Son of God, such a delivery of “all things” in the realm of revelation was possible. Here, therefore, the Messiahship on its revealing side (“all things were delivered”) is put on the basis of Sonship (“by My Father”). The two clauses next follow: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whomsoever He (the Son) wills to reveal Him (the Father), state explicitly what was contained in the preceding by implication: the Messiahship is of such a nature, even as to its revealing function, that it demands for its prerequisite a wholly unique relationship to God. That the Son possesses this is guaranteed by His name and dignity as Son. The intimacy is such that God alone can know Him, and that He alone can know God. The dignity involved in this lies far above the sphere of ordinary human acquaintance. It carries within itself a unique mutual cognition between Jesus and God. God knows Him and He knows God with an exclusive knowledge. Here also of course the correlative “Father” and “Son” are significant. Our Lord does not say, “No one by God knows me, and only I know God.” What He says is rather, ” No one but the “Father” knows the “Son,” and no one but the “Son” knows the “Father.” These terms are used because they add to the statement of the fact the explanation of the fact, namely that Jesus has this exclusive knowledge of God in virtue of His being the Son. God has this exclusive knowledge of Jesus in virtue of being His Father. It is a knowledge such as only a father can possess of a son, only a son of a father.3
Because the Son is one with the Father, He, and He alone, can reveal the Father to His people. It is the exclusive right of the Son of God to reveal the Father. It is the Father’s good please to reveal Himself and His Son through the authoritative revelation of His Son. In the text, Jesus is essentially saying that the Father and the Son are only known when the Son reveals both members of the Godhead to His people. This is surely one of the most magnificent passages of Scripture in the entire NT revelation. It is one upon which we ought to meditate often.
This post first appeared at Nick’s blog and is posted here with permission.
1. It was John Calvin who said, in his preface to his commentary on the Gospel of John, “And since they [the four Gospels] had the same object, to show Christ, the first three exhibit His body, if I may be permitted to put it like that, but John shows His soul.”
2. John H. Skilton ed. Scripture and Confession
3. Vos, Geerhardus The Self-Disclosure of Jesus (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002) pp. 144-149