We called God, our Father – Abba Father (the same way children called their father dad or daddy). It conveyed the idea of a sense of closeness, affection, and confidence which had not been present before we know God through Jesus Christ, the Son. In my observation, the name Abba represents an aspect of our relationship with God that has been overlooked in much of the teaching we have heard about God today. The word ab (Hebrew) is used in the Old Testament for father and the word paterno (Greek) is used in the New Testament for father-parent with only three exceptions. Those exceptions are the three times when God the Father is called Abba (Aramaic). This is the name that Jesus used when he called out to God.
The first time [the other two I will share in the next blog posts] we find Abba used is in Mark 14:36. Let's look at the surrounding verses to understand the context and background involved in this use of the word: "They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, ‘Sit here while I go and pray.' He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. ‘Abba Father,' he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.' Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Couldn't you watch with me even one hour?" (Mark 14:32-37a, NLT).
Jesus described himself to his best friends as "deeply troubled and distressed" and "grief to the point of death." Depression? These were his closest friends – his inner circles – the ones with whom he shared his deepest, most private hurts and fears. But at the time when Jesus was greatly depressed, they fell asleep. Like many people, I've experienced times in my life when I too was very distressed and deeply grieved ("Killed me, Lord!" I once said, like Prophet Elijah). But Jesus' pain was worse than yours and mine and – to add to the pain – his friends failed to act like real friends! They had always been ready when Jesus wanted to give and bless them. But when he needed them, they were emotionally absent.
This left Jesus the Man emotionally needy and alone, facing future physical torture, accusations, betrayal, and mockery. He was being rejected by his own followers and by the religious leaders, his own people. He will be facing certain, slow and painful death. Yet worst of all, he knew he would be separated from God. He will bear the sins of the world! Jesus knew (we also knew as we read the Scripture) that even God would turn away from him at that time. Where did Jesus go under anguish and pressure like that? To whom he turned to? Jesus fell down to the ground and cried out, "Abba Father." What intimacy, what affection, what closeness this was! It is emotionally moving to imagine how real was Jesus' pain and need… but at the same time, it is magnificently blessed to know (too) how real God's Fatherhood is! This is beyond awesome, this is a joy!
Pray to your Abba Father.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.