John 14:28: “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced.” There’s joy: “you would have rejoiced.” You should be rejoicing “because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”
So, here’s an argument with some premises and some conclusions. Premise: “The Father is greater than I.” This means two things. First, during his incarnation, the Father is greater in glory and greater in exaltation because Jesus humbled himself, taking on human form to serve and to suffer. And in that season, the Father in his supreme, unadulterated glory was greater than Jesus.
“The essence of salvation is being drawn out of lesser joys and caught up into God’s own joy.”
Second, from all eternity, the Father has been the one who begets the Son. This is very hard for us to grasp: an eternal begetting, no beginning. Jesus had no beginning. There never was when Jesus was not — that’s heresy. It’s called Arianism, and the church fought profoundly for a century to end that one.
Jesus has always been: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through him” (John 1:1, 3). But he was begotten. He was a Son. He was imaged. He is a radiance from an original, which has always been radiating from the original with such fullness that he is of one nature with the original.
This is heavy. This is the Trinity. This a great and glorious reality. And there is nothing in this statement, “the Father is greater,” that questions the deity of Jesus and full divine quality of equal essence. So, the premise is the Father is greater than the Son. He is the one who, according to Hebrews 1:3, has a radiance in the Son and an exact imprint in the Son.
But he is the one who has the exact imprint. He is not the imprint. The Father is not the imprint. The Father is not the radiance. And since Jesus has that relationship to the Father, you should rejoice when he goes to the Father. You should be glad when he has a more immediate experience of intimacy with the Father, as he moves back into his prior glory. We should be glad in the gladness of the Son and the Father.
Jesus is saying, “I’m going to the Father. I’m closing in again on a fuller intimacy that I had from all eternity with a union of glory that is my joy from all eternity. Would your joy not be in my joy in God the Father?”
“If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father,” which means our joy is not the joy that the world gives. He said it about peace explicitly. He means it about joy implicitly: “not as the world gives do I give to you joy” (see John 14:27). Oh, how different is the foundation of your joy than the world’s joy. It is infinitely different because your joy is joy in the joy of the Son in the Father. Your joy is being caught up into and participating in the joy that the Father has in the Son, and the Son has in the Father. “I’m returning to my Father. I love my Father. I find satisfaction in my Father. I delight in my Father. I treasure my Father. This is a Vesuvius of joy that is closing. Now, would you not partake?”
The world knows nothing of this — nothing. Our joy has infinite roots. It is a participation in the very joy of God in God. God showed this love between the Father and the Son most clearly at the cross. Remember John 14:31: “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
“Our joy has infinite roots. It is a participation in the very joy of God in God.”
We see the love of the Son for the Father in the death of the Son for sinners, so that they can participate in the love of the Son for the Father and the joy between the Son and the Father. That’s the essence of salvation: to draw us out of all lesser joys and bring us into an experience of the very joy of the Son for the Father and the Father for the Son.
There isn’t a greater joy. There isn’t a greater love than that. And Jesus says, “I’m showing it to you now. I want the whole world to know this. I want the world to know that I love the Father. That’s why I’m dying. Wouldn’t you rejoice for the joy set before me as I endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2)?” What joy? This joy. “I love my Father. I’m going home. Wouldn’t you rejoice with me in that? Yes, you would — if you understood, you would. That’s why I’m teaching you all things, John, from these decades later.”
Here’s the practical meaning of that. Go into bed tonight — here’s what you do. As you get in bed, you say, “Father, I praise you for the love that exists between you and your Son. I praise you that you love each other. I’m so thankful that you’ve revealed to me the love between the Father and the Son in the Trinity, in the Godhead. I praise you for the joy that you have in each other. You love each other. You delight in each other, and I praise you that you are that way.”
“And I realize that this love and this joy is the reason Jesus endured the cross because he said he wanted the whole world to know how much he loved the Father as he was dying. That’s what he wants them to know. So I realize that this love between you and the Son carried him through the cross for my sin to bring me up out of my little, tiny world of selfishness and grumbling around in this world, trying to find some satisfaction. You did that for me. And therefore my forgiveness, my righteousness, my life utterly depends on this love between you and your Son, Father. And I am glad. I’m glad in your gladness in Jesus and his in you. And I thank you for giving me a taste of it. Amen.”
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