Jesus, as a boy of twelve, once became separated from His family while they were in Jerusalem. His parents must have been incredibly anxious for His safety; but when they eventually found Him, it was in – from his point of view – the most obvious place, the precincts of the Temple.
“Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He was saying to them. (verses 49,50)
Their confusion is understandable: no Jew had ever spoken of God as his Father before. 2000 years later, we are so familiar with the idea that it is difficult for us to imagine how shocking it was to Jesus’ contemporaries. But Jesus’ own inner conviction was confirmed by God on two separate occasions (Luke 3:21,22; Luke 9:28-36).
The Son in the Old Testament (Psalm 2:7)
There are very few references to God as Father in the Old Testament – but there are a few. When He revealed Himself to Moses, He spoke of the nation of Israel as “My firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) Yet no individual in the Old Testament addresses or claims God as his Father – not even Abraham or David! But when God gave David the great promise of an everlasting kingdom, He spoke of an unusually close relationship between Himself and the King: “I will be his father and he shall be My son.” (II Samuel 7:14). This promise is probably referred to in Psalm 2, where something more than just the kingdom of Israel in view: the kingdom of God’s Son will embrace all the nations of the world.
The Son and the prophets (Matthew 16:13-16)
Most people will allow Jesus the title of a “religious leader” or “great moral teacher.” “One of the prophets,” in other words. But Jesus certainly regarded Himself as more than just a prophet (Matthew 16:17). God had sent messengers (prophets) to His people before; but Jesus’ mission was more than that (Mark 12:1-12). The Son brings a greater revelation than any prophet, because the message is not just what He says but who He is: He doesn’t just tell us about God, but He actually is God. In His life (and death) is a complete revelation of God. This is why the Son came “last of all” (Mark 12:6). God has no more to say about Himself, because He has now come ‘in person’ (Luke 10:22; John 1:18). This is why Christians reject all “further revelations” (such as the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon). There will be no more prophets; in the Son we have a complete and final revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-4).
Needless to say, this puts a greater responsibility onto us. If the Jews revered their prophets, how much more should we submit to God’s Son! “This is My Son… listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35)
What does ‘Son of God’ mean?
When the Biblical writers referred to God as ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’, they were not thereby implying that there was another, female, deity somewhere who was His Mother. He did indeed have a human ‘mother’ as a result of the Incarnation, but He existed in eternity, long before His conception in Mary’s womb (e.g. John 17:5; Colossians 1:17).
So the term ‘Son of God’ is not an explanation of Christ’s origin – as if he were, like the Greek gods, the product of some celestial liaison. Rather, it is a description of his status: the single word ‘son’ encapsulates His sharing of God’s essential nature (i.e. his deity) (Colossians 2:9), His very close (indeed uniquely close) relationship of love and submission to God (e.g. John 3:34,35), and His position (‘second-in-command’, or ‘crown prince’) in the cosmological order of things (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
Why it matters (John 20:31)
The Son is identified so closely with the Father that ‘you can’t have one without the other’. Jesus said on more than one occasion that to give Him honour was to honour God (e.g. Mark 9:37; John 5:23). If Jesus is not the Son of God, how can He give us eternal life?