Over the years, expressions such as “like father, like son,” “she has her mother’s eyes,” and “a chip off the old block” have been used to express a significant idea: children are, in many ways, a reflection of their parents. Physical attributes, mannerisms, talents, abilities, and attitudes are just a few of the areas where a parent’s image can be imprinted on a child.
In the case of Jesus, His similarities to His Father were not the result of DNA transfer or chromosomal connectivity between parent and child, but rather were the expression of an eternal equality between the first and second persons of the Godhead. This is implicit in the opening statement of John’s gospel, later affirmed by the apostle Paul:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (john 1:1)
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. (philippians 2:5–6)
The Word was God. He existed in the form (essence, nature, being) of God.
From all eternity past, Christ was equal with God the Father, perfectly like Him in every way. This became an important part of Jesus’s mission in coming to earth. Yes, He came to provide us with rescue and new life through His cross and resurrection, but He also came to show us what the invisible God is like. John described this aspect of Jesus’s mission in the prologue to his gospel account:
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (john 1:18)
In the upper room on the night before the cross, Jesus affirmed this aspect of His mission in response to a question from His disciple Philip, saying:
He who has seen Me has seen the Father. (john 14:9)
Jesus came to reveal and explain the Father to us. One of the critical elements of the heart of God—whom Jesus came to reveal—was the compassion of the Father. In the Old Testament, Moses met with God on Mount Sinai. During their time together God revealed Himself to Moses with this self-description:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ”The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” (exodus 34:6–7)
Compassionate and gracious—this is how God describes Himself. If Jesus is going to represent that compassion and reveal it to the world, what will it look like? One aspect of that representative compassion can be found in His teaching.