• Jonathan Deatherage

Father Blessing

“I believe that fatherhood is indeed at the core of the universe.”[1] I read that statement this summer, and it stuck with me. The author, Scott Keith, was making the point that in his divine wisdom, God chose to identify himself as "father," and in some mysterious way imbued that earthly role with the implication of mirroring him, even if dimly.

For as much as each of us values our earthly fathers, we each long for their blessing. We each long for their pleasure, their words of affirmation over our lives. Whatever we believe about gender roles and responsibilities, we are all acquainted with this unique father-longing. We all know deep down that to miss the father blessing is a lacking of deep significance.

Jesus knew the importance of the father blessing. I’m struck as I read the Gospel of Mark — indeed, all the synoptic Gospels — that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he is baptized by John and receives the verbal commendation from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Before Jesus has done one miracle, taught one lesson, he has received his father’s full blessing. He has received his father’s delight. 

The timing is crucial. By receiving the father blessing before his work, the heavenly Father has illustrated for us the nature of the father blessing: It is not based on the child’s performance; rather, it is based on the father’s initiation of love. The father blessing is sourced in grace.

The father blessing is a vital source of identity for Jesus. It was the thing Jesus took with him as he charged into the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). Jesus, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, endured temptation in the resourceless chaos of the desert. Based on the way Mark ordered his account, I think the father blessing was a vital component that carried Jesus through the hardship of those 40 days. 

We hear it again as Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration, about midway through his ministry (Mark 9:7). Once again, the Father says, “This is my son whom I love.” Jesus possessed and operated under the full pleasure, delight, and blessing of his father.

Now, for many, our earthly fathers, who themselves struggled with sin, have failed to confer this blessing. As a father myself, I know how challenging it can be most days to openly and unabashedly delight in my children regardless of their behavior. Even those dads who do a great job at imparting their blessing can only give us a “foggy picture of God.”[2] We love our fathers. We long for their favor. But, according to design, they can only point us to the One who will truly satisfy that longing — to God himself.

So how did we get the father blessing? It is crucial to remember at this point that the father blessing cannot come by means of works or performance — it must be a gift of grace, based on the Father’s initiating love. The shockingly good news is this: As we have been brought into the beloved through Jesus Christ, and as his record has been placed upon us (likewise our record placed on him), we too have been endowed with the blessing of Father God. It only makes sense — just as we have been granted sonship (read: “full legal heirs”) to God because of the divine Son, so we too have received all the blessings and privileges that accompany it (Romans 8:16-17).

As you read this, wherever you are, whatever you’ve done, if you are in Christ, you have the blessing of Father God upon you. You are the child in whom he is well pleased. You are in Christ, and as such you are his new creation. He sees you and loves you for who you are. The father blessing sees the child who is, regardless of what he or she has done or will do. You have a secure place in his family — not based on your performance but on the perfect record of the Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

You are your father’s delight.

Jesus couldn’t have been more clear than when he said, “Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9). In other words, you and I have been welcomed into the Trinitarian expression of love — as the Father pours out his delight in the Son, so we have been brought into that exchange of love by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because of the Son, you and I have been invited into the gracious offer of receiving the father blessing, based on the record of the Only Begotten. This should nourish our souls, define our identities, and embolden us to move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit into wilderness places. 

The second half of the Father’s pronouncement over Jesus during his earthly ministry, directly following the blessing statement, was this: “Listen to him” (Mark 9:7). This level of authority is unique to Jesus. It is not transferred to us. However, after Jesus was resurrected, his statement to his disciples was this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus’ authority stays with him, but goes before us, prompting us toward a crucial invitation to move forward into the wilderness, relying on the blessing of Father God over your life. 

Today, if you are in Christ, you are blessed by the Father. Christ has purchased it for you; rest in it now. You are known. You are seen. You are loved for who you are. He sees through your behavior (good and bad), through your successes and your failures, and knows your heart.

So, if God is leading you into hard times today, look boldly to the wilderness before you. Charge into chaos armed with the Father’s delight in you. And in so doing, you will make known the Life of the Son to the world around you.

Originally published on May 19, 2017 here: https://benttree.org/editorial/father-blessing/


[1] “Being a Dad: Father as a Picture of God’s Grace,” Scott Leonard Keith. NRP Books, Irvine, California, (c) 2015, page 1.

[2] Ibid., page 56.

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