Before Jesus died on the Cross, He said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Matt. 27:46; caps in original). Although He Himself was fully God, Jesus addressed the Father as His God twice in this statement. Anyone who reads this statement and understands what He said has to reckon with the fact that the One dying on the Cross made an incredible statement that was not focused on His own deity. Rather, the reader is to accept the truth of the profound reality communicated by Jesus’ words concerning Him and His Father.
In one of His resurrection appearances, Jesus said to Mary, “Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God” (John 20:17). Although He had risen from the dead, He had not yet been glorified at the Father’s right hand when He made this statement that speaks of the Father as His God. Again, the reader is confronted with a statement that directs his attention away from Jesus’ own deity and to that same profound truth seen earlier. Apparently, Jesus intended His saying to communicate to His original audience and to all who have encountered it thereafter that the Crucifixion and the Resurrection did not change this profound reality concerning Him and His Father.
About six decades after Jesus had made these statements, Jesus appeared to the apostle John. At that time, He had already been glorified at the Father’s right hand for more than half a century. In one of His statements to John, the glorified Jesus again spoke of the Father as His God. This time, however, He strikingly emphasized that truth by repeating the words, “My God,” four times:
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev. 3:12).
Why did Jesus repeatedly say these words to John? Apparently, Jesus intended to communicate unmistakably to John that His ascension and glorification did not change the profound reality concerning Him and His Father that He had spoken of decades earlier. The Father was still His God, and Jesus wanted to be sure that John understood that fact and was mindful of it.
Moreover, by His including these words in one of the letters to the seven churches, we understand that Jesus wanted to confront all the churches of that time with the same striking emphasis. Jesus thus desired that all believers of that time would be mindful of the profound reality of the Father as His God.
Because the Holy Spirit has recorded these statements in Scripture, it is clear that there is a divine intent for all believers in all subsequent ages to be mindful of the fact that the Father is still Jesus’ God. The last statement by Jesus about that truth emphasized that truth far beyond the other two. Revelation was written several decades after Jesus’ glorification, and the greater emphasis on this truth in Revelation 3:12 suggests that believers at that time needed an even stronger presentation of that truth than those who lived during the days that Jesus was on the earth.
If this understanding is correct, why was it so? Perhaps part of the explanation for what Jesus did is found in considering our human desire ever increasingly to resolve paradoxical truths and explain everything as fully as possible. How the Father can be the God of Jesus—who Himself is God—is a very difficult truth for us as humans to handle. Jesus’ final statement served not to lessen the difficulty but to intensify it greatly. We thus must conclude that God views it as very important that we maintain, regardless of the difficulties that doing so presents to our minds, full belief in and mindfulness of both Jesus’ own deity and the truth of the Father’s continuing even today to be the God of Jesus.
Jesus repeatedly spoke of the Father as His God so that we would not become overly focused on Jesus’ own deity and lose sight of the profound nature of His relationship to the Father. Revelation 3:13 shows that we must continue to make known that emphasis in our churches today.