As a baby, Jesus could have had no idea of his unique relationship with God. However, over the course of his life, he came to realise not only that God was his Father, but, crucially, that he and God were one.
We can witness the growth of this relationship through events described in the Gospels. Listing them one by one enables us to trace his progress through the key stages of his spiritual development.
Aged 12: the Temple
By the time Jesus visited Jerusalem with his parents at the age of twelve, he already understood that God was his Father, though he still had many questions for the religious teachers in the Temple (Luke 2:41-49; NLT). We will never know whether his parents had already told him stories about his birth, perhaps even showing him the wise men’s gifts, or whether he reached this insight solely through teaching, prayer and revelation.
Aged 30: baptism
During his baptism, aged about 30, he received the Holy Spirit. At this stage, he grasped not only that he was the Son of God, but also how much God loved him (Luke 3:21-23; NLT).
The wedding at Cana
When attending the wedding at Cana with his disciples, Jesus still hadn’t realised the miraculous powers he shared with God, though Mary, his mother, certainly understood his potential as God’s Son (John 2:1-11; NLT).
During his transfiguration, Jesus experienced the visionary presence of Moses and Elijah, the great Jewish Patriarchs, talking with them as an equal. He also heard a voice declare, “This is my Son, my Chosen One”. At this moment, he understood that God had given him a very special mission to fulfil on earth, and that he would become a great spiritual teacher (Luke 9:28-36; NLT).
Clearing the Temple
When Jesus saw how people were treating the Temple at Jerusalem, he instinctively identified with God’s holy wrath for the first, and perhaps the only, time in his life. Overwhelmed by righteous anger, he drove out those who were desecrating his Father’s house (John 2:13-21; NLT). After this, when he saw how much the Jewish authorities now feared and hated him, he began to grasp more fully what his fate would be (Mark 8:31; NLT).
Winter in Jerusalem
Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus understood not only that God was his loving Father, who had chosen him for a special purpose, but that God dwelt within him, and he and the Father were one. He had reached the final and most profound stage in his spiritual development (John 10:30; NLT).
The Last Supper
With typical generosity of heart, he wanted all his followers to have exactly the same kind of relationship with God that he himself experienced (John 17:20-23; NLT).
The Garden of Gethsemane
In the Garden of Gethsemane, despite his mortal dread, Jesus still clung to the hope that his Father might save him from torture and death (Mark 14:32-42; NLT).
However, on the cross, as his physical and mental suffering grew ever more intense, Jesus could no longer hold on to his sense of oneness with his Father. Perhaps, until then, he had believed God would rescue him from death at the very last moment, but now he saw that there was no way out. For the first time ever, he lost all sense of God’s presence within him, and felt his Father had abandoned him to his fate (Matthew 27:46; NLT). Overwhelmed by utter despair and hopelessness, blind faith alone enabled him to make his final, supreme effort to commit his Spirit into God’s hands. He died just a few moments later (Luke 23:46; NLT).
Jesus was the first person ever to follow the spiritual path of developing complete identification with God. Stage by stage, he grasped that God was his loving Father, who dwelt within him, and that he and God were one. Remarkably, this was not a relationship he wanted to keep for himself alone, but something he wanted all humankind to share. He expressed this desire in one of his final, most profound, and most beautiful prayers:
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you (John 17:20-21; NLT).