Summary: Today is Father’s Day and I want us to look for a few moments at the portrait of a father that Jesus paints for us in Matthew’s gospel. What Jesus is doing here is Matthew’s gospel is the same thing that he has done so many times before – challenging the
Portrait of a Father
Chatham Baptist Church, Chatham, VA
June 17, 2007
Matthew 6:5-15, NIV
5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9"This, then, is how you should pray:
" ’Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.[a]’ 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Today is Father’s Day and I want us to look for a few moments at the portrait of a father that Jesus paints for us in Matthew’s gospel. What Jesus is doing here is Matthew’s gospel is the same thing that he has done so many times before – challenging the traditions that the first century Jews followed blindly. Traditions that created a social and cultural climate in which religious expression was a part.
Jesus Teaches Us How to Talk to Our Father
So, the tradition was to do your praying in public, because you wanted people to know you were a righteous person. Righteous people, at least Jews, in first century religious life demonstrated their righteousness so that other people could see it. So, they prayed aloud and with great ceremony in public – street corners, public markets, busy walkways – wherever a crowd might gather because then the most people possible would know of your righteousness. Same thing with helping the poor – make a big deal out of it, make the coins clink into the pot, make sure others see you giving your donation. God wasn’t really in the picture here, because the show was for the benefit of others.
But, Jesus changes all that. First, he tells them not to do these things to be seen by people. Big change – what was the point of praying or of giving if not to be seen by other people?
Then, Jesus says something that shakes the traditions of the Jews – he calls God “father.”
I took a course at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond a couple of years ago. The professors for the seminar were Dr. Dan Bagby, and Dr. Cecil Sherman.
Meeting Cecil Sherman in person was a real treat. In class each day, we began with prayer. One day Dr. Sherman prayed and his prayer began something like this –
“Almighty God,” and then he paused for moment and continued, “your son said we could call you Father….” I thought it was one of the most profound public prayers I had ever heard. Dr. Sherman summed up the majesty of God, mediated by Jesus His Son, so that now we had the privilege of speaking to God as our Father.
Jews of the first century did not address God as Father. They might address God as Lord, The Holy One, blessed be his name, or use some other term of great respect and distinction. But never, Father.
Jesus changed all that. Because the first thing that Jesus wanted his disciples, and us, to know was how to talk to God.
When our kids were small and we were invited out to eat by church members, Debbie would always tell Laurie and Amy where we were going, and who we were going to be with. And she would say, “You can talk to each other, and you may answer someone if they speak to you, but don’t talk unless someone talks to you.”
The other day when we were with Amy, and Debbie recalled those instructions, Amy said, “But I always had a story I wanted to tell.” Which was exactly why we told them not to speak unless spoken to!
We were teaching how to talk to others. In the same way, Jesus teaches us how to talk to God, and we start by calling God, “Our Father.”
Not, My Father or Their Father, but Our Father. The Father of us all. The Father who created us. The Father of whom we are all children. Our Father. The one who gave us life.