Jesus’ use of the name “Abba” in His prayers to the Father has been considered groundbreaking, moving the relationship to the Heavenly Father from a more general acknowledgement into an intimate personal communion. There are three verses that specifically use the endearing term “Abba.” These are found in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. According to Joachim Jeremais, we see Jesus as the One “who had the power to address God as Abba and who included the sinners and the publicans in the kingdom by authorizing them to repeat this one word, ‘Abba, dear Father’.”1
According to Paul, we have graciously received an adoption into God’s family. In the first century world, through adoption a child was placed in a position as one of a father’s own children, with the corresponding relationship, rights, and responsibilities. Therefore Paul says that we have received God’s adoption, and because we are now His children, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6). And again he says, “…you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15b-16). God has placed us in His family as His children. He is our Father, and we can affectionately call Him “Abba Father.”
Brennan Manning brings into focus the closeness we are to have with our Father in his book Abba’s Child. In Abba’s Child, Manning tries to help the reader internalize and experientially live in this relationship as God’s sons and daughters.
“The moment you press your ear against His [Jesus’s] heart, you instantly hear Abba’s footsteps in the distance. I do not know how this happens. It just does. It is a simple movement from intellectual cognition to experiential awareness that Jesus and the Father are one in the Holy Spirit, the bond of infinite tenderness between Them. Without reflection or premeditation, the cry, “Abba, I belong to You,” rises spontaneously from the heart. The awareness of being sons and daughters in the Son dawns deep in our souls, and Jesus’ unique passion for the Father catches fire within us. In the Abba experience we prodigals, no matter how bedraggled, beat-up, or burnt out, are overcome by a Paternal fondness of such depth and tenderness that it beggars speech… we come to experience a graciousness, a kindness, a compassionate caring that surpasses our understanding.”2
Beyond the cognitive understanding about God as our Father, we are to experientially know Him as our Abba. In our day of broken homes, abusive relationships, and the tearing down of family values, it can be difficult to have a true concept of God. However, no matter what your personal background or experience, His love has made a way to your heart. In self-giving love He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, so that you could be reconciled into a personal intimate relationship with Himself. Ask Jesus to introduce you to your Father. Encounter Him. Abba’s intention is for you to know Him, and in your intimate relationship with Him, to become like Him. After all, He is your Father. 3
Joachim Jeremias, The Central Message of the New Testament, Charles Scribners’ Sons, New York, 1965. Accessed 12/27/19 from: http://www.religion-online.org/cgi-bin/relsearchd.dll/showchapter?chapter_id=1325 (24 of 29)
Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child – pg. 145
Christopher Reeves, Our Father, Our Teacher…