"The Father and I are one."
--John 10: 30
This is quite possibly the most significant statement in the whole the Gospel According to John. When it was written around the year 110 (some 40 years after the First Gospel, Mark), it reflected the ever-growing chasm between the Jewish establishment and the community of John's Gospel--which was a VERY different community from that of the earlier synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
This statement creates a new narrative about who Jesus is. For the community of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is not just a prophet, or the Son of God, or the Messiah. He is all of these things, but he's more; in fact, he and God are one and the same. Raymond Brown points this out in his book The Community of the Beloved Disciple. He notes that Jesus' own prayers in the Fourth Gospel are different, that there is no distinction between Jesus' will and the Father's will, A good example is when he is in the garden. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, he prays "Father, not my will, but your will be done." But in John he prays, 'It is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!' So for the community of this gospel, Jesus and God are one. What Jesus wills on earth, God wills in heaven, and vice versa. The fancy church would for this is communicatio idiomatum. Basically, it means that there is no distinction between the earthly Jesus and God.
Equating Jesus with God would ultimately drive the final wedge between the followers of Jesus and the Jewish establishment. Many Jews were ok with the concept that Jesus was the messiah, that this peaceful rabbi showed us through his life and teachings what the kingdom of heaven really looked like. But once Jesus was equated with God--which a lot of folks saw as polytheism, that Christians were actually worshipping two Gods, not one--the establishment couldn't take it. So followers of the Christ God, as he was often called, were thrown out of their synagogues and forced into hiding, fearful of the consequences of publicly proclaiming their Christian faith. Thus, the community of John's gospel is writing from a place of pain, deeply grieved that they have been kicked out of their synagogues and abandoned by their religious leaders. Yet what sustained them was this unique image of Jesus, who throughout the gospel is calm, collected, and always in control because he is, after all, God.
So there's your lesson for the day in christology; that is, the way that Christ is interpreted, experienced, and understood by a given community. John's christology, how that community saw Jesus, was different from the other gospels, and it would have significant ramifications for the Church. The idea of Jesus and God being one in the same is reflected in our Creed when we speak of Jesus as "God from God" and "of one being with the Father." Understanding the christology of the gospels is important because it helps us better see how those communities viewed Jesus. Those viewpoints also impact how we experience Jesus in our own day. Still, it's worth asking what kind of significance that line--"The Father and I are one--actually has for our lives here and now.
It's true that this line is meaningful because it reminds us of the the fact that Jesus is, actually, God and not just some really awesome rabbi and faith healer. But I do think there's more to this line than just that fact, and I think that there is a real, modern-day application for us beyond just the notion that Jesus=God. That modern application lies in relationship.
When I was a senior in seminary we were studying for our general ordination exams--these are 7 essay questions spread over 5 days, and they cover a variety of topics like ethics, Scripture, and liturgy. We were going over old questions with one of our professors, Archbishop Peter Carnley, who was a scholar on the Trinity. After each question he'd ponder for a minute and say, "If you talk about the Trinity, you should be ok." Every. Single. Question. The same thing. Until he finally threw his arms up and said, "Everything begins with the Trinity." What he meant was that everything begins with relationship. Every conversation about God and humanity begins with relationship.
God in Trinity exists in relationship in order to show us what relationships are meant to look like. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love one another, and they do so in such a way that is difficult for us to even comprehend. That love is so great that they move through one another--the Spirit sometimes works through Jesus (as we see in John's Gospel) but other times she works through the Father (as in the times when the Spirit speaks through the prophets or appears on the Day of Pentecost). We're also told that it is Jesus who was in the beginning, a co-creator with the Father, and our Creed reflects that with the line that Jesus is the one "through whom all things were made." They also love in such a way that they surrender to one another, as Jesus surrenders to the will of God the Father before his crucifixion. Theirs is a relationship that asks nothing of one another and expects nothing in return. So when Jesus says that he and the Father are one he is not just speaking of his own divine nature, but he also means they are one because of the love that they share and the surrender that he shows. The bond that unites the Son to the Father in this single momentous line of Scripture is love.
We are bound to one another in our relationships, when we love one another, and when we are capable of surrendering our wills for the sake of the other. God's hope for the world is that we will live in love the way God and Jesus live in love. Jesus' words "The Father and I are one." come from a place not of philosophy or theology but of relationship. The Good News for us today is that we, who are the Body of Christ, are afforded the opportunity on a daily basis to live and love in the same manner--love God, yes, but love one another as well--and to surrender our will for the sake of someone else. The relationship between Jesus and God is the model for all of our relationships. This is how we are meant to live and to love.
The relationship between Jesus and God is the kind of relationship that makes you say, 'I can't tell where one ends and the other begins.' That's the kind of love we see in the Trinity, as we often can't tell where one Person ends and the other begins. This is God's dream for us, that we will love the same way. I in you, and you in me, so that we may be one, and Jesus and God are one.