Separating from a loved one is a painful process, even if it is in God’s will. As my wife and I drove our youngest to her destination to say goodbye for a year, I felt my heart aching. “I don’t want her to go,” I thought to myself as the car got within minutes of departure time. Trying not to be a “Debbie Downer,” I kept that thought to myself and put on a brave face. But oh, how I was hurting inside.
Sometimes saying goodbye feels like a ripping of the heart, and it is not pleasant. You are letting go of the comfortable tether of physical presence, and for a parent it is not without struggle to cut that cord. Why? Because your children are yours—they “belong” to you. Although we “raise them up to send them out,” it still hurts like the dickens to say goodbye.
I have often thought about the differences between the departure terminal and the arrival terminal at the airport. Many times you see pain versus joy, tears of sadness versus tears of elation. In light of this, what was going on in the heart of God the Father when his “one and only Son,” Jesus Christ, came to this earth?
Maybe one of the best ways to see the love and emotion in God the Father’s heart is to look at some significant “departures” and “arrivals” of Jesus.
“At just the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). How exciting it must have been in heaven! The angels reflected that excitement when they announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. At first, just one angel appeared, saying, “…I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11). Try imagining that from our Heavenly Father’s point of view: his love for his Son, coupled with the emotion of his Son’s departure from heaven and arrival on earth.
After the angel’s announcement, the next word in the account of Christ’s arrival is “suddenly.” Can you sense that even the angels couldn’t contain themselves? “Suddenly, a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men’” (Luke 2:13,14).
Thirty years later, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry (another “arrival”), we find Jesus emerging from the Jordan River after humbly requesting that John baptize him. The Father’s heart is so full, it seems he cannot contain it:
Just as Jesus was coming out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit
descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, whom I
love; with him I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:10; Matthew 3:17).
Parents, I’m sure you can identify with the fullness of heart behind the Father’s proclamation. The love that God had for his dear Son is like the love that a parent feels, a love that a parent understands. It just seems that God the Father was so proud of his Son. He asked his Son to come to this earth, “put on flesh,” and live for thirty-three years before dying a criminal’s death in our place to bring us to himself.
And Jesus gladly did it. Despite the suffering, rejection, and unimaginable death at the end of his earthly life, Jesus faced it all with his hope and trust fixed firmly in His Father.
But it was not without its pain. Jesus’ final “departure” was the most difficult one any human being has ever experienced. It was so difficult that he told his friends in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.” He knew that on the cross, the righteous wrath of God would be poured out on him as the just penalty for my sins and yours. No wonder he asked the Father, as he suffered on the cross, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”
What possibly was going on in the Father’s heart as his Son asked him that question? It must have broken the Father’s heart. It did break Jesus’ heart, as he took his last breath just a short time later.
So, for the first time ever– in all of eternity– God the Father and God the Son were separated. Talk about a departure: the most sobering and heart-wrenching separation the world has ever seen.
You can imagine the joy three days later, when Jesus arose on Easter morning! When God’s penalty for sin was fully paid by his Son, and the Father raised Jesus from the dead, thereby conquering sin and death for all who believe. What an emotional and exciting arrival that must have been for the Father and the Son!
Oh, how the Father loved his Son, and how he loves those who have called on the name of his Son for salvation: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (I John 3:1a).
It is because of the Father’s tremendous heart of love for mankind that he gladly gave over his own dear Son (what a departure!) to win each of us back into a right relationship with Himself (what an arrival!).
When we have to part with one of our children, we catch a glimpse of God’s heart. Through the “arrivals and departures” of Jesus, note our Heavenly Father’s love and emotion for you and for me, his own dear children. No wonder the Scriptures say, “He will take great delight in you… he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17b). God’s love was one of action and sacrificial love. It cost Him everything, and He felt it!