There’s no question about it, I’m known for calling guys “son.” It gets a range of reactions, and often I chalk it up to having lived in Texas for a long time! But I do, in fact, think about a large number of men as my own sons; guys who serve with the Army in Germany and the Navy in Japan, and all points in between!
A few days ago, I was reading in Mark chapter 2 and had one of those “Ah-Uh!” moments. The chapter starts with the story of the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof by four other men so that he and Jesus could come face-to-face. There are all kinds of sermons and thoughts I’ve heard on this passage, but I’ve never heard anything about the first word out of Jesus’ mouth when He addressed the situation as recorded by Mark.
Verse 5 tells us, “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus looked at the man, and called him “son”! This wasn’t a boy or a child. Luke confirms that this was a man being carried by four men. Jesus might be, just might be a few years older than him. And yet he looks at him and calls him “son.”
The Greek word being used here is teknon. There are other Greek words for son, but this time (in Matthew and Mark) Jesus uses the word teknon. I searched for the word with some Bible tools and found that it appears 100 times from Matthew to Revelation. It’s the word that the Apostle Paul used for Timothy and Titus when he referred to them as his sons. The plural form is what Paul used in 1 Corinthians 4:14 when he writes to “my beloved children” and then talks about being their father through the gospel (vs 15).
Strong’s (5043) gives several definitions based on its use. Here are three:
- the name transferred to that intimate and reciprocal relationship formed between men by the bonds of love, friendship, trust, just as between parents and children
- in affectionate address, such as patrons, helpers, teachers and the like employ: my child
- in the NT, pupils or disciples are called children of their teachers, because the latter by their instruction nourish the minds of their pupils and mold their characters
In my effort to put things into my own words, I take those three definitions and come up with this: A spiritual son is a man with whom I have an intimate and reciprocal relationship, based on the bonds of love, friendship and trust, as we work together to develop the spiritual walk of the son, while I also learn from him, over our lifetimes.
Being a spiritual father to a spiritual son is an awesome responsibility. It’s completely voluntary. We enter into the relationship willingly. We get into the weeds of life, and work toward being better men, better husbands, better fathers, and most importantly better followers of Jesus.
A few weeks ago, a friend was visiting and came with me on one of my weekly appointments with one of my spiritual sons. At one point he asked how long we had been meeting together, and was surprised when he heard it has been over six years. As we talked about that, we realized that some times people see discipling another man is simply sharing the “basics” of the Christian life. We help him get into the Word and develop a prayer life, pat him on the head and send him on his merry way.
Being a spiritual father to a spiritual son is different because it includes a lifetime commitment to each other – often without even verbalizing the commitment. It goes beyond the basics (which are absolutely important) and deals with the guts of life. It takes time and energy, and can drain resources from time to time.
The divine nature of Christ could rightly (theologically) call the paralytic man “son” since as the second Person of the Trinity we are His children. But as I put myself in the shoes (or pallet) of the paralytic, if I would have heard Jesus call me “son” I would know that He loves me and he’s with me for the long haul.
Who is your spiritual son?