In short, there are grounds, not substantial but probably sufficient, to support these conclusions regarding the remembered Jesus: (1) that Jesus' Abba prayer was both a characteristic and as such a distinctive feature of his praying, (2) that this prayer was properly heard to express a profound sense of and confidence in his relationship with God as his Father, and (3) that Jesus was also recalled as alluding to this relationship on a few occasions during his mission. We can deduce further, without strain, that this sense of sonship must have been (4) crucial, even central, to Jesus' own self-understanding and (5) the source of the immediacy of authority with which he proclaimed the kingdom of God, in both its eschatologi-cal immanence and imminence.77 Only if this were the case would the Fourth Gospel's massive expansion and elaboration of the Father-Son theme have been as justifiable in tradition-historical terms; and only so would the other elaborations and developments of the Son-christology have been as acceptable as in the event they proved to be.
As for what Jesus' sonship meant for his disciples, the tradition does not encourage us to infer that Jesus made his relationship with God, as son to father, a subject of explicit instruction, still less that he required his disciples to assent to such a belief regarding himself. Nor that this sense of relationship was a secret mystery which he taught only to an inner group, a higher stage of initiation, a goal to be achieved along the path of discipleship. What the Jesus tradition does indicate is that Jesus sought to induct his disciples into that same sense of son-ship, not least by teaching them to pray as he did, and that he encouraged them all to live out of their own relationship to God as Father, as he did. And what seems also to have been the case, he saw his disciples' relationship to God as Father as in some sense a sharing in his own sonship to the Father.
From the little evidence we have on the subject these are surprisingly large, but also surprisingly strong conclusions.
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