How Is Jesus Both “the Father and the Son?”

Yesterday, I wrote about a phrase used by the prophet Abinadi to describe the Savior: “the light and the life of the world.” Today, I’d like to talk about another pair of titles Abinadi also applied to Jesus Christ: “the Father and the Son” (Mosiah 15:2). What did he mean by that?

After quoting Isaiah’s description of the Savior’s willingness to bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, and be wounded for our transgressions (Mosiah 14:4-5), Abinadi emphasizes the self-discipline required for the Savior to carry out the atonement. To illustrate this point, Abinadi uses the terms “the Father” and “the Son” to describe the dual nature of Christ during His mortal life:

  • The Father” refers to that part of Him which was immortal and divine. He was “God himself”—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God who revealed Himself to Moses. He was the creator of the earth. He was also the literal Son of God.
  • The Son” refers to the part of Him which was mortal, the part which He inherited from His earthly mother, Mary. Abinadi calls it “the flesh.” It is the part of Him which enabled Him to experience life as we experience it, to suffer “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” and ultimately, to willingly submit to death (Alma 7:11).

Abinadi uses these two terms to illuminate the fact that the atonement of Jesus Christ was a real victory. Even though He was the omnipotent God, there was a part of Him which tried to drag Him down. By taking upon Himself a mortal body, He subjected Himself to the same weaknesses and infirmities which we experience as mortals. The atonement represents the Savior’s total victory over the bondage we experience because of our mortal bodies.

While Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciples slept, including the three whom He had brought within hearing distance of the place where He prayed. He tried to wake them twice, but He responded compassionately to their inability to stay awake. “The spirit indeed is willing,” He said, “but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

At that moment, the Savior did not have the same luxury. After pleading with His Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” He confirmed His willingness to endure the agony which would follow: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). In making this statement, He confirmed not only His willingness to submit to His Father’s will, but also His control over His own flesh. He had the power to submit His will to the will of His Father because the will of “the Son” inside of Himself (“the flesh”) had been “swallowed up” in the will of “the Father” inside of Himself (His spirit). (See Mosiah 15:2-7.)

The day the Savior was born, He spoke with the prophet Nephi to assure him that the sign of His birth would be given that night. Paraphrasing the prophet Abinadi, He said, “I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh” (3 Nephi 1:14). Embedded in this statement are both types of submission described above:

  1. Of the Father because of me” – Jesus voluntarily submitted His will to the will of His Father.
  2. Of the Son because of my flesh” – Now that His will was aligned with His Father’s will, He exercised self-discipline to overcome resistance or reluctance from His earthly body.

The Apostle Paul taught us that we must also learn to discipline ourselves and to overcome the negative tendencies of our mortal bodies:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would….
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:16-17, 24).

Today, I will remember the unfathomable self-discipline demonstrated by the Savior as He overcame sin and death for all of us. I will strive to strengthen my own spirit in order to exercise control over my own flesh. I will remember that I cannot submit my will to the will of my Heavenly Father unless the desires of my spirit govern the actions of my body.

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