In the darkness of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed alone. Despite the coolness of the evening there were sweat-drops on his brow. Despite the apparent calmness of the hour there was agony in his heart. With loud crying and tears he lifted up his voice to God, saying, “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36). This was the first time in Jewish history anyone had ever addressed God this way.
Abba is an Aramaic word which came out of the intimacy of the family circle. (Aramaic is closely related to the Hebrew language, and was the everyday language of Jews in the first century.) When a baby was learning to talk, one of the first words he could say was Abba (“Daddy”). The term later lost its childishness, but always kept its intimate and loving character. It was much too personal a word for any man to use in addressing Almighty God. So Jesus was the first.
It was shocking and surprising that Jesus should address God in such an intimate way, but the greater surprise is this: we also have the privilege of crying, “Abba Father” (Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6). We do not approach our Maker with fear, but with confidence! We are welcomed not as slaves, but as sons!
We have the right to call God our Abba and to claim his attention in a close and intimate way. While we must never be casual or flippant in our attitude (as the English word “Daddy” might imply), we certainly can exercise our privilege of sonship. God has adopted us as his own children and even allows us to call him Abba, also translated “My dear father.”
The picture for Abba is a loving father, holding his little son or daughter on his lap, eager to listen to their words.
(From Kenny Boles’s New Testament Words. Used with permission.)