I have to admit that there is a part of me that has never fully grown up. A part of my character still reacts like a 16 year old and rears it's head anytime someone says to me, "you can't do...." I don't know if it's the sense of challenge. I don't know if it's the feeling that suddenly I have a boundary that needs tested. But, something inside me chaffs at the words, "you can't do...."
Needless to say, one of the most troublesome passages in the New Testament for me is Jesus rather straightforward statement in John 15:5,
“...apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5, NLT)
What bothers me most about this passage is that I have lived 52 years and this truth is just starting to sink in.
For so long, the words, "you can't do..." were always interpreted as a threat, a challenge, or a statement of the limits of my abilities that I was bound and determined to prove otherwise.
What I see today in this statement is something I wish I would have seen years ago. Jesus' words are not a challenge or an indictment, but an invitation to friendship with God that supplies my life with capacity for doing what matters most in life: God's will.
What's crazy about all this is that Jesus himself said he couldn't do it either. Jesus couldn't do ANYTHING that didn't originate out of his relationship with the Father.
“So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19, NLT)
So here is Jesus, the Son of God, a man living without sin, a man who says there is something he can't do. He calmed storms with his words. He fed thousands of people with a snack pack. He sent demon hoards running. He made little kids and "sinners" feel welcomed, and yet he says there something he can't do.
What Jesus couldn't do is the very thing that I have far too often tried to do in my own life: produce the fruit of the kind of life God intended without an awareness or reliance on the only One who can bring that life about in me.
Jesus simply did what we intuitively do as people when we are little: we do what we see our parents doing and we normalize their behavior. Jesus said he only did what he saw the Father doing. Consequently, when we follow Jesus, we are simply doing what we see him doing. Out of relationship comes the modeling and empowerment necessary to produce Kingdom life.
Jesus did not act on his own (John 5:19); he didn't make judgments on his own (John 5:30); he didn't teach or speak on his own (John 8:28). Jesus shows us that the only way to experience life as God intended is to be connected to Jesus and do what we see him doing and say what we hear him saying.
At First Missionary, we asked the question recently, "How will history remember you?" My prayer of late is that more than anything else, there will be a few people in my life who will be able to say someday, "He just did what Jesus did and said what Jesus told him to say." Out of those habits will come a life that leaves a mark that far outlives us.