Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
Independence is one of the hallmarks of our society. It is literally woven into the fabric of our nation and is part of our DNA as free Americans. We fought the War of Independence to gain our freedom from England and one of our Nation’s most sacred treasures is the Declaration of Independence.
As a capitalistic society we value and honor independence in the form of entrepreneurialism. We throw phrases of praise around like: “He’s a self-made man.” Or, “He picked himself up by his own bootstraps.” Or, “He started with nothing and look how far he has come with hard work and ingenuity.” We admire and want to be like those who have succeeded beyond anyone else, those with vision and commitment to do the impossible, those who refused to be defined, or labeled, or boxed in. We want to emulate those who made their own way by not working for “the man.” We idolize the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others who rejected the conventional and safe career paths, doubled-down on their dreams, charted new waters, and changed their world. These are the ones that are seen as true American heroes, our independent icons, our own American Idols… well, at least to some. And why? Because as a people and as a nation: We crave independence.
And the church is not immune to this insatiable craving. We choose pastors that will preach only what we want to hear, we demand only the worship music that we enjoy, and we will fight to the death to control all aspects of the church in order to make sure it remains a comfortable haven for us even as our lives drift further from the Truth. After all, we give our money, we bought our ticket, and we expect a good show.
Independence. Valued by our society and promoted by our culture as the key to success, but independence is exactly the opposite of what the Scriptures say leads to success in the Christian life. The Christian life is a life of surrender, of yielding one’s supposed “unalienable rights” for the sake of others. It’s a life of total dependence, helpless dependence— like that of a little child. Remember the words of Jesus: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). And later, Jesus states that you cannot even enter into the Kingdom of God or receive the Kingdom unless you come dependent, like that of a little child (Mark 10:15).
Knowing how our carnal, prideful nature would balk at the thought of humility and dependence and self-sacrifice, Jesus modeled that dependent relationship while with us on earth with none other than His own Father— the first person of the Trinity.
Think about it, Jesus Christ, Incarnate Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity, Co-equal with God the Father, chose to place Himself in a dependent relationship with God the Father in order to show us what is expected of you and me. He not only “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” but He also “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8-9). He became our example, the prototype of how the Christian life was to be lived.
Let me give you just a few examples.
First, when the Pharisees, the religious snobs of His day, put out a contract, a hit, on Jesus because He said that God was His Father and He was equal with God, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He (the Father) does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). In other words, Jesus is not living independent of the Father but in a totally dependent relationship with Him. How much of a dependent relationship? According to Jesus, He didn’t do anything on His own initiative but only did or copied what He saw the Father doing. He was imitating the Father while with us on earth. He had, in effect, the mind of the Father and walked like the Father walked. And we are commanded to have the same type of relationship with Him, to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) and to “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
Next, when the religious snobs, the Pharisees, marveled at His teaching and questioned where Jesus received His theological training, the “What degree do you have and from what Seminary did you graduate” preacher prodding, He responded by saying, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16). Did you get that? Jesus said the very teaching we read in RED in our Bibles did not originate from Him but was given Him by His Father. He was in such a dependent relationship that the Father gave Jesus, for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and Jesus simply relayed the Father’s words to us. Same with the Kingdom Parables or the Vine and Branches in John 15 or the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. Jesus received His teaching from the Father and expects us to do the same. After all, He modeled that type of dependent relationship for us as an example.
Finally, after stinging the religious snobs for their ruthlessness and rescuing a woman caught in the very act of adultery, Jesus is accused and assaulted with the question: “Who are You?” (John 8:25). The Pharisees were hoping that Jesus would condemn Himself by saying what He had been saying to them all along, that He was the Son of God. Jesus responded to their question with this: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). In essence Jesus was saying that when He is crucified they will know that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, and that He is so dependent on the Father that all He does and everything He says was taught Him by God the Father. He was, in effect, the Father’s mouthpiece and herald come to proclaim the Father’s words to the Father’s creation. He was what He commands us to be.
As the time for Jesus’ return approaches, it would do well for each of us to consider the ways we have defined our relationship with Jesus as that of a servant— 40 hour work week, time and a half overtime, 2 weeks paid vacation and an incredible benefit package— and not that of a slave. Because a slave, a voluntary slave, a bondslave, a doulos, is exactly what the Scriptures declare we are. We are ones that have been “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20) and now belong to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
How ’bout we try living dependent on Him and not independent of His Word. What do you say? Don’t we owe that to the One who gave His all for us? I think we do— and much, much more.