John 5: 17-20 (MsgB)
But Jesus defended Himself (after healing a man on the Sabbath). “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.” That really set them off. The Jews were now not only out to expose Him; they were out to kill Him. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was calling God His own Father, putting Himself on a level with God. So Jesus explained Himself at length. “I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what He sees the Father doing. What the Father does, the Son does. The Father loves the Son and includes Him in everything He is doing.
In my earlier blog series, To Lead or Not To Lead?, I mentioned a key passage from Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 23, verses 1-12). It’s here, we find Jesus talking about the scribes and Pharisees and how their style of ‘leadership’ is overbearing, self-centered and driven by fleshly ambition. In Matt. 23: 8-12 (below), Jesus plainly states to His friends, who will one day become overseers in the newly-founded Christian church, that ‘leadership’ found in the Kingdom of God is only found in God, our Teacher, our Father, and in His Christ/Messiah…
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (NAS)
It’s interesting that here in today’s passage (John 5: 17-20), we find Jesus speaking to some of those same high-level leaders of the synagogue; the scribes and elders, Pharisees and Sadducees. These are the same folks Jesus is describing to His friends back in Matthew 23.
And while it’s unfortunate that these highly-critical temple leaders are questioning the authority of Jesus as He ministers in their midst, this confrontation from the synagogue elders actually results in a marvelous conversation recorded for us here by John, the Gospel writer. It’s in this discourse, we find Jesus opening up a revealing insider’s look at how Jesus perceives Himself as He is doing ministry for the Kingdom purposes of God.
In verses 19 and 20 of John 5, we find Jesus saying things about ‘doing ministry’ that should boggle the mind of any pastor or minister worker. Jesus states clearly here that He never enters into any ministry situation where He originates something or states something that has not first come from God’s hand. “I can do nothing on My own,” Jesus declares. “I do only what I first see the Father doing.”
Now folks, we, as pastors and ministry workers, really must stop here and let this truth sink deep into our gut. If Jesus, the Living Christ, the Son of God, can only accomplish things on earth by first identifying those things God, the Father, is initiating; why do we think that we would have any more liberty as Christian overseers to initiate ministry in our midst than Jesus did in His?
Yet, let’s be honest here. How many times in a day, do you and I go out into our professions, our holy call as ministers of the Gospel; believing it to be our responsibility to do some good things today for the cause of Christ? It’s a no-brainer. Right?
Yet, therein lies the problem. Ministry, when activated only through our pea-sized human capacity is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, it’s also a no-feeler. A no-seer. A no-perceiver. A no-nothing. It’s all based on human assumption. And if I’m reading John’s text correctly, Jesus is being quite clear here about how He holds back His own human assumptions about ministry so that He can defer to God’s heaven-sent preferences. You know, now that I think about it, maybe that’s why our ministry seems so lifeless and non-effective at times?
In our next blog session, we’ll go deeper into Jesus’ discourse with the synagogue leaders here in John 5, but for now, can I simply leave you on this doorstep of the unknown?
Might I suggest that you, like I, take a few moments today and reflect carefully on how we so commonly operate our ministries on our own schedules, using our own perceptions and assumptions to do ministry in and for the name of Jesus? Yikes. If you’re like me, in the light of this important text from John’s Gospel, the reality of that thought is quite frightening. Maybe I need to dial back the human effort today and do a whole bunch more ‘waiting on the Father’ before I do yet another ‘human-driven’ ministry job for Jesus?
My prayer: Jesus, for me, this amazing passage in John 5 is one of the most revealing truths about You and the inner workings of Kingdom ministry. Thank You for sharing this wondrous insight with us. It honestly helps me so much as I try to embrace the same Kingdom ministry that You embraced two thousand years ago. May I never lose track of this amazing truth You shared so honestly, so very long ago. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So if Jesus, the Son of God, could only do and say those things that He perceived God, the Father was already doing, what ramifications does that have for me today? Where have I assumed that God was there only to find out that I was doing ‘my own thing’ out of assumption instead of looking intently for what God was already doing?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
Click here to go onto the next blog in the series.