The Twenty-First Day of Advent
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does the Son does likewise.”
As one who struggles often to get up early to read my Bible and pray, I am struck by Jesus’ dedication to daily alone time with Abba God: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Over forty times in the Gospels we see Jesus withdrawing to a deserted or lonely place to pray. It seems that Jesus lives in unbroken awareness of needed time with Abba “as if to breathe pure air from a life support system that would give him the strength to continue living on a polluted planet.” (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew) The Son of God’s life on earth is a living out of His eternal relationship with the Father in the midst of all the ruckus and racket of human existence. He lives moment-by-moment in reliance on His Abba!
In the verses immediately preceding today’s Scripture the leaders are seeking to kill Jesus because He is “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Although Jesus is, in fact, God, He now declares His total dependence on the Father: “…the Son can do nothing on his own.” Jesus is of the same divine essence as God the Father, yet He repeatedly emphasizes His filial reliance on God:
- “I can do nothing on my own.” (John 5:30)
- “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)
- “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.” (John 7:16)
- “I do nothing on my own…” (John 8:28)
- “I did not come on my own, but he sent me.” (John 8:42)
These are not statements about limitations, but rather about Jesus’ oneness with the Father. No longer can people say, “No one has seen God,” for to see Jesus is to see God. There is not a moment in Jesus’ life or action in which He is not expressing the very life and action of God the Father.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus, we have been brought into a mirror image of His relationship to Abba Father. We are His counterparts. So Jesus’ words explaining His reliance on the Father are also true of us. His words apply to everyone who, like Jesus, is called God’s son or daughter. We have the high privilege of living like Jesus in moment-by-moment reliance on Abba. Jesus has made us God’s “trust fund kids”. The Father gives us whatever we need!
We might better catch the truth of Jesus’ words about the Father if we think of Jesus’ learning the carpenter’s trade from His earthly father (Joesph). Notice Jesus’ humble look to Abba Father: “the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing…” Then Jesus imitates what He sees His Father doing; “for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”
As Jesus had learned humble obedience to His adoptive father as a child (Luke 2:52), He was also learning humble obedience to His heavenly Father. Jesus’ power lies in His continuous look to the Father.
Missionary and writer Andrew Murray puts His finger on the secret to Jesus’ life:
If His human nature is to be something real and true, and if we are to understand how Christ is in very deed to be our example, we must believe fully in what our blessed Lord here reveals to us of the secrets of His inner life…Child of God, it is not only for the only-begotten Son that a life plan has been arranged, but for each one of His children. Just in proportion as we live in more or less entire dependence on the Father will this life plan be more or less perfectly worked out in our lives. (Andrew Murray, Humility)
Jesus is our model! If the perfect Man, Jesus, lived each day in humble reliance on the Father’s direction and empowerment, how can we do less? Like Him we can live fully human lives in oneness with the Father. What God does through Jesus, He longs to do through us.
If you are a mother, an engineer, a firefighter, a student… there is a divine way of being that person. “God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest) The supernatural can be natural in us as we live in reliance on Abba Father.
- Why do you think Jesus was so devoted to prayer?
- What is one area of your life where God might be calling you to live in total reliance on Him?
EMBODIED PRAYER: LYING DOWN
We spend a lot of time lying down, which makes this posture of prayer a favorite of many. I do some of my best praying lying down between two and three in the morning. Like their contemporaries, Jesus and His disciples ate Passover lying down, symbolic of being free and no longer slaves in Egypt. Lying down embodies rest and peace, our lives secure in God. David wrote in the Psalms: “I will both lie down and sleep in peace: for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety“ (Psalm 4:8). David liked to think of God while lying down and talking with Him: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:5-6).
Lying down is symbolic of knowing ourselves cared for by God: “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). When we are fretful and anxious, God wants us to lie down and experience our rest and safety in Him.
Today, and every day (and night) of the Second Week of Advent pray the Lord’s Prayer while lying down. As you pray let yourself go into God’s strong hands.