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Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Jesus did something that seems so out of place for us today, living in a culture that exalts pride, ambition, and independence— He voluntarily lived in a dependent relationship with His Father and deferred all glory to Him.  But He didn’t have to live this way.  This was His voluntary choice between equals.  And remember, Jesus is God Himself, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.  He is the Second Person in the Trinity, and not some innately subservient, second-class God.

To set the scene, Jesus is in the midst of a brutal attack by the Jewish religious elites because He said, “My Father,” showing a family relationship with God Himself.  And the Jews responded with rage and death threats.  His statement about being God’s Son seriously enraged them.

So Jesus clarified His statement and His relationship with God the Father by stating this about His dependence on the Father.  You would do well to note the implications of what He is saying.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly (truly, truly), I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, (why) but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He (the Father) does, the Son also does in like manner” – John 5:19.

It appears the Son has chosen to live in a dependent relationship with His Father, much like a slave (doúlos) does to their Master.  Yet, being fully God, Jesus chose this posture to ensure, as an example to each of us, the importance of seeking the will of the Father and not our own will.  And if it was good enough for the Son of God to live that way, surely it is good enough for us.

Jesus Speaks His Father’s Words

Next, Jesus reveals the importance of seeking only the will of the Father and not His own will.  And again, you would do well to note the implications of this subservient posture of our Lord.

I can (dúnamai – to be able, to have power by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) of Myself do (to carry out or perform an action or course of action) nothing (no one, none at all, not even one, not in the least).  As I hear (from the Father who sent Him), I judge; and My judgment is righteous (just, correct, right), (why) because I do not (the voluntary choice of Jesus) seek (to strive for, wish, require, demand) My own will (desire, inclination, plan of action, purpose) but (in contrast) the will (desire, inclination, plan of action, purpose) of the Father who sent Me” – John 5:30.

This passage does not say Jesus was something less than the Father or had to appeal to a power or authority greater than Himself to perform miracles.  Quite the opposite. Jesus states He is choosing, as an equal with God, to put aside His personal desire and agenda and give glory to His Father by living in a dependent relationship with Him.  And His judgment is righteous because it came directly from the Father.  So, to His Jewish detractors, Jesus was saying, “If you’ve got a problem with Me or with what I am saying, take it up with the Father.  For I am only doing what the Father commands me to say and do.”

But it continues.

His Purpose Was to Do His Father’s Will

In the next chapter, Jesus teaches the troubled masses that He is the bread of life the Father sent from heaven for them, using the imagery of Moses and manna in the wilderness (the first of seven “I Am” statements in John).¹  And in revealing this aspect of His ministry and purpose to them (using a familiar Old Testament testimony), Jesus says:

For I have come down from heaven, (why) not to do My own will, but the will of Him (Father) who sent Me” – John 6:30.

Again, this is another explicit statement about the dependent relationship Jesus assumed and maintained with the Father while on earth to teach us, among other reasons, how to relate to the Father as His child and slave (doúlos), all at the same time.  Jesus was the perfect picture of a voluntary slave, or bond slave (doúlos), that Paul used to describe himself in many of his letters to the church. (See Exodus 21:5-6 for more about being a voluntary slave).

Jesus is God, Yet Remains Dependent

Note what Jesus said about the revelation they would receive when He was crucified for their sins and how He, even to the cross, remained faithful to the will of His Father.

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know (ginṓskō) that I am He (I AM), and that I do nothing of Myself; but (contrast) as My Father taught Me, I speak these things” – John 8:28.

Besides showing His total dependence on the Father, Jesus states He is not something less than the Father, but also the God of the burning bush, the “I AM that I AM” (Exodus 3:14).  The italicized He in this verse shows our translators added it to make it flow smoother in our English translation.  But, in Greek, Jesus actually said, “then you will know that I AM,” indicating He was just as much God as the Father Himself.  And as co-equal with God, He nevertheless assumed a posture of dependence on the Father, His equal.

Jesus may have been living out for us this truth, so we could have an example to follow:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross – Philippians 2:5-8.

Authority and Miracles?  The Father Calls the Shots

Jesus also spoke about having His Father’s authority to speak, not His own, and that the Father “dwells in Me and does the works” that we see Jesus doing.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in MeThe words that I speak to you I do not speak on My authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” – John 14:10.

So even with His profound teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), or His indescribable miracles, like raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11), Jesus depends upon His Father for everything.  And again, if that posture of a dependent relationship with the Father worked for our Lord and was what He willingly assumed, then it should also work for us.

But does it?  Have you truly given it a try?

Final Few Questions

Are you ready to assume the role of a slave to the Lord?  Are you ready to quit striving to have things your own way and simply trust and abide in Him (John 15)?  And are you ready to have the Lord use you in ways you cannot even comprehend when you completely surrender your will to the One who gives you life?

If so, good.  Welcome to the Higher Christian Life.


1.  The Seven “I AM” statements are:

•   “I am the bread of life” – John 6:35, 48.
•   “I am the light of the world” – John 8:12, 9:5.
•   “I am the door of the sheep” – John 10:7, 9.
•   “I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11, 14.
•   “I am the resurrection and the life” – John 11:25.
•   “I am the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6.
•   “I am the true vine” – John 15:1, 5.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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