As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6:57)
Jesus Christ became man that He might show what true man is- the true relation between man and God, the true way of serving God and doing His work. When we are made new creatures in Christ Jesus, the life we receive is the very life that was and is in Christ, and it is only by studying His life on earth that we know how we are to live. His dependence on the Father is the law of our dependence on Him and on the Father through Him.
Christ counted it no humiliation to be able to do nothing of Himself, to be always and absolutely dependent on the Father. He counted it His highest glory, because all His works were the works of the all-glorious God in Him.
When shall we understand that to wait on God- to bow before Him in perfect helplessness, and let Him work all in us- is our true nobility, and the secret of the highest activity? This alone is the true Son-life, the true life of every child of God. As this life is known and maintained, the power for work will grow, because the soul is in the attitude in which God can work in us, as the God who worketh for him that waiteth on Him (Isaiah 64:4).
It is the ignorance or neglect of the great truths- that there can be no true work for God but as God works it in us, and that God cannot work in us fully but as we live in absolute dependence on Him-that is the explanation of the universal complaint of so much Christian activity with so little real result. The revival which many are longing and praying for must begin with this: the return of Christians to their true place before God- in Christ and like Christ, one of complete dependence and continual waiting on God to work in them.
Prior to the crucifixion the disciples seemed confident in their ability to follow Christ. They seemed to be able to leave family and houses and businesses with little struggle.
Then Peter answered Him, saying, “Look, we have given up everything and followed You [becoming Your disciples and accepting You as Teacher and Lord]; what then will there be for us?”
I think to most of us today this is the picture of great sacrifice and only a select few could ever reach this level of a Christ-follower. We read of Peter and Andrew and James and John leaving their fishing boats to follow Christ and stand in awe that someone could leave their business, their livelihood for the sake of following Christ. I wonder if there is that call for us today to let go of all and to follow Christ. Maybe not to quit our jobs but to shift our priorities. Maybe not to leave our homes but to give more time and place to our relationship with God. Maybe not to spend every day at church but to become fully engaged in worship when we gather. Maybe not to give such great quantities of time but the time we give is time of quality.
For three years the disciples followed Jesus wherever He went, sharing in the amazing moments as well as the difficult ones. As Jesus enters His last days before the cross, His popularity with the multitudes began to diminish as He begin His discourse of “hard sayings.” It was on an occasion sitting with His disciples during this time that we hear Peter’s confident promise to always follow Christ.
“As a result of this many of His disciples abandoned Him, and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve [disciples], “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]. We have believed and confidently trusted, and [even more] we have come to know [by personal observation and experience] that You are the Holy One of God [the Christ, the Son of the living God].”
While Peter recognized that only Christ offered life, like so many Christians, he was depending on his own ability and strength to follow Christ. Even when Jesus is telling the disciples of the cross and that they would all abandon Him, Peter insists that though everyone else may, he would not. How foolish it is to try to stand in our own strength. How often do we vow to change a habit, to resist a temptation and to do good only to find ourselves once again giving in to the power of the flesh? Peter discovered that when left on his own, he had no power to live up to his promises and neither do we. Wise Christians put their entire dependence in Christ and trust the power of the Holy Spirit to keep them from falling.
“Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away [and be ashamed and be afraid to be associated with Me as disciples], because it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I have been raised [from the dead], I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even if they all fall away [and desert You, ashamed and afraid of being associated with You], yet I will not [do so]!” Jesus said to him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you will deny [that you even know] Me three times.” But Peter kept saying insistently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing as well.”
Great promises, great pledges that none were able to keep for they were depending on their own strength. They had confidence in their abilities to live up to their words. Yet in the end, they discovered what Jesus had been trying to teach them- utter dependence on the Father is not only necessary, there is no other means by which we can follow Christ. All our best efforts are insufficient. So they all failed. Not just Judas or Peter or Thomas, but all of them failed and fled after making such promises. O how often are we moved and in the moment of great emotion make vows to God to follow Him only to find that when the moment passes and reality faces us we find ourselves unable to keep our promises.
“After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But Peter denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him!” A little later someone else saw him and said, “You are one of them too.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, “This man was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly [deeply grieved and distressed].”
We might think that if the disciples, if Peter was not able to keep their promises, what hope is there for us. They learned a valuable lesson and from them may we learn that same lesson. They learned that only complete, surrendered, and absolute dependence on Christ could give them strength to follow Christ. After their colossal failure, the grace of God found and restored them to fellowship. This by the way was God instituted and not human.
“Simon Peter, and Thomas who is called Didymus (the twin), and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, as well as [John and James] the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said, “And we are coming with you.” So they went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. As morning was breaking, Jesus [came and] stood on the beach; however, the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then that disciple (John) whom Jesus loved (esteemed) said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer tunic ( for he was stripped for work) and threw himself into the sea [and swam ashore]. So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these [others do—with total commitment and devotion]?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You [with a deep, personal affection, as for a close friend].” Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
What we will discover is that these disciples learned to place their total dependence on God and wait for Him until He empowered them to carry out the work He had given them to do. May this be our story as well.
49 Listen carefully: I am sending the Promise of My Father [the Holy Spirit] upon you; but you are to remain in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed (fully equipped) with power from on high.”
While being together and eating with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” He said, “you have heard Me speak. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized and empowered and united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now.” So when they had come together, they asked Him repeatedly, “Lord, are You at this time reestablishing the kingdom and restoring it to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.” Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet (Olive Grove), which is near Jerusalem, [only] a Sabbath day’s journey (less than one mile) away. When they had entered the city, they went upstairs to the upper room where they were staying [indefinitely]; that is, Peter, and John and [his brother] James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew (Nathanael) and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas (Thaddaeus) the son of James. All these with one mind and one purpose were continually devoting themselves to prayer, [waiting together] along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
Nothing has changed. The dependence upon the Father that Christ showed; the dependence upon Christ and the Holy Spirit the disciples showed is the only thing that will give us the power to effectively do the work of God in this world. O how the church could be so much more effective in its work of proclaiming the gospel if it would learn to wait on God instead of trusting its many activities that produce poor or no results in the hearts of humanity.
Dr. John Thompson