The passage we’re about to look at is amazing. It’s amazing because it’s a revelation of the most important relationship to ever exist: the relationship between Jesus and his Father. We see here, plainly stated by Jesus himself, ten attributes of the perfect relationship between Father and Son.
We’ll look at those ten attributes of Jesus’ relationship with his Father from John 5:17-37 (I encourage you to read the passage first), then we’ll look at Jesus’ relationship with his disciples, and, finally, we’ll take a look at Jesus’ relationship with you.
10 Attributes of Jesus’ relationship with his Father
1) Jesus imitates and reflects his Father
Jesus works as his Father works. Jesus imitates his Father, he does what he sees his Father do. Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” And he also said, “The Son can do… only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:17,19) (We looked at the power of imitation in detail in the beginning of the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (And how you can love like Jesus).
2) Jesus is dependent on his Father
He “can do nothing of his own accord.” (John 5:19) Jesus is equal in deity, as a part of the trinity, yet submissive in role as a human being, as the Son of Man, walking planet earth. Jesus walks in humility before his Father. (Keener, p. 276-277)
3) Jesus has faith in His Father’s love for him
“For the Father loves the Son,” Jesus says. (John 5:20) This is where Jesus’ security comes from. He doesn’t put his faith in human beings’ love for him. In fact, where his own self worth is concerned, he doesn’t care about anyone’s opinion, other than his Father’s. Jesus didn’t “entrust himself” to people. (John 2:24) His security came from his faith in His Father’s love for him.
4) The Father allows Jesus to see himself at work
The Father “shows him all that He Himself is doing.” (John 5:20) And that’s what Jesus did in his relationship with his disciples when they lived together for three years during his ministry. We’ll learn a little more about that later in this post.
5) Jesus trusts and has confidence in his Father
“And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” (John 5:20) Jesus was sure, he knew, he trusted that the works his Father told him were to come, would come. His raising Lazarus from the dead. His own resurrection. And the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. These were all yet to come but Jesus trusted and had confidence in his Father, that He would come through.
6) Jesus and his Father work together in the same business, the business of giving life, of bringing the dead to life
7) The Father gives great responsibility to Jesus
The Son of Man, who is God’s own Son, has lived life inside human skin. He’s walked where we walk, experienced what we experience, and suffered beyond what we suffer. He’s been misunderstood and mistreated in a way no one else has in all of human history. This makes him perfectly qualified to judge, so the Father “has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27)
8) There’s no competitive spirit between Jesus and his Father
There is perfect harmony. Each recognized the other was to be honored equally. Jesus says, he, Jesus, is to be honored “just as they honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23) They saw each other as equal and took pleasure in seeing the other honored. (Also, this claim to equality with his Father by Jesus is another claim of deity. Because no one is to be honored in the same way as God. (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11))
9) Jesus lives for his Father’s will
“…I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30) He is equal in Deity as a part of the trinity, but submissive in his role. Jesus never performed a miracle on his own behalf. He only became angry in defence of others, never on his own behalf. He didn’t own a house, or a horse, or a giant screen TV–his money from his ministry went to the poor. Jesus didn’t live for himself, he lived for his Father. Everything he did was according to the will of his Father, and his Father’s will was for Jesus to communicate his Father’s love for us. (Keener, p. 276-277) (see point number 2)
10) Jesus’ validation comes from his Father
John the Baptist bore witness to Jesus but Jesus says that the testimony Jesus cares about isn’t from man. (He said, he only brought up John’s testimony so those listening might be saved.) But the testimony Jesus cares about “is greater than that of John’s.” The testimony that matters to Jesus is God’s testimony. And God spoke audibly, affirming and validating his Son in Matthew 3:13-17, Matthew 17:1-8, and John 12:27-30. God spoke these words in the first, middle, and last parts of Jesus’ public ministry, in the first, second, and third year. (John 5:31-37)
Jesus’ Relationship With His Disciples
At this point, you may have already recognized the similarities between Jesus’ relationship with his Father and the disciples relationship with Jesus.
1) Even as Jesus imitated his Father, Jesus’ disciples imitated Jesus. Jesus said in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Disciples of Jesus are to learn especially by imitating Jesus.
2) As Jesus depended on his Father, they depended on Jesus, for the words of eternal life. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” the disciples said in John 6:68.
3) As Jesus has faith in his Father’s love for him, the disciples had faith in Jesus’ love for them. They had such faith in Jesus’ love that, according to Church tradition, all but John gave their lives for the cause of Christ.
4) As his Father allowed Jesus to see Himself at work, we see Jesus, as he disciples the twelve, allowed them to see himself at work. For the three years they lived together Jesus showed them everything he did. They heard his prayers, they saw him minister, they watched him respond to adversity. Jesus showed them all he himself was doing.
You can go down the rest of the list yourself and see, Jesus’ relationship with his disciples was very similar to the Father’s relationship with Jesus.
The implications for evangelism are major. Because what we see in the scriptures is Jesus’ foundational relationship, with his Father, described by Christ himself. And then we see Jesus duplicating that relationship with a small group of disciples.
Billy Graham was once asked, “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?”
And Mr. Graham replied,
“I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laypeople who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in this personal interview and in the time he spent with his twelve.” (Billy Graham, as quoted by Robert E. Coleman in his excellent book The Master Plan of Evangelism)
Although Jesus didn’t neglect the masses, he gave the great majority of himself to his disciples. And we see in scripture what Graham pointed out, that most of the growth of Christianity came from Jesus’ investment in the small and intimate group of followers who were his disciples. Jesus’ invested in his relationship with his disciples as Jesus’ Father invested in him.
Jesus’ Relationship With You And With Me
Of course there are implications for you and for me as well. What we have in John chapter five is a rich resource to draw from in our own relationship with Jesus. I encourage you to go through the ten attributes above and pray, “Lord, show me what I must change, show me what I must do, to make my relationship with Jesus as much like Jesus’ relationship with You as possible.
1) “Father, please help me to imitate Jesus, even as he imitated You. Fill me with the affection of Christ for You and for every person you put in front of me. Bless me with the attitude and countenance of Jesus. Send your Holy Spirit to help me love You and love others the way Jesus loved You and loved others. Please Father, in Jesus’ name do this for me.”
2) “Help me to depend on Jesus, in the same way Jesus depended on you.”
3) “Help me to have faith in Jesus’ love for me. Make me secure in his love. Let my security come from Jesus’ love and not the acceptance or rejection of people.”
4) “Help me to learn how Jesus worked. Show me all that Jesus did. So I can be more conformed to his likeness.”
5) “Give me confidence in Christ’s plan for my life. Bless me with your peace and deliver me from anxiety. Fill me with faith and trust in you.”
6) “Help me to be a help to you. Bless me with the great privilege of serving with Jesus in the work of bringing people into your kingdom.”
7) “Use me Lord!”
8) “Help me to honor Jesus. Help me not to compete with him. Help me to resist the temptation to move forward with my own plans and desires in a way that competes against Jesus’ plans and desires for me.”
9) “Send your Holy Spirit to me, to do His work in me, to fill me with love for Jesus with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind. Help me to love you so much that I live to do your will.”
10) “Help me not to concern myself with what others say about me, but help me to care only for your testimony about me.”
Ten attributes of Jesus’ relationship with his Father. I’m not saying these are the only attributes. But Jesus gives us these ten in the Gospel of John.
Jesus shares them with us for a reason.
He gives them to us to learn from.
And Jesus gives them to us to emulate, in our own relationship with Christ.
- You might also like Imitating Jesus — From the new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
- References and Resources:
- Bible Gateway
- Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
- Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell, 1993
- Image via Wikimedia Commons
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
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