Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works… Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. (John 14:10 &12 RSVA)
What could I mean by this by this title, “Is our time always?” When Jesus was with His brothers in Nazareth, one of the big annual feasts came up. Every devout Jew was required to attend it if he could. In the Gospel of John we read:
After this Jesus went about in Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of Tabernacles was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. (John 7:1-7 RSVA)
Jesus’ very own brothers did not believe in Him. They were tempting Him to do the “reasonable” thing. “Hey, Jesus! Here is your big chance. Your disciples and all who believe in God will be at this feast in Jerusalem. Get on up there and do your miracles and blow their minds with your wisdom and Bible knowledge. Don’t you know that it pays to advertise? Location, location, location! What are you doing hanging around in this back-water town?” Weren’t they being reasonable according to the way most people think today? “Seize the moment! Go for the gusto!” To this Jesus replied, “Your time is always! You can come and go as you will, but I cannot.” T. Austin Sparks wrote,
You get to the heart of everything in the case of the Lord Jesus when you recognize that the one question which constituted the testing ground of His life was: “Will this Man act alone, speak alone, choose alone, decide alone, move alone?” And His answer was always, “Not out from Myself!” “The Son can do nothing out from Himself.” “The words that I speak unto you I speak not out from Myself.” Every kind of appeal was made to Him to persuade Him on the impulse of the moment, or in response to an entreaty that seemed to promise success, or by an argument that appeared to be the truest wisdom, to move, act, speak, do something as out from Himself….*
Jesus was tempted in this very same way by the devil during His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 RSVA)
“Yes, Jesus, you are the Son of God, leap off the pinnacle of the temple in front of all the faithful worshipers in Jerusalem and His angels will catch you and you will float down to the ground like a feather. It will blow their minds and you will be able to prove to them and yourself that you are the Messiah! Think of the instant following you will get!” The devil often tempts us to do the “reasonable thing.” Acting on our own for the benefit of others without getting the direction of our Father seems like the reasonable thing to do. “God has given you this gift! Shouldn’t you use it to the max?” But have you asked Jesus what to do? Are not we His disciples? Did not He say to His disciples, “Apart from Me you can do nothing”? T. A. Sparks continues:
That ninety-nine people do a thing is no argument for the hundredth to do it. We are not to be led by the appeals that decide the actions of the many – “It is the popular thing! Everybody else is doing it! It is the recognized thing to do!” No! Does my Father want me to do this thing? That is the question that must ever rule our steps. In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere… *
In the account of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness, in Luke we read, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him for a season.” (Luke 4:13 KJ2000). Have you ever wondered when the “season” of temptation resumed again? In Matthew we read:
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be unto you. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense unto me: for you consider not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:21-23 KJ2000)
Peter was appealing to Jesus to do the reasonable thing! “Spare yourself, Lord! Don’t go up to die in Jerusalem. Think of all the good you can still do here in Galilee! You have people here that believe in you and need you!” But once again we see Jesus only doing the works that His Father gave Him to do. He recognized the words of Satan in Peter’s mouth, tempting Him to not go to the cross as His Father had destined Him to do so that He could fulfill all righteousness. Sparks continues,
In Him there was none of that which was personal, [or] independent. We are not speaking merely of such things as are sinfully personal, positively personal, but simply of independent action, action taken for the best ends, for a good motive, with quite a proper intention. Yes, all this may be done, but apart from the positive word from the Father. That creates an independent thought, however good may be the motive.*
And it is our independence from God in our words and our actions that is the devil’s playground. Paul wrote:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. (Galatians 5:16-17 RSVA)
Jesus said that if any one would be His disciple that they would have to take up their cross an follow Him. The cross in each of our lives that He gives us to carry is tailor made to put an end to our childish independence. When we were young in the Lord we ran out and did all kinds of “good works for Jesus.” But was our Father in them or did they come out from us as we tried to outguess God as to what His will for our lives would be? There is a death that must happen to that old foolish Adam in each one of us that seeks to maintain control even when doing “good works.” Old things must pass away and ALL things in us must become new. For this process to occur our Father wants to hear from our hearts just as Jesus prayed before they crucified Him, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me. But none the less, not my will, Father, but thine be done.” The cross He gives us to bare is our doorway into lives filled with His life giving Eternal Life. May we embrace it as an instrument of His Fatherly love for us. Amen.