Jesus, in John’s gospel, is displayed in a unique way. The Spirit’s guiding of John’s pen and bringing to remembrance the things that Jesus taught (Jn. 14:26) depicts Jesus’ masterful arrangement of events. Like a seasoned wedding coordinator, our Lord moved the pieces of His followers’ lives in such a way to manifest His teaching by the unfolding of events. His control of the situation was absolute yet invisible. After His death and resurrection, His Spirit displays His method.
One of the (many) ways that Jesus used His own actions and circumstances to teach us is seen in John 13. At the beginning of the chapter our Lord remarkably washes His disciples’ feet and John prefaces this event by saying, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1). Twice John says Jesus loved His own in this sentence. The emphatic assertion that our Lord loved them to the end is literally “He loved them into the end.” The word for “end” is telos (τελος) imaging Paul’s use of the same word when He says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rm. 10:4). The end is definite and the love that took place until the end came was absolute. There was no wavering of Jesus’ love for His disciples.
After John describes the Lord’s love and depicts Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus turns to tell His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (Jn. 13:34). He tells them to love each other how He did; remember, Peter, when I just washed your feet? Go and do likewise.
In a similar way, Jesus says on a couple occasions that He cannot do anything without His father and the Spirit who is sent by Him. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise'” (Jn. 5:19). Later He says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 5:30).
After telling His followers that His perfect life is only possible by means of the Father’s will and displaying the Father’s perfect peace in His own actions, Jesus turns, again, to His disciples, ten chapters later. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).
Remember when I said I can’t do anything without the Father? You can’t do anything without me.
The Biblical doctrine of Christian accomplishment is rather simple. If you feel discouraged because you feel unable to accomplish spiritual success or you do not do the things you wish you would do, you are feeling the reality of life. “I can’t even” is poignantly appropriate. This potentially frightening reality – that we cannot do anything without Christ – should not cause fear, but peace. Christ Himself took on the same flesh you have and experienced the same struggle you do (Heb. 4:15). His human nature was 100% reliant on the Holy Spirit who is proceeding from the Father. He did the for at least two reasons:
- To show us that, as our King, He will never call us into a duty that He Himself has not first accomplished. There is no task from God that Jesus did not already accomplish. There is no struggle, no suffering, no cheek-turning, no cross-bearing, no anxiety, lust, fear, anger, pride, loneliness, or pain that He has not overcome. Satan threw everything plus the kitchen sink at Christ, and Christ won. So, our dependence on God is something Christ already did.
- To show us that, as our Father, God will never let us down. Jesus proved, once and for all, that dependence on God means the end (telos) will come about. When we rely on God, God’s outcome happens 100% of the time. No slip-ups, no oopsies, no spilled milk. God wins.
We have been commanded to jump off the cliff of our own accomplishments and dive head-first into the power of Christ. The free-fall of reliance on God means every single moment we are praying. While you are crying, pray. While you are laughing, pray. While you are working, pray. While you are anxious, pray. While you are peaceful, pray. In the blessing, reward, comfort, suffering, anger, lust, pride, gluttony, disillusionment, depression, suicidal thoughts runs a red-thread of Christ’s life turning our eyes to Him. There is not a conceivable moment in which you cannot pray to Him – in the middle of your most disgusting sin, you can pray. We don’t pray when times are really bad, and we don’t pray when times are really good because, when the pressure is on, we hold on tight to our abilities. Jesus says, abide in me. Live in me.
God is outside of time. Tomorrow is the same as today to Him. In the future, you will be in heaven at the side of Christ. That future is a reality for God who is outside of time. He sees you right now at the side of Christ. That is just as real as whatever you are doing right now. That’s your end, your telos. He will love you until the telos.