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“I can do nothing on my own.” Who do you think said this? Some washed up teen with low self-esteem, groveling in the misery of his most recent failure? How about a bedraggled mom, just trying to make it through an average Tuesday, between soccer practice and the grocery store? A blue-collar man, scraping to get by? A business woman, who hasn’t yet caught a break?
You might be shocked, but it was Jesus, the Son of God.
The very Son of God said, “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30).
If Jesus Christ couldn’t do anything on his own, then what hope is there for us?
Unless, of course, we do what Jesus did. He depended on God, every moment of his life. That’s how he made it through each day, whether doing mundane chores with his dad or raising the dead.
This is a simple, yet profound definition of what it means to be a Christian. In case you think that being a Christian means you have to be religious or righteous or a certain temperament, let Jesus set you straight. To be a Christian simply means that you live your life in dependence on God, just like Jesus.
You depend on God both for life and for eternal life. You depend on God for your sense of purpose and worth, for security and provision. You admit that you can’t do anything on your own, so you live like it. You know you can’t do anything right or change your behavior, so you depend on the power of God. You refuse to be arrogant and you recognize that you don’t have what it takes.
This is the beginning of humility. Humility is not thinking bad things about yourself, but having the courage to get over yourself so that you can get to depending on God as quickly as possible.
It takes guts to admit, “I can do nothing on my own.” But I can anticipate what might happen. You might admit this, but then you’ll never push through to depending on God. If you do this, it reveals that you never believed in the first place, but were just having a pity party. The one who truly embraces this reality will subsequently embrace the power of God.
(Be sure to check out Soul Tattoo: A Life and Spirit Bearing the Marks of God, now available at your favorite bookstore.)
Driving to work today, I saw two guys in an expensive, luxury car. Sitting in my beat up Scion XA, I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I am so rich and well-off. I watch the news. I see how the rest of the world lives, the struggles they endure, and I get embarrassed in their proverbial presence. Billions of my fellow human beings live content lives with far less. It’s embarrassing to have the privilege of owning a car at times, isn’t it? Even an average one.
It’s embarrassing to have nice clothes, too. And good food. And running water. I’m so spoiled. It feels like this to me: Imagine you’re at home on the second floor. During the middle of the night you hear a strange noise coming from downstairs. Instead of going down to check it out yourself, you send your three year old downstairs to face the bugler alone. Meanwhile, you stay upstairs, safe in your comfortable bed, while your child struggles below.
That’s what gets me. Most of the time, we get embarrassed when we don’t have the nicest car, latest phone, trendiest clothes, etc., but I think we ought to be more embarrassed if we do. We ought to be embarrassed to drive our nice cars, wear our expensive clothes, and mess around on our fancy phones, all the while, billions are dying on the first floor in the fight called life.
Isn’t it embarrassing to be the kind of person who’s constantly worried about appearance and the opinions of others? About “keeping up with the Joneses?” Isn’t it embarrassing to be such a shallow kind of human being? I know it’s embarrassing to me.
It’s embarrassing that I require so many nonessentials just to keep happy. It’s embarrassing that materialism and culture have such a grip on me and that the opinions of others are so potentially devastating to me.
Many are embarrassed to admit that they believe in God or Jesus Christ; but what’s even more embarrassing is not to believe him, giving more credence to Hollywood rather than Heaven.
Jesus sweat great drops of blood when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane about to go to the cross (Lk. 22:44). While he was in agony, wrestling with his Father’s will, his disciples were sleepy. Why? Not because they were tired, but because they were overwhelmed. Twice, Jesus tells them to pray “that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk. 22:40, 46). They needed to pray for God to give them strength to endure what they were about to witness. The expression “sleeping for sorrow” means that they were pushed beyond their capacity to cope. They were emotionally exhausted.
That’s why Jesus tells them to pray. He knows that what they were witnessing (and about to witness) was so horrific that their lives would come apart. What was it? The Son of God was being handed over to sinners, condemned for sin, and made into sin. This was the most outrageous atrocity of justice that the world has ever known. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them?
I believe that we have the opposite problem today. We are not overwhelmed at the death of Jesus for sinners, but we are underwhelmed. We don’t sleep for sorrow, but for familiarity.
This story doesn’t affect us anymore. We just shrug it off, like it were no big deal that God would be condemned for sinners. But there is something so terrible about it, that were we there, we would collapse, just like the disciples, from exhaustion. We would fall apart.
If Jesus were taking to us, he would not say, “Pray so that you are not overwhelmed,” rather, he would say, “Pray so that you are not underwhelmed.” Pray against being numb to God, being cold to Jesus Christ.
So often we let this story go in one ear and out the other, as if it were no big deal that a glorious King was condemned for his slimy servants.
Let’s pray so that we’re not underwhelmed and therefore unchanged.