33. Co-Worker

Meditations on Jesus in John’s Gospel : 33 : Jesus, Co-Worker with the Father

Jn 5:17-20 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working……  I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”

It is a common thought among Christians to wonder about God’s activity, for it seems sometimes as if the Lord is still and quiet and doing nothing, but we’ll suggest from the outset that this perception is either because He hides His activity from us, or we simply aren’t looking.  The reason for saying this is in these verses today.

Jesus makes a quite remarkable comment: My Father is always at his work. Add to that his comment that the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing and you realize, looking at the number of things Jesus did, that the Father must be very busy. Indeed when you consider John’s comment at the end of his Gospel, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (Jn 21:25), you realize just a little of how much the Father is doing. The Father instigated and the Son implemented. Does the Lord do just as much today? Yes, why not? It’s just that we don’t see it. As we’ve said previously in these meditations, we need to learn to observe when the Father is working. That person who suddenly starts asking questions about the Christian faith after years of no interest, why are they doing it?  The Father is prompting them. Why do you sometimes find yourself thinking about faith issues? Because the Father is prompting. Why do people venture out in great new faith ventures? Because the Father is prompting.

So here we see Jesus declaring that he only does what he sees his Father in heaven doing. It is a perfect partnership. If you didn’t take in what we said earlier, here it is again: the Father instigates and the Son implements. The Father had the perfect overall picture and therefore know who was ready for what and conveys that to the Son in the limited human body, who then stretches out, speaks a word and brings about what is on the Father’s heart.

The apostle Paul said, we are God’s fellow workers (1 Cor 3:9) conveying the same idea. (Also 2 Cor 6:1). It is this same idea of partnership, working alongside God to do His bidding here on the earth. What are the requirements to be one of God’s fellow workers? Well, first of all it has to be availability. You may remember the writer to the Hebrews: when Christ came into the world, he said: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God’.” (Heb 10:5-7). Jesus accepted that the Father had given him a human body so that he could do God’s will on the earth – availability!

The second thing has to be a sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for that is how the Father conveys His intentions to us. Yes, He may convey His will through His word, through other people and through circumstances, but for the daily moment by moment service, the Father looks for our availability and your sensitivity to His leading. When He finds that He leads and we follow as His co-workers, just as Jesus showed us (Jn 14:12).

4. God of Partnership

Lessons from Israel: No.4 : God of Partnership
Ex 3:9,10 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.    11But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12And God said, “I will be with you.

We are in this series, we said, looking at the lessons to be learnt from God’s dealings with Israel, going right back to Moses, and we have been seeing the initiating of contact by God, the Lord revealing Himself as the God of history who had had dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob previously, and who was here now for Israel who were suffering in captivity in Egypt.

Now the previous meditation and this one are very closely linked. We saw in the previous one that the Lord sees all that happens on the earth and is moved to come to bring deliverance. Now we see HOW he will bring that deliverance. I think so far, Moses would be feeling first amazed at this experience, then in awe at the recognition of who it is who is speaking to him and then possibly very glad that God intended to come and deliver his people, the people he left forty years ago, out of the slavery in Egypt.  So far, so good! Indeed when the Lord reiterates what has happened, it’s still all right: “And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” (v.9). Yes, the Lord sees and knows, so it’s going to be all right now!

But then the bomb falls: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (v.10) What? Hold on! Hang about! I didn’t see that coming! Where did that come from?  Those are the various responses we might give today. Moses is not excited by this thought; in fact he thinks it’s definitely not a good idea: “But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11) Moses is a smart guy. He’s been doing the maths on this in his head. Pharaoh, big powerful world leader, me, small insignificant shepherd. Power plus insignificance doesn’t work.  Well no, it doesn’t, but God’s going to balance up the equation: “And God said, “I will be with you.” (v.12). Pharaoh versus an insignificant shepherd = disaster (for Moses!). Pharaoh versus the insignificant shepherd + God = disaster (for Pharaoh!).

Now that is a completely different ball game – except Moses isn’t convinced yet, as we’ll see in the next mediation, because he really doesn’t yet know this One who is speaking to him out of a burning bush. He really doesn’t know if he can trust this voice and it’s all very well for that power to have been there centuries before to enable old Abraham to have a baby, but is that power big enough to deal with a seriously nasty ruler? It’s probable that those were the sort of things going round in Moses’ mind, because they are the sort of things that go round in ours, and Moses was no different from us.

So now we come to the crucial question that must be lurking in the back of any thinking mind: why does God want to bother to involve Moses? Why doesn’t God just get on and judge Pharaoh and just take Israel without asking? He’s got the power, so why not do it the easy way? Why involve an insignificant shepherd?

I suspect the answer is to do with communication and visibility. Communication is the fuel for relationships and the Lord is always looking to build relationships with the human beings that He has created. Love always wants to express itself and God wants to express Himself to whoever will listen, come near and get involved. He’s got Moses’ ear but perhaps Pharaoh would not be able to hear God, because he was so self-centred. By visibility, I mean God making Himself known. By the end of this whole episode in history we are going to have learnt a lot about God. The Bible is all about God communicating with people and revealing Himself to people by the way He acts. By the end of all this there is going to be a story to be told – a long story and a story that will get passed on and on, and every time it does, someone else is going to learn some significant stuff about God. So God is going to use an insignificant shepherd to bring the most powerful ruler around to his knees. oh yes, this is going to be a story worth telling – apart from what it is going it achieve, this is going to be important. Do you remember what Paul said? “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27)

In the New Testament, Paul refers to us as “God’s fellow workers.” (2 Cor 6:1) Today God continues to work alongside us, using US to bring about His purposes on the earth. Yes, He could do it all on His own but He chooses to reveal Himself through His people. Remember though, whenever He calls you to do anything, He doesn’t ask you to do it alone. The message is still the same: “I will be with you.” His power and presence is always with us. Indeed He’s said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5) which evokes the response, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Heb 13:6) Let’s remember that.