Jesus, the Man
While Jesus was unquestionably “fully human” and “fully God”, we must recognize that being fully human did, in fact, bring significant limitations. While Jesus was clearly connected to God, it was also a requirement of his humanity to be disconnected from God at the same time.
Jesus received his power from the Father, but Jesus admitted that there were things the Father knew that were hidden from the Son (Mark 13:32):
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
While in human form, Jesus was not the Father, and had the requirement of consulting with God throughout the day, often late at night or early each morning in prayer. His mission was his ministry, to proclaim the Good News, to seek and save the lost, and to train others to lead the church when he was gone. (Luke 4:42-43, Luke 5:31-32)
It is this example of prayer (Luke 5:16) and, most importantly, the reason for prayer, that concerns us.
We see Jesus’ ministry take him from here to there, but he was not everywhere! We see his human limitations at work. He never transported himself nor his friends to other places, but used his human abilities to conduct his ministry of serving, training, and healing.
He was not aimless, however, and clearly displayed purpose in every place he traveled or visited. Again, Jesus may have likely only known that which was revealed to him by the Father each day, and may have been acting on a need-to-know basis. This may be difficult to accept, but think about this. If Jesus was not disconnected from God in the same way that you and I are, how could Jesus possibly understand the true difficulties of temptation and suffering? And a more important question: Why would Jesus need to talk with God at all?
But instead, we see Jesus meeting with God in solitude (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12, Luke 22:41-44). With a few exceptions, Jesus would spend significant moments with God, not just “checking in”, but engaging in a lengthy, one on one time with God. So what should we think? Was Jesus just throwing his prayer requests at God, or was the Son engaging in a more significant meeting with the Father? Indeed, it is quite reasonable to accept that Jesus was debriefing the previous day’s events, successes and failures, with his Father.
Imagine Jesus, doing the work of his Father, being required to act in faith to perform his ministry. We know that Jesus had to have faith, and we see it highlighted in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each day he would receive his assignments, in line with the Father’s perfect plan, and Jesus would go from place to place (or remain in a certain place) and exercise his love along the way. Love was who he is and does, but his mission was to complete the work that the Father had set upon him to do, and Jesus was not at full liberty to do everything that he wanted.
This, too, may seem like a weird statement, because Jesus was God. But as we’ve stated, he was fully man too. Sure, at any time, Jesus could have reined in all the power of Heaven and done as he pleased. But because the Trinity had already come up with a plan, it was absolutely necessary that the Son performed his part in accordance with that plan. Jesus received his power and authority from God (Matthew 28:18, Mark 2:10) and the success of the Plan demanded that Jesus stick to it. But as a man, Jesus needed to stay in touch with the Plan else he could find himself very easily doing what he wanted. And isn’t that the definition of sin?
Daily prayer and re-connection were necessary for Jesus to stay in tune with the Plan. It demanded that he not just “touch base” with God, but that the re-engage in full blown discussion about equipping Jesus with whatever power he would need to perform the tasks God set before him. So these solitary prayer-times must have ultimately been significant debriefing sessions — as they discussed the success or failures of the previous day’s events, as well as a consultation for the Father’s assurance in the difficulties His Son would surely face during the next one. And, of course, a time to receive his marching orders for the coming day.
Jesus Walks on Water
Picture this scene from Matthew 14:22-24. Jesus had just spent an exhaustive day with his friends teaching and feeding over 5,000 men (not counting the women and children with them). The sun is setting, and Jesus needs to go debrief with God.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
So Jesus, at sunset, tells his friends to go on ahead of him to the other side of the lake, and Jesus goes up to go pray with God alone. Scripture then says that “shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them”. Why was Jesus compelled to go pray that night and be apart from his friends?
Well, let’s backup in the story. The day before, Jesus had just been informed that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been murdered by Herod. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (v.13). Did Jesus know that John would be murdered? Why was Jesus in mourning? Would he not have known, wasn’t this part of the Plan?
I believe that Jesus’ response is exactly what you would expect from someone who didn’t know beforehand. Part of the Plan would have included Jesus’ humanity. How effective and believable would Jesus’ ministry have been if he strutted around as God in everything? It is logical to conclude that Jesus was only provided the power and authority necessary to perform the tasks that were assigned to him.
For example, Jesus’ converting water to wine in Cana before his ministry officially began. He told his mother, “Why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” (John 2:3-4) He had power, but he had not yet had his official “inauguration” where his true mission would be revealed to him. Certainly, he had been given visions of things to come, but God needed to wait until Jesus was ready before showing him too much.
Back to the lake. Jesus had just suffered the news of the loss of his cousin, John the Baptist. So he attempts to head off into solitude so that he may mourn and pray. He was hurting, and needed God’s reassurance of the Plan. Sure, the Plan made sense, but being removed from it and consumed by the suffering, pain and sin of this world is overwhelming to the least of us — how much more so for the Son of Man, who was the living, breathing version of Love and Compassion? He had to re-connect with God to be able to see past the immediate hurt and confusion of the moment to what the Plan represented, and the “big picture” of joy and redemption that lay ahead.
We so often see Jesus the God-man as one immune to the world around him. But that just doesn’t seem plausible. Jesus had to be as physically limited and consumed with emotion and tangent thoughts as the rest of us are. Only because of this very true humanity can we see how much he loves and understands us.
But when he most needed it, Jesus was unable to get that time alone. Instead, the crowds followed him from the lakeshore, and were waiting for him when he landed. He may have had some time to mourn and pray, but certainly not enough. Then, when Jesus landed, he “saw a large crowd, [he] had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14) Jesus was still really desperate to get some time alone with God, but despite the way he felt, he loved anyway.
But Jesus had to get away that evening and get with the Father. And so he did. Then, at some point that evening, after their brief and debrief meeting, Jesus’ heart would have been brought to peace, and he could once again seek God’s will for himself for the coming day, in accordance with the Plan.
And what did God have planned for Jesus to do the next day? Matthew 14:25-31:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
And that was just early in the morning. When they finally reached the other side of the lake, Jesus had a whole day ahead of him (Matthew 14:34-36):
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
In contrast, when Jesus learned of his friend Lazarus’ death, he was not surprised. He had to know of this, if learning about it only the morning prior from his Father, so that he could respond as the Father intended. We see Jesus’ response in this case as one prepared for the news (John 11:4):
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
But that doesn’t mean he liked it. But he had been commanded to stay “where he was two more days.” Then he traveled with his disciples to Bethany and to glorify God. He tried to be smooth about it when he arrived, but was chastised by Mary and Martha for not having come sooner. This clearly wasn’t easy for Jesus, but since he knew what was to come, he pushed through it. Still, his heart was broken because Lazarus was dead, and the pain of death is just as real regardless of the hope or knowledge we have of what’s to come.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
In this case, we see that Jesus was made aware of a situation beforehand. If the Father had not talked with him about it, Jesus would have felt compelled to drop what he was doing immediately when he had heard about Lazarus’ sickness. His human nature would have driven him to his friends in their time of need. But instead, because he’d been touch with the Father, equipped for the news and given a plan on the how and why, Jesus could be obedient to that plan. He didn’t have to like it or understand it, but he needed to be obedient to it. (John 8:28):
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”
So we see that Jesus got his instructions from the Father on a regular, if not daily, basis. Whether early in the morning or late at night, Jesus prayed. He had to reconnect with God and talk about their day. They had to discuss what happened that day and how to prepare for the next.
But Jesus was love, and we know that he could not possibly go anywhere without being overwhelmed by the pain and suffering of the world around him. Regardless of his mission, even when he was required to travel great distances, he always took the time to love those along the way. But because of the great number of people who had physical ailments or disabilities, he could never tend to them all. Not as a man. While he had the power and authority to do it, he didn’t have the physical time or stamina to do it. He was living in time now, and he couldn’t fix it all in the time that he had. Not according to the Plan. So he helped those he could that came to him, but never went out of his way. Unless that was his mission.
In John 4, we that see Jesus had to go through Samaria. But he didn’t have to go through Samaria because it was the only way to get where he was going. In fact, it was out of the way — a longer and more difficult route than needed. But he had to go because there was someone he needed to see. Someone who needed to meet him. There was a woman in the Samarian town of Sychar that needed to hear the Good News. And there was only one person who could deliver it, to her and the entire town.
Only by reconnecting with the Father daily was Jesus able to stay faithful to his mission and the greater Plan. He had the power and authority to carry out that Plan while utilizing the God-given human abilities he had to love everyone along the way.
The Power of God
So we see the power of God at work in our own lives, but Jesus exemplified the truth that we need to reconnect with God daily to know how to use that power. You see, we really are nothing without God, because without knowing what the Plan is, we have no way to be obedient to it!
Through Jesus, God extended to the twelve apostles the power to do great things. But despite all their successes, they were unable to free a young boy of demon-possession. Why? Because they had been gone too long. They had gone out full of direction, purpose and power. But eventually, having been out of communication with Jesus, they began to lose faith. And so they lost their power:
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith.”
Without talking to the Father about the days previous — our hurts and concerns, and without consulting with Him about what’s in store for us in the coming days, how can we possibly be prepared to effectively love, help, serve or glorify God in anything we do? If we are not truly seeking His will, then literally everything we do is selfish and sinful, isn’t it? Even though we may intend to do good, we are still doing what “we think is right.”
Sure, we have God’s Word, but this only truly helps us to understand, train, and equip us for doing God’s will (2 Timothy 3:16):
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
But we must live and act by faith, a faith that what we are doing is according to the Plan. Is that faith based on our own special knowledge, or is any consultation with the Father involved? The power of God is a blunt instrument if we wield it without understanding its purpose or without instruction. Can a skilled carpenter properly use a surgeon’s scalpel to remove the appendix? Can an iron-worker effectively use an artist’s brush to paint a landscape?
Because our gifts differ, the training we receive to use those gifts also differ. Moreover, how can we possibly use those gifts to “do God’s will” when we don’t even know what His will is? History is replete with those who did things “in the name of God,” but not with the authority of God. They didn’t have the authority because they didn’t know His will.
We must, therefore, be careful to truly seek His will, not just talk about it. Jesus had to talk with the Father everyday to know what he should or shouldn’t do so that he did not accidentally do things against the Plan, even though they would have undoubtedly been good things. Are we better than Christ, that we know God’s will without consultation? Are we so clever that we can know what God wants for us or wants us to do when we don’t even ask?
Ultimately, we are doomed to fail in our endeavors because they are self-seeking. We see good things come our way, we recognize them as having come from God, and think that we must be doing what’s right. For:
“You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” — Psalm 16:2
But remember, that doesn’t mean that the good things come because we are good:
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.'” — Luke 16:25
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. — Matthew 5:45
They come in spite of the fact that we are not. We need to abide in Jesus to be seen by God as righteous, but that only works because Jesus abides in the Father. That is why Jesus is the only way to the Father.
The Will of God
So, we find that prayer, even when our desire is for good, can be useless and fruitless if it is not aligned with God’s will:
Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. — Ephesians 6:6
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. — Hebrews 10:36
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. — 1 John 2:17
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” — Matthew 6:9-10
We must approach the Throne of God in the humility required to receive the Word needed for us to find peace with the day before, and prepare us for the day ahead. We cannot come with an agenda. We cannot come with demands or requests until we have first learned what He wants for us and from us. For once we have this alignment, we can more effectively tell God how we’re feeling about how things are going, the difficulties we’re facing in doing His will, and properly ask Him for what we need to be equipped to do His will.
The net result is the greater ability to be obedient to Him, because we are reminded of the Plan. This also diminishes our concerns for the present and the future as we grow in confidence of the Plan. We find ourselves more easily focused on loving others — in thought, word, and deed — instead of on loving ourselves.
We demonstrate our true faith in Christ by believing in and living out the process; as Christ himself demonstrated to us. And the only way we can truly be Christ-like is by being connected daily with the Father, through Christ.
For me, this is a great revelation. I have always struggled a bit with prayer and communicating with God this way. I understand now why I have always felt a bit lost in the process. I want so desperately to do good for the glory of God, but have felt incapable of doing so. I know I can do good things; expressing love and serving others in a variety of ways. But I often wonder if what I do is truly pleasing to God. I mean, if I’m not even asking Him what He wants me to do, how can I please Him? I’m just guessing, and if I’m not doing the will of God, I can only hope that God is glorified in anything that I do. I’m ultimately only doing what I want to do. Does it really matter that I’m doing it for God?
And without faith it is impossible to please God. — Hebrews 11:6
I must, therefore, act according to faith. But what is that faith based on? My own feelings or circumstances? Or perhaps something I read in my Bible once or heard in a sermon? No, I am convinced that my faith is equivalent to my relationship with God. It has been often demonstrated that faith has a direct correlation to the frequency of communication with God. Jesus has made it abundantly clear, and yet here I am. In my “intention” to be more Christ-like, am I truly making the effort to be successful in this endeavor, or, like so many other things that I put on my list of things-to-do, shall I do only what I see everyone else doing? Or shall I set my sights and purpose on the only true standard?
I would suggest that if I intend to more Christ-like, I must do what Christ did, and not what others are doing. And if Jesus gave me the example of what a real relationship with the Father can be like, what in the world am I doing?