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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 21: John 5:19
The Royal Apprentice

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, 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. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”

These 2 verses have been described as the only parable in John’s Gospel. Jesus describes himself as an apprentice.

I well remember going to get something done to the tyres of my car in Lahore, Pakistan. All the preparatory work for the difficult task requiring the strong hand of a grown man were carried out by a lad, about 12 years old, clearly working at the instruction of the man who was his father. It was no formal apprenticeship but he was clearly learning the trade and would eventually follow his father and take over from him the little business they had under the trees at the side of the road. Here is Jesus describing himself as working under the direction of his Father, except that there is no question here of his hands being weaker than the Father’s or of him having to grow up and take over their joint enterprise.

The most basic and important point this episode is making concerns Jesus. He is on a level with the Creator God. He is God’s equal, his co-worker. Yet Jesus was a man walking this earth. This is his answer to the perpetual question: who is Jesus, what was, and is, Jesus. He is the Son of God; he is his working apprentice here on earth.

But there is another point that speaks directly to us: if we seek to follow Jesus we must be his apprentices. And where does that idea sit alongside the more common one of discipleship? Apprenticeship is about doing, practical work experience; discipleship is about education, sitting at the feet of a teacher and learning, gaining knowledge. Which are we to be? One of them or both of them? I think the right answer is both, but we will probably, according to our personality and preferences, tend towards one more than the other. Although one writer rightly says “if theology (the study of God and his word) does not stretch our minds it probably wont stretch our lives.”

This is where an element of self-knowledge is important. What sort of person are you? Are you good at being a disciple, at sitting at the feet of Scripture, studying, learning, growing in grace and knowledge? Or are you more of the activist type – keen to get out there and do things: help people, evangelize people, work in the church etc. if you can see which sort of person you are (friends are a great help here) go for it – make sure you maximize your gifting.

But at the same time be careful not to neglect your weaker aspect. If you are a disciple type, make sure you also do things; work as an apprentice of the greatest tradesman of all times, don’t be one who learns just to hold their knowledge close to their chest. If you are an apprentice type, make sure you also learn the ways of the kingdom; don’t neglect the books, particularly the Bible, so that you do not become merely a do-gooder with most of your activity having only the most tenuous connection with your Christian profession.

Be balanced – walk straight – walk the right way – carry a good burden.

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