19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
John 5:19-29 (NRSV)
Have you ever caught yourself doing something that you don’t normally do after seeing other others doing it? Or do catch yourself repeating phrases your friends frequently say? I am sure you know what it’s like to see someone else yawn and fight back your own urge to stretch your jaw.
While working at a Presbyterian camp I learned the incredible power of imitation. I watched as campers imitated their counselors’ attitudes about whatever activity they were performing. If the counselor was excited to go swimming, the campers were too. If the campers saw their counselors upset about an activity, the campers would mirror their counselors’ lack of enthusiasm.
We are creatures of imitation. We do what we see others do around us. Even in our creativity we mimic what we have seen before. Even when we try to be totally original we do it because we saw something else original and want that same thing that we saw, originality.
John 5 tells an amazing story of healing. On a day when no one was supposed to do anything, Jesus encounters a man laying down ill. Jesus tells him to rise up, take his mat, and go. When the man miraculously is able to walk again after 38 years of illness, others complain that Jesus worked when he wasn’t supposed to. Jesus’ response is brilliant; he says, “My father is working at this moment, I too am working.” Then he goes on to speak the words in our text for this devotion.
Jesus has a beautiful way of reframing the hostility toward what he is doing. Instead of taking all the credit for the healing and boasting of his power, Jesus points the attention back to the creator God. You would think that after witnessing a miracle, it makes more sense to praise God than to attack the healer, but Jesus has to remind us of that here.
Jesus explains, “The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever that one does, the Son does likewise.” Clearly this isn’t Jesus catching a contagious yawn, but it does remind me of how campers look to their counselors to follow their example.
Jesus doesn’t simply follow the example out of a subconscious social contagion; Jesus does it with the purpose of life. Just as Jesus told the man to rise up and go, he also says “the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.” Jesus follows the example of the Father in giving life. Raising us up from our sicknesses and out of the dead areas of our life.
When we see God at work in the world giving life to others, it’s contagious. How awesome would it be to have a holy infection, where we see God at work in the world and we can’t help but jump into the action, partnering with God in the work that leads to real lasting life here and now.
So where do you see God working in the world around you? Where do you see God breaking into the dead areas of this world and raising it up to new life? And most importantly, are you going to hear the call, get infected, and jump in, finding new life for yourself?
You formed us with ability for imitation.
Show us what you are doing;
Infect us with actions that follow your example.
Speak to us out of your love;
Renew us by the sound of your voice.
Raise us up out of our apathy and fear;
Resurrect us real and lasting life,
So that we join you in work that leads to stirring up pools of life.
And in everything that we do, all glory and honor are yours,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.
Final Level, M. Div.
After graduating this June, Nate will move to join his wife at Holmes Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center in Holmes, NY where she serves as the Summer Camp and Youth Programs Director. Nate hopes to find an opportunity for non-ordained ministry in Christian education in the Hudson River Valley, New York City, or Long Island Presbyteries, focusing on sharing this contagious and wonderful faith with others through creative outlets.