A Voluntary Life
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 16:28 (Holman) “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
Jesus entered every phase of His human life voluntarily, by His own choice. Being true God of true God, Jesus always controlled His own destiny, before, during, and after his life in our existence.
Jesus’ birth was voluntary. Jesus chose to be born. Of His own free will, He emptied Himself of Heaven’s glories, and donned the flesh of frail humanity.
Jesus dramatically pictured this immeasurable condescension when He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13). Wrapping the towel around His body wasn’t nearly as humble an act as the fact He had taken a body to wrap the towel around.
Jesus existed prior to His birth. He boldly claimed in our text, “I came from the Father, and have come into the world.”
He also said, “I have come down from Heaven. ” “You shall see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before.” “(Father) glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed” (John 6:38,62;17:5). Jesus lived in the bosom of the Father long before He rested in the bosom of Mary.
Jesus’ death was voluntary. We crucified Jesus, but did not kill Him. Jesus said, “I am laying down My life. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own” (John 10:17b-18a). He forfeited His life, not because He was forced to, but because He chose to.
Jesus died saying, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit” (Luke 23:46). My Grandpa Marshall believed these were the most majestic words Jesus ever spoke.
Jesus was the Lord of death even in the moment He seemed to be its victim. He proved Himself the determiner of life and death. He alone had power to consciously choose when life would be released. This offering of Himself made Jesus our High Priest as well as our sacrifice.
Jesus’ ascension was voluntary. Christ left Earth on His own terms. He was not forced away. He departed in His own time and in His own way.
Jesus didn’t need Elijah’s chariot, Enoch’s escort, or any other external vehicle or agency. When His work was done, He ascended to His native sphere.
John 16:29-31 “Ah!” His disciples said. “Now You’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe?”
The disciples’ sudden burst of confidence did not impress Jesus. Their self-assurance contained at least three defects. One, it was late. What took them so long? Why are we slow to believe?
Two, it was shallow. Confessing “We believe that You came from God” was not much to brag about. They had not yet progressed any farther than John the Baptist did.
Three, it was weak. No doubt they believed, but faith was costing them little at this moment. Having confidence in the upper room with Jesus present will not necessarily sustain them in a harsh world.
John 16:32a “Look: an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, . . .”
Jesus questioned not the reality of their faith, but its power and permanence.
The disciples were confident, but disaster loomed ahead. The weakness of their faith would soon be proved. They abandoned Jesus, failed Him in His crisis.
Their courage failed because their faith failed. The cross made them cowards because it destroyed their confidence in Jesus. One of the men headed for Emmaus said, “We were hoping (past tense) that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). They understandably refused to put themselves in peril for One they no longer trusted.
Don’t be harsh on the disciples. They responded as well as, or better than, we would have. Walk humbly before God. We too often repeat the disciples’ failure. We know how it feels to grasp conviction one moment, and watch it slip away the next.
Remember, even when we feel strong, we are actually weak. Only Jesus is strong. Christianity has only one Hero.
While celebrating our victories of faith, be ever mindful of danger from our sin nature. When we feel we have many reasons to make us think we can stand on our own, there are still weaknesses aplenty to make us take heed lest we fall.
John 16:32b “. . .and you will leave Me alone.”
Jesus faced the cross without the disciples’ support. When friends desert us, and prove unkind to us, remember Christ’s friends did the same to Him, yet He loved them.
When we fail Jesus, He loves us still. He expects us to respond similarly toward those who disappoint us. Forgive before you are asked to forgive. Harbor no bitterness. Let it go.
Had the disciples stayed close to Jesus they would not have been able to stop the travesty, but they could have at least said a good word in His behalf during His trial, and could have ministered to Him in His suffering. They didn’t. They failed Him in the critical moment, but Jesus was kind and tender toward them.
John 16:32c “. . .I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”
There are two kinds of loneliness: separation by space and isolation of spirit. The first, being apart due to distance, is not necessarily painful. A fisherman on a lake is alone, yet happy. A bookworm with his reading is content.
The second loneliness is devastating. A person with an isolated spirit can be surrounded by people, yet feel lonelier than if in a desert. A good illustration is when we come back from a cemetery where we have buried a part of our own life. The noise and movements of others around us seem empty and cold.
This agony is the kind of isolation Jesus would soon experience. He faced it resolutely, because He was taking with Him a hidden companion.
Our Master’s attitude reminds us a person right with God is never alone. The Holy Spirit is there. Jesus knew the Father would be with Him in His lowest moment. Oh that we could share Jesus’ outlook.
“Those that converse with God in solitude are never less alone than when alone. A good God and a good heart are good company at any time” (Henry).
A poor woman who lived alone in a small cottage in the forest, asked if she felt lonely, replied, “Oh no! For faith closes the door at night, and mercy opens it in the morning.” Amen.
In Israel’s darkest midnight, Jeremiah said of the Lord, “His mercies never end. They are new every morning” (Lametations 3:22b-23a). God’s tender mercies are brand new every morning. Develop the habit of looking for them daily when we wake up after a night’s rest.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
Before Jesus, no one had ever defeated the world. All had succumbed to sin. Jesus never gave in. The world roared at Him like a vicious lion and leaped on Him with its full strength, but on a cross and in an empty tomb, Jesus grabbed the beast, tore it, and threw it down as a vanquished foe.
Jesus won though attacked from two fronts. He mastered the appealing and the appalling. The Devil tried to divert Him by tempting Him with appealing things desirable to the flesh, as in the wilderness; and with appalling things dreadful to the flesh, as in the cross. Jesus faced both temptations and conquered.
Satan offered his prettiest and ugliest to thwart Jesus, but could not defeat Him. Jesus overcame the world at its worst.
Through Him we also can overcome overwhelming odds. He has put His life into us and He can overcome the world again. If we die to self, He will live through us in power.