Tuesday, December 14, 2021

A Man With No Handles

“The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

What was the Lord talking about here? It is true that he always did what the Father commanded, but I suspect in this time and place he was talking specifically about what might motivate him to go to the cross. He prefaced his declaration by noting that the “ruler of this world” was making his move.

Nevertheless, for all his apparent power, Satan had no claim on him.

Not One Thing

The word “claim” in our English Bibles is more of an interpretation than a literal translation. The Greek word that underlies it simply means “none” ... not one thing. It is true that Satan had no claim he could make on the Lord Jesus, but there is more to it than that, I think.

One of my favorite American writers likes to use the phrase “no handles” to describe the sort of person who is outside the sway of anything but his own conscience, and thus cannot be tempted, coerced, manipulated, threatened or shamed into doing anything he does not want to do.

I think the Lord Jesus is saying something similar here, though the driving force in his case was not so much the maintenance of a good conscience (which he always had in any case) as it was the purity and intensity of the love between Father and Son. Here is a man about whom the accuser of the brethren has no accusation to make; a man whom the ruler of this world has no ability to command; a man whom the father of lies cannot manipulate or deceive. Here is a man the tempter cannot tempt because he can offer him nothing of interest.

Here is a man with no handles, not one thing by which Satan could get a grip on him. Only love could move him.

Coming to Grips

“Handles” don’t have to be intrinsically evil. They can simply be things that are less than the best. They become evil because they are set in opposition to the will of God.

I recall years ago reading an early biography of the band U2. As the writer told the story, three of the band’s four members made confessions of faith in the late seventies while their following was beginning to grow. By the time they were recording their second album in 1981, at least two members including the singer were thinking seriously about calling it quits in order to more faithfully serve the Lord. Then the band’s manager sat them down and reminded them how many people had heavily invested in their success: producers, managers, record company people, their road crew, and so on. The choice they were about to make would affect far more than just their own lives, and not necessarily for the better.

Turned out they had handles. I am reminded of the Lord’s own words here: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Love of the Father

The Lord Jesus never struggled with choosing evil over good, and he never struggled with choosing the lesser over the greater. His only desire was to do his Father’s will and to finish his work. Satan couldn’t lead a perfect man to the cross by any means at his disposal; he could only go there willingly. The Father had commanded, and the Father’s will would be done, so that the world would know he loved the Father.

Now, there are lots of perfectly sound reasons to do what the Father commands. For one, he is always right. People will be better off if I choose God’s way rather than my own preferences, and one of those people will invariably be me. Sure, you can still make mistakes being obedient, but they will generally have more to do with imperfect motives than negative outcomes.

But another very important reason to obey the Father’s revealed will is testimony. At least, that is what the Lord anticipated would bring conviction to those looking on. The world will know. How will they know? Because I obey, especially when obedience is costly. If I carry on doing my own thing, charting my own course and pleasing myself, that says nothing to the world about the reality of my faith.

No, it is the measure in which I am obedient that is the measure in which I love the Father.

I wonder what the world sees in me as it looks on.

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