“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.”
If you’ve read the New Testament enough times, this saying may be familiar to you. It may, regrettably, be so familiar to you that little meaning remains in it for you.
But when Jesus says in verse 34 that “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work He is saying something so contrary to the ways of the world that we ought to be shocked into some sort of reaction. Laughter, anger, skepticism, or confusion: these words of Jesus ought to draw some reaction from us.
In the first place, how can you eat the will of the Father? But Jesus says that His food is to do the will of the One who sent Him, who is the Father. But then Jesus loves to use food and drink to illustrate what life with God is like. He’s just used water as an illustration of Himself and the life He brings, and now it’s food’s turn.
Since we’ve all heard figurative language before, I suppose we can accept His analogy of food. But then we hit something even more perverse and contrary to what we know and expect. It’s not the figurative language that gets us: it’s the substance of metaphor. We wouldn’t mind if He’d said that something we liked doing was His food. You know something like, “My food is to kick back and relax” or “My food is to hang with my buds and open a few brewksis.” This is what we really want to hear so that we can be affirmed in what we really want to be doing.
But it offends us that what sustains Him as His food is to do the will of the Father and to finish His work. How can what sustains a man be what someone else wants him to do? It’s unthinkable. It’s unmanly. It’s un-American!
Even worse, it’s not only doing the will of someone else, but it’s completing their work. Now He’s done it: now Jesus has just cut you loose from any connection you had to Him, that is, if you’re living by the Old Man.
But why should it surprise us that what sustained Jesus in His life and ministry was to do the will of the Father. Are we like Joseph and Mary who didn’t know that He had to be about His Father’s business? It all seems backwards and nonsensical.
Until you understand one thing. You see, we assume that doing someone else’s will is going to be unpleasant, onerous, abominable, offensive, burdensome, laborious, repulsive, irritating, annoying, aggravating, mortifying, galling, invidious, vexatious, troublesome, tiresome, irksome, wearisome, plaguing, boring, tedious, trying, uninteresting, stupid, dumb, dry, monotonous, dull, and humdrum. We have a lot of words for the things we don’t like to do, probably because there are so many of them.
And we assume that work is what we’re doing that we don’t want to be doing, that play and leisure is doing what we really want to be doing, and that life is to be all play and no work.
But there’s something we miss about Jesus and something we miss about the way life is supposed to be and the way it can be once again. And it’s this: Jesus did the will of the Father, not because he had to in the sense of being forced to work against His will but because He wanted to. The Father’s will became His will so that the Father’s work became his work. What Jesus took delight in was precisely to do the will of the Father, and once He had accomplished this, His life was full, and full of joy.
Do you want to know what the most common source of frustration, anger, and discontent in my life is? I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I guess it’s really no secret: it’s me not getting my way.
The source of most of my misery is that simple: I don’t get my way, and so I’m unhappy, ungrateful, sad, mad, angry, and frustrated. The reason I’m this way so much of the time is because I’ve been eating the wrong diet. I’ve made my food to do my own will, and so I eat the bread of sorrows that I’ve baked for myself while grumbling about how crumby and crumbly and distasteful it is.
But look at Jesus, how even when the will of the Father was the Cross how He obeyed the Father and was sustained by the Father.
Jesus has food for you to eat today and, SURPRISE!, it’s Him! He is your daily bread; He is the food that will sustain. But as you eat Him you become aware that to eat Jesus is to become like Him (it really is true that you are what you eat!) And to be like Jesus is to desire what He desires and to do what He does, which is the will of the Father.
When you pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” you are praying that God’s will will be done through you. Since Jesus said that His bread was to do the will of the Father, “Thy will be done” is connected to “give us this day our daily bread.” One of the forms that our daily bread comes in is to do the will of the Father. More than just the will of God, it is especially the Son of God who does the will of the Father who is our daily bread. And only as we partake of Him can we do the will of the Father.
I don’t know how it is that I grew up not liking garlic. Maybe it was the faky garlic salt that I’d had, or maybe I never gave the alliaceous herb a fair chance. But until I met the fair Lady J (my wife), I didn’t like garlic.
Now I love it! But I learned to like it and then love it by degrees. And I hear that it’s actually really good for me.
You may not naturally like to do the will of God, but the amazing thing about Jesus is that through the gift of the Holy Spirit you can learn to have your taste changed so that you actually desire to do the will of another, the Father. And once you begin to like to do His will and then love it, you’ll wonder what took you so long.
Now: if I can only learn to love, or even like or tolerate, cilantro!
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What are some things God has asked you to do that you find distasteful?
2. As you practice doing the will of the Father, practice liking to do it, remembering for whom you are doing it.
Resolution: I resolve to practice desiring to do God’s will today, treating it as my daily bread.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson