Jesus led by the Holy Spirit

In this text, you will find a lengthy study of the Gospel that encourages us to enrich our knowledge of the mystery of God. Starting with Saint John, we are offered a meditation on the way in which Jesus Christ is led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the envoy of the Father. He works at his work for the salvation of people. The Spirit is at the heart of the communion between the Son and the Father and of their action to give life to mankind. It is first necessary to clarify the nature of the following reflection. It is the fruit of a study of the Gospel that I made in preparation for this session. I was going through a period of change in ministry. Overwhelmed by many things, I wanted to study where Jesus found the strength to make his action, his ministry, effective. For this study, I chose the Gospel of John. This explains the nature and limitations of this presentation. In John's Gospel, there are not many references to the Spirit. John speaks of the Spirit who is promised and given by the Risen One, but there is only one explicit allusion to the Spirit who guides the life and action of Jesus: it is the testimony of John the Baptist who says: "I saw the Spirit like a dove descend from heaven and dwell upon him. And I did not know him, but he who sent me to baptise in water had said to me: He on whom you will see the Spirit descend and dwell, it is he who baptises in the Holy Spirit. Yes, I have seen and I testify that he is the Chosen One of God" (Jn 1:32-34). This is the Baptist's profession of faith. The Spirit "descends" on Jesus and "remains" with him, making him his dwelling place and the "Son of God". The Spirit that descends on Jesus is not called "holy" because, unlike men, Jesus does not need to be sanctified. But it is the force that guides and shapes his mission, that of giving the Holy Spirit to mankind, the sanctifying Spirit. The Spirit is the deepest secret of his life and mission. John helps us to understand Jesus' ministry using other words, other categories. He speaks of Jesus as the one sent by the Father, to whom the Father gives his works, while also giving him the strength to carry them out.

I then chose to summarise my Gospel study on these points:

  • Jesus, sent by the Father: the economy of giving
  • The Father gives Jesus his works
  • The Father gives Jesus the power to do the works he gives him. Everything revolves around the verb "to give" and the word "work", which will also be the focus of our reflection.
    1. Jesus the one sent by the Father: the identity of Jesus; Jesus did not come into the world on his own initiative: it was the Father who sent him. "Yes, you know me and where I come from. But I did not come on my own initiative, but the one who sent me really sent me. You do not know him. But I know him, because I come from him and he sent me" (Jn 7:28). "I did not come of myself; he sent me" (8:42). In John's Gospel, the verb "to send" is very important. In the two Greek forms (πεμψω and αποστελλω) it is used 39 times and designates Jesus' profound identity: he is totally turned towards the Father, the one who sent him.
    1. Jesus, the Father's apprentice This profound identity of Jesus makes him a man turned entirely towards the Father, who looks to him to learn from him. There is a very illuminating passage in this regard: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself unless he sees the Father do it. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does" (5:19). The Father is presented as someone who is at work ("my Father is always at work and so am I"), and Jesus looks at him, contemplates him as he works. And the Father does not hide what he is doing with jealousy, but shows it to the Son who, by looking at the Father at work, learns in turn how to act. This thought is underlined on another occasion, when Jesus says: "He who sent me is truthful, and what I have learned from him I say to the world... When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am and that I do nothing of myself; what the Father has taught me, that I say..." (8,25- 30).
  1. The Father sends the Son to give him to men If the verb "to send" tells us the deepest identity of Jesus, it tells us nothing about the origin of this mission, about the intentions of the one who sent him. When John wants to enlighten us about the meaning of this mission, he uses the verb "to give" (διδομι). The Father gives Jesus to mankind: the Son's mission is the manifestation of the Father's love for mankind. "Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him" (3:16-17). The Father gives Jesus so that he may be food: "...My Father gives him to you, the true bread from heaven" (6:32). The faith that saves is a gift from the Father: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (6:44). And the Father will crown Jesus' work by sending the Paraclete (14:16) and will also give the disciples what they ask for in the prayer made in Jesus' name (15:16; 16:23). The Father sends his Son and gives him to mankind to fill them with his gifts.
    1. The Father sends his Son to fill him with his gifts If giving is the Father's attitude towards people, it is also the Father's attitude towards Jesus. The Father placed everything in his hands (13:3). He gave him his words: "...the words you gave me, I gave them to them..." (17:8; cf. 12:49; 3:34; 7:16; 8:26; 12:50; 14:24; 17:14); the works to be done: "...the works the Father gave me to do..." (5:36; cf. 17:14). (5:36; cf. 17:4; 4:34; 9:3; 10:32; 10:37); giving him whatever he asks (11:22; cf. 11:42). "He gave the Son the power to dispose of life" (5:26); and also to give it (5:21; 17:2-3). He gave him disciples (17:6, 9; cf. 10:29; 6:37-39; 17:2); "power over all flesh" (17:2); judgement (5:27); glory (17:22-24); his name (17:11-12). And all this because "the Father loves his Son; he has given everything into his hands" (3:35). The Father sends his Son and lovingly entrusts him with a mission (5:10), a mission that will lead him to great glorification: "Father, glorify your Son... glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world began" (17:1.5).
  1. The Son: self-giving to the Father for the salvation of the world If the Father gives himself totally to the Son, entrusting him with his mission, this mission is for the Son the scene of an immense glorification, in which the Father fills his Son with his gifts without measure ("He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, who gives him the Spirit without measure") (3,34), in the same way the Son responds to the Father by giving himself to him without any limit. He does not seek his own glory (7:18), nor that which comes from men (5:41), but only the glory of the Father: "Father, glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you" (17:1); "I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do" (17:4). The Father's glory consists in giving people eternal life: "I give them eternal life" (10:28); " the power over all flesh which you have given him, he gives eternal life to all whom you have given him" (17:2). That is why he gives people the word of the Father (17,8.14); the new commandment (13,34) that will fill them with joy (13,15-17). He knows that this will require him to give the water that springs up for eternal life (4,10-14); to give his own flesh as food that remains for eternal life (6,27), even if it means giving his own life (6,51). His love for mankind drove him to the very end: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (13:1). An unreserved gift to mankind that springs from a total dedication to the Father: "I revealed your name to the men you brought out of the world to give them to me. They were yours and you gave them to me and they kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you" (17:6-7).
  1. All that is mine is yours, and all that is yours is mine We can then understand a first aspect of the work of the Spirit in the life of Jesus: the Father gives everything to the Son, and the Son responds by giving himself entirely for the salvation and life of the world. The Spirit brings about the "emptying" of which Paul speaks in the Letter to the Philippians: "He, being in the form of God, did not jealously guard the position that made him equal with God. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and becoming like men. And having behaved like a man, he humbled himself even more, obeying to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-11).

A work, that of the Spirit, that will fill Jesus with immense glory and bring life and salvation to the world. It is the path of chaste love, of a life lived in chastity, with a "pure heart" (Mt 5:8), a unified heart.


John's Gospel leads us to take a second step: the Father not only gives the Son to mankind to shower them with his gifts, but he also gives the Son his works. It's a paradoxical expression: a work is something personal, belonging to the person who does it; how can someone give his works to another? Yet John tells us that the Father gives his works to the Son.

  • The Father gives his works to Jesus - Jesus, the one sent by the Father, lives in the conviction that he gives nothing of his own. What he has and what he gives is only what he has received from the Father. To the Jews who accused him of blasphemy, he replied: "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe in them" (10:37-38). In the same way, he affirms: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me" (7:16); and again: "I do not speak for myself, but the Father who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should make known" (12:49). To the disciples who insist that he eat after the meeting with the woman of Samaria, he replies: "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to accomplish his work" (4:34). Food that nourishes his life, a gift that he welcomes with gratitude, the meaning of his coming among men, because "... I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me" (6:38). He is sure that in the word of the Father there is his life: "...I know that his command is eternal life" (12:50). His faithfulness is the condition for living in communion with the Father: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (15:10). For Jesus, there is no greater gift than this.
    • Jesus accomplishes the Father's work in total trust The fact that he receives everything from the Father does not make Jesus a passive doer. The Son accepts the Father's will as a gift that enables him to take part in his will. He can say of himself: "...I always do what pleases him" (8:29). And the Father trusts the Son: "The Father loves the Son; he has given everything into his hands" (3:35). "The Father judges no one: all judgment he has committed to the Son, so that all may honour the Son as they honour the Father" (5,22). "The Son gives life to whom he will" (5:21). The task that the Father entrusts to the Son is the path to true freedom: "I tell you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete" (15:11).
    • The Passion - Resurrection: the greatest work that the Father entrusts to the Son If Jesus' entire life was lived in total dedication to the Father's work, this dedication is fully manifested in the Passion that leads to the Resurrection. Speaking of his Passion, Jesus says that it is the Father's command: "This is the command I have received from my Father" (10:18), a command that consists in laying down one's own life, on a path that leads to a full life: "If the Father loves me, it is because I lay down my life, that I may take it up again" (10:17). In this respect, we can see that Jesus is not passive, but lives as a protagonist. In the solemn introduction to the Passion, John presents Jesus as he moves towards self-giving with an awareness of the mission he has received and with the utmost freedom: "knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father... that the Father had given everything into his hands..." (13:1-3). So we can see Jesus taking the initiative: it is he who "sanctifies himself" (17:9); who goes to the Father (13:1); who leaves the world and goes to his Father (16:28). He is the one who "lays down his life" (10:11, 15, 17, 18; 15:13); no one takes it from him: "It is not taken from me; I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to give it and the power to take it away" (10:18). It was he who invited Judas to do what he had come to do (13:27); who presented himself to those who had come to arrest him (18:4, 8). An attitude that he would maintain right up to the cross, the fulfilment of his decision: "Then, knowing that all was now finished, Jesus said, so that all Scripture might be fulfilled, 'I thirst'" (19:28). His only desire is to do the Father's will, to "always do what pleases him" (8:29). He wants "the world to know that I love the Father and that I do as the Father has commanded" (14:31). So when he says that his words are fulfilled, he does so in total fidelity to the Father: "I have not lost a single one of those you have given me" (18:9; 17:12). Because this is the Father's will: "that I lose nothing of what he has given me" (6:39). 2.4 The path of obedience: the path of the Son We can then understand a second aspect that John presents to us: Jesus accomplished his mission as one sent by the Father in total obedience to the Father. He can say of himself: "I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do" (17:4). For him, "doing the Father's will" and "accomplishing his work" are the nourishment (4:31-34) that sustains him. For him, self-denial meant "obedience unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8). The Letter to the Hebrews has a very luminous passage on this subject: "It was he who, in the days of his flesh, with loud crying and tears, made supplication and supplication to him who could save him from death, and being heard because of his piety, though he was a Son, learned obedience from what he suffered; having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him a principle of eternal salvation..." (Heb 5:7-9). (Heb 5:7-9). And again: "...When Christ entered the world, he said: You did not want sacrifice or oblation... So I said: Behold, I come... to do your will... And it is by virtue of this will that we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all" (Heb 10, 5-10). The obedience of the Son is a masterpiece of the Spirit, who "by an eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God... so that we might worship the living God" (Heb 9:14).
  • "THE SON CAN DO NOTHING OF HIS OWN": THE ROAD TO POVERTY We have already seen how Jesus asserts several times that the works he does are not his own, but the Father's, and that he accepts them as the gift that sustains him. But John's Gospel leads us to a different approach: the Father not only entrusts his works to the Son, he also "gives" him to do them.
  • In Jesus, the Father completes his work If, on the one hand, Jesus welcomes with a heart full of gratitude the works that the Father entrusts to him, on the other hand he recognises that it is the Father who acts in him for the salvation of the world. The boldest expression in this respect is found when Jesus says: "The Father who dwells in me does the works" (14:10). Elsewhere, he uses the expression "the works of God" (9:3), or "the works of him who sent me" (9:14), "the works that come from the Father" (10:32), "the works of my Father" (10:37). It is not just a question of the works that belong to the Father, but of the works that the Father completes. Jesus' prayer before the tomb of Lazarus, in which he acknowledges that what he does is a gift from the Father: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me..." is significant (1:41-42). The people also attributed Jesus' healing power to God. The blind man replied to his accusers: "We know that God does not hear sinners, but if a man is religious and does his will, he hears him" (9:31). Martha also said to Jesus: "... I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you" (11:22). The works of Jesus show the love and tenderness of the Father, who cares for his children.
    • Jesus does the works of the Father Although Jesus often calls what he does "the works of the Father", he does not hesitate to speak of his participation in the Father's work. He never says "my works"; his brothers, who do not believe in him, will say "the works that you do" (7:3). But when Jesus talks about what he does, he says: "The Son can do nothing of himself that he does not see the Father do: what the Father does, the Son does likewise" (5:19-20). It is the Father who acts and associates Jesus with his work. It is in this sense, then, that Jesus can say: "I must work the works of him who sent me" (9:4); "the works I do in my Father's name" (10:25). His participation in the work of the Father is the sign that he is sent by the Father: "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe in them..." (10:37-38).
  • The Passion-Resurrection: the work of the Father and the Son As Jesus enters his Passion, he no longer seems to act. He does nothing, says nothing, acts nothing. He lets men do it to him: he is taken (18:12; 19:1, 6, 17); driven (18:12, 28); sent bound (18:24); handed over (19:16); scourged (19:1); crucified (19:16, 18, 23); his clothes are taken from him (19:23); a sponge is brought to his mouth (19:29); a spear is thrust through his chest (19:34); he is buried (19:38). When speaking of his death, Jesus always uses verbs in the passive: "to be lifted up" (3:14; 12:32); "to be glorified" (12:23; 13:1; cf. 7:39; 12:16; 17:1). John recalls the night Judas left the Upper Room (13:30) and the meeting with Nicodemus ("it was he who had previously gone to find Jesus by night") (19:39), which frame the whole Passion narrative. The night during which no action can be taken (9:4), during which darkness seems to have the upper hand (11:9-10). The night during which the Father is also silent, after what Jesus says to Peter at the moment of his arrest ("...the cup that the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?") (18:11). He would not name the Father again until his encounter with Mary of Magdala (20:17). The Passion is the time of Jesus' powerlessness and the silence of the Father. But in the depths of his weakness and the silence of the Father, Jesus finds the greatest fruitfulness. When he died, he "gave up his spirit" (19:30); lifted up from the earth, he drew everyone to himself (12:32); he became the focus of human attention (19:37). The sufferings of his death are like the pains of childbirth (16:21), of the birth of the new man. In his death and resurrection, he acquires the very power of God: "power over all flesh", a power that enables him to give "eternal life to all you have given him" (17:2). He exercises this power above all by sending the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, from the Father (15:26; 16:7). It is in his death that he becomes "bread of life" (6:52), and "spring of water welling up into eternal life" (3:14). With his death, all Scripture reaches its fullness (19:28; 19:36), and Jesus, "having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end" (13:1), can say: "It is finished" (19:30). The Passion is no longer the time of works, but it is surely the time of the Father's "work". To the Jews who asked him what works had to be done to be pleasing to God, Jesus did not draw up a list of things to do, but said: "The work of God is that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:29). The works that God seeks are those that manifest the work that God accomplishes in the heart of man. And this also applies to the Son. If all his works are the manifestation to the world of the Father's love, the Passion is his masterpiece, "the work" that the Father accomplishes in his Son for the salvation of the world. The Passion is the greatest manifestation of the communion that unites the Father and the Son: "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, even if you do not believe me, believe in them and know once and for all that the Father is in me and I in the Father" (10:37-38; cf. 4:11). "The Father and I are one" (10:30). A communion into which the Son wants to introduce humanity and which is the gift par excellence that he leaves us: "I have given them the glory that you have given me, so that they may be perfectly one, just as we are one: I in them and you in me" (17:22). 3.4 The poverty of the Son, the riches of the world We are thus introduced to the third aspect of the mystery of Jesus' life: the Father not only entrusts his works to the Son, but also gives him the power to do his works. We then understand the meaning of what Jesus says: "the Son can do nothing of himself" (5:19); he does not have the strength to do it. He receives his strength from his Father by making himself totally available to the work he wants to accomplish in the world and for the world. The way of Jesus is that of a poverty that knows no limits and which is the source of the fruitfulness of his ministry. This is what Paul tells us when he writes: "You know the generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ, how he became poor for you out of riches, that he might make you rich through his poverty" (2 Cor 8:9). A masterpiece of the Spirit who "came down and stayed" on Jesus, a masterpiece of the Spirit in the heart of every person in history, according to the words of Jesus: "He will glorify me, because he will take of my good and share it with you. All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said, 'He will take of my good and share it with you'" (16:14-15).

We took a journey through John's Gospel in search of the source of the fruitfulness of Jesus' ministry. It's an important question, because it's about understanding the road we need to travel if we too are to live a fruitful ministry. We propose a few summary points to conclude this work:

  • The Father is the protagonist of the mission ƒ The Father gives Jesus to mankind. It is the Father who sends Jesus among men, who takes the initiative for their salvation, and this mission is characterised by giving: "Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (3:16-17). "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; it is my Father who gives it to you, the true bread from heaven; for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (6:32-33). ƒ The Father gives people to Jesus The Father's initiative is not exhausted by giving Jesus to people, but he also wants to give people to Jesus. "But I tell you, you see me and do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will not cast out; for I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And the will of the one who sent me is that I lose nothing of what he has given me, but that I raise it up at the last day" (6,36- 39). And over the objections of the Jews, he confirms: "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: they will all be taught by God. Everyone who hears the Father's teaching and learns from it comes to me" (6:43-45). To the disciples who were sceptical about his words, he said: "No one can come to me except by a gift from the Father" (6:65). It is the Father who attracts and leads people to Jesus, so that he can say: "They were yours and you gave them to me" (17:6). Giving people to Jesus is the Father's work until the end of history: "The work of God is that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:29). An action, that of the Father, which is not limited to those who belong to him: "I have other sheep which are not of this fold" (10,16); they are his because they have been given to him by the Father (10,29). And it is not enough to listen to his word if there is not great docility to the Father who speaks in the heart of man. We must "believe in him whom he has sent" (5:24).
    • Jesus: the Father's greatest work We have emphasised several times that Jesus is the Father's greatest work, his masterpiece. Jesus is totally available to his action on a path of poverty, obedience and chastity, and the Father responds by showering him with his gifts: "All that is mine is yours and what is yours is mine" (17:10). "I have glorified you on earth; I have finished the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world was" (17:4-5). By walking this path, he became "the way, the truth and the life". (13,5). No one can go to the Father without him (14,6). When we look at him, we can see the very face of the Father:

"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (14:9). Jesus gave men the Word of the Father (17:14); he himself was the Word of the Father (1:1); he manifested the Father's name (17:6). He became the secret force that inhabits history and leads everything to the Father: "Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son, so that your Son may glorify you and, by the power over all flesh that you have given him, may give eternal life to all those you have given him" (17:1-3).

  • The communion of Father and Son: the work of the Spirit The total gift that the Father makes of himself to the Son and the generous response of the Son, who gives himself unreservedly to the Father, reveal the profound communion that unites the Father and the Son. Jesus can say: "I and the Father are one" (10:30); and he can pray like this: "Holy Father, keep in your name those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are" (17:11). "May they all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me" (17:21). This communion is the work of the Spirit, who came down upon him and guided him, making his life the life of a "Son". "Yes, I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God" (1:34).
  • Jesus, the one sent by the Father, involves the disciples in his mission Jesus, the one sent by the Father, wants his mission to continue throughout human history. To this end, he sends his disciples on a mission, warning them that they can only carry it out in his own way: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (20:21). To do this, he asks Peter for his unconditional love as the foundation of his mission: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" (21:15, 16, 17). A love that will lead him to the point of giving his own life (21,18-19), and that he can only learn to follow Jesus: "Follow me" (21,19.22), avoiding the temptation to think that he knows how to do things better than his master: "If I then, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another's feet. I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. Knowing this, blessed are you if you do this" (13, 14-17). The apostle's fruitfulness is based on a very great communion with Jesus, like that which Jesus experienced with the Father: "Remain in me, as I remain in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me, as I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing" (15:4-5). "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (15:9-10). 4.5 The Spirit: the apostle's formator This is only possible through the action of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who forms the apostles in the manner of Jesus, the one sent by the Father. For this reason, after sending them "in the manner" of the sending he received from the Father, Jesus "... breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they are retained" (20:22-23). In his mission, the apostle has no power other than that given to him by the Spirit. He is the "Paraclete" (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), the Teacher (14:26), the living memory of the Lord in the hearts of believers (14:26). He opens the way to the fullness of truth (16,13), introduces us to the inexhaustible newness of the Gospel (16,13); he is the witness of Jesus, who makes his disciples witnesses: "When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father, he will bear witness to me. And you too will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning" (15, 26-27). The fruitfulness of ministry in the Spirit ("Out of his womb will flow rivers of living water"), born of a constant need to drink from the source that is Jesus ("...let him come to me and drink"), the fruit of the thirst that the Father ceaselessly continues to awaken in the heart of man ("If anyone is thirsty..."). "He spoke of the Spirit which those who believe in him should receive; for there was no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified" (7:38-39).