Without me, you can’t do anything.
When you read that, whose voice do you hear? Is it an angry soon-to-be-ex-spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend? Is it a disgruntled employee, leaving after being fired? Is a parent who loses patience with a child that seems helpless? Humans probably say those very words a lot. They often mean them for harm. They use them to discourage or enrage.
Jesus spoke those very words in John 15. Right there, in the second half of verse five. He wasn’t being spiteful, of course. Maybe it’s the translation? The Common English Bible says it one way; others, like the NIV and the NRSV, put it more Jesus-like: “apart from me, you can do nothing.” He was reminding his disciples to stay connected to him. That’s a nice thought, a true fact of Christian life. We must stay connected to “the vine” (again, John 15) if we hope to grow and bear fruit. Only, Jesus was about to leave.
When Jesus spoke those words, the connection was about to be broken, he was about to be torn away, arrested, nailed to a cross. “Without me” was about to be a painful fact of life for those 12 disciples! Just like it is for us, there is no physical Jesus to connect to. I wonder if they realized it? Judas did, but he doesn’t count. While 11 disciples were basking in the warmth of Jesus’ words about connecting to him and bearing fruit, relaxing around a table after their Passover meal, did they know their worst nightmare was about to come true? I doubt it.
Jesus said what he said to remind them of the importance of the Holy Spirit. He told them just a short time earlier that he would send a “Companion” and advocate. Even though he was “gone,” they wouldn’t be alone. Neither are we. We have the “Companion.” We have each other, drawn together by the “Companion” to live together, love one another, and point the way to Christ. Without Jesus we can’t do anything; but we don’t have to be without Jesus!