JESUS LEARNED OBEDIENCE TO SAVE THE OBEDIENT
In His humanity, Jesus did what you and I cannot do alone in obedience to God: He achieved perfection.
Obedience—how do you define it? How do you think through and explain what it means to obey God?
I have often said that obedience means just doing what God tells me to do—if He tells me to go sweep the floor, then I go sweep the floor. Period. But I have come to realize that that’s too simplistic. Is there not more involved in my obedience than the mechanical motions of doing what I’m told? What is my attitude toward Him for wanting me to sweep the floor? What is my attitude toward sweeping the floor? What is my motivation for sweeping the floor? Do I care if the floor is clean? Do I think I’m quite qualified to decide how clean the floor needs to be, as well as capable of cleaning the floor on my own? Will I push on pushing the broom when pushing the broom gets too difficult? Am I pleased with the privilege of pushing the broom?
In this series on learning obedience, I want to dig deeper than the surface of mechanical obedience, into the depths of devotional obedience. I want to dig into God’s mind through His Word to see how He sees this issue. At what point, in doing what He tells me to do, does He look at me and say, “Ah, yes…you are obeying Me, and I am pleased with what you are doing”? His children should care deeply about the answer to that question and care about nothing more.
When getting God’s perspective on something, it’s always a good idea to start with Jesus. After all, in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19), so that in [Him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:2). In the passage for this lesson, we see the treasure of an amazing truth about Jesus and obedience: He had to learn it Himself to save us. He had to learn obedience to save the obedient. Before we talk about getting obedience right, we need to wrap our minds around the fact that He had to get it right, too. Let’s see what that’s all about.
WITH THE FATHER, JESUS HAD A RELATIONSHIP OF DEVOTED DEPENDENCE.
In delighting in and defending Jesus’ deity, if we are not careful, we can unintentionally downplay His humanity. I was guilty of this early on in my ministry. Not fully understanding the Scriptures, and wanting to magnify His divinity, I diminished His humility—wanting to make much of His power as God, I made too little of His plight as a man. He led me to repentance by getting me in touch with His sorrow and suffering. To truly appreciate what He accomplished for us, I had to educate myself about His agony. I had to come to know Him as the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). However, the point is not to know how miserable He was, but to bring the truth of His life into better focus—the truth of the life He lived for the Father in His devotion to Him and dependence on Him.
In His days on earth as a humble human being, Jesus offered up prayers for His needs and supplications for all that needed to be done, pouring out the angst and anguish of His soul in the loud cries and tears that poured out of Him, to Him who was able to save Him out of the death He came to die, and He was heard because His heart was bowed in reverence. As the God-man, He was a true man of God, and out of His relationship with the Father flowed His fellowship with the Father in the life He lived.
WITH THE FATHER, JESUS ALSO HAD A RELATIONSHIP OF DEVOTED OBEDIENCE.
Another minister and friend of mine was struggling with this idea a few years ago, and in a study with a few of us, he asked, “How is it possible for God to learn obedience?” I had not given that much thought that I remember, but the answer immediately struck me: Because He was/is not only 100% God, but also 100% man. As a true human being, Jesus grew up to learn how to walk, talk, and tie his sandals. And as a true human being walking with God, Jesus grew up to learn obedience—and not in a green-pasture, blue-sky, gentle-breeze, calm-water utopia, but in and through suffering.
Jesus did not get a pass on real-time, real-world submission to the Father’s will. He is able "to sympathize with our weaknesses" because He "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He had to make real choices between obedience and rebellion when He faced real temptation. As a real man, He suffered real problems, real pressures, and real pain, and as a real man, He learned real obedience through those things He suffered.
We see examples of this in Jesus’ wilderness temptations. He learned obedience with His most primal needs and power when He suffered severe enough hunger that stones looked good enough to eat, especially when He could have turned them into bread (Matthew 4:2-4). He learned obedience with His glory as the Son of God, as He suffered obscurity and the blinded disregard of so many that did not know who He is—He learned obedience in not forcing the Father’s hand to put Him on display (Matthew 4:5-7). He learned obedience with His royal rights to the world, as He suffered the common, calloused life of a carpenter devoid of royal privileges and possessions—He learned obedience in not short-cutting around the hard road of the Father’s will to get what He had coming to Him (Matthew 4:8-10).
There was a clear, divine purpose to what He willingly went through. He was proving Himself as the only qualified candidate for the role of our Redeemer.
NOW, WITH US, JESUS HAS THE RELATIONSHIP OF DEVOTED SAVIOR & HIGH PRIEST.
In His divinity, Jesus was perfect, but in His humanity, He did what you and I can never do alone in obedience to God: He achieved perfection. From the cradle to the cross—from the womb to the tomb, He can say with full boldness, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46) His perfect obedience qualified Him as the Savior. Without His perfect obedience, there would be no salvation, because there would be no Savior. But salvation for whom?
As the perfectly obedient Son of God, Jesus is now “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him”. And before we ask what obeying Him really means (we will look at that in the next message), we must ask if obeying Him is what we really want. Do we want to know what it is to obey Him because we desperately and devotionally want to obey Him? Jesus only gives salvation to people who want to obey Him. He steps in to forever save them from the penalty of their previously willful rebellion against God, as He steps in between them and Holy God as High Priest to forever intercede with God on their behalf, “being designated by God” for this high position “after the order of Melchizedek”, meaning that His priesthood has a heavenly beginning and no earthly end.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR YOUR SPIRIT
Jesus’ relationship with His Heavenly Father produced His life that made life possible for us—a life perfectly lived for God so that we can now live for Him.
I have received eternal salvation from Jesus only as one who obeys Him. Is that true for you today?