“Jesus learnt obedience.” I find there is something unsettling about these words. Somehow, they do not jive, they do not align with the understanding of Jesus amassed over the years. While I know and I understand that Jesus was obedient, and indeed was obedience personified, the idea that He actually learnt it, as opposed to automatically or divinely coming by it, was a jolt.
Is it Biblically correct to say that Jesus learnt obedience? Well, yes, it is. In Hebrews 5:7-11 we read:
“For Jesus, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong cryings and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared, though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And being perfected, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him, being called by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek; of whom we have much to say, and hard to be explained since you are dull of hearing.”
There it is in the Word of God; though being the Son, He, Jesus, learned or learnt, obedience. What did that mean for Him? And what does that mean for us?
As Andrew Murray says “The secret of true obedience is a close and unmistakable personal relationship with God. All our attempts to be fully obedient will be failures until we gain access to His abiding fellowship. It is God’s holy presence consciously abiding with us that keeps us from disobeying Him.” From Murray’s viewpoint, unless we have a true relationship with God, we cannot know true obedience and without the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, we cannot obey. We need to come to a recognition here that without the Holy Spirit, without God, we can do and achieve, nothing. It is not us who “do”, it is the Holy Spirit working inside us. We were and we are, saved by Faith and by faith alone; not by works. This is the fundamental bedrock understanding of the Christian faith. From Murray’s comment we can see that this fundamental truth and principal also aligns with obedience.
Hebrews 5:8 points out clearly for us that: “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” However, suffering is not natural to mankind, and nor was it natural for Jesus as a man. To bow down before suffering and accept it as Jesus did, requires the total and complete submission of one’s will. Without the suffering, without the submission of His will, Jesus could not learn obedience.
Could Jesus has attained all He did without suffering? The answer must be an unequivocal, no. Without suffering, the prophecies of the Old Testament could not have come true. Without suffering and sacrifice, our sin could not have been atoned for. Without suffering, His preparation to be our high priest after the order of Melchizedek, would have been incomplete and His perfection, would have been sullied. No, for many reasons, but chiefly and primarily as the Word says, Jesus suffered that He may learn obedience: ”He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross“ (Philippians 2:8).” He suffered, that he may be perfected and become “the Author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
Obedience is at the heart of, and is the essence of, salvation. Any study of the Bible passages about Jesus, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, will reveal that obedience is paramount, throughout all. On earth, Jesus learned obedience; now in heaven, Jesus teaches, demands and expects obedience. If there was no other way for Him, how could there be any other way for us? There is none, and there can be none, for if we are not in obedience as Jesus was and is, we are in open rebellion to the living God and as we are warned in Hebrews 10:31 “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
In order to Jesus to obtain the full power of God the Father, He had to submit in obedience to God the Father. The same is true for us, and is confirmed in the teachings and words of Jesus himself. John 12:49-50 is one example saying:
“For I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His command is life everlasting. Therefore whatever I speak, even as the Father said to Me, so I speak.”
Reading this, we need to understand two things. First, that Jesus did not come to earth full aware and cognoscente of all the details of all the plans of the Father for His life. No, they were revealed to Him day by day as He prayed and asked for revelation. The same is true for us. We need to be given our revelations day by day such that pride does not enter us as we begin to glory in the Lord, thinking that we are worthy or special, or know it all. Jesus address this issue for us in a number of verses in the Bible saying:
“The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do. For whatever things He does, these also the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all the things that He Himself does. And He will show Him greater works than these, so that you may marvel…………. I can do nothing of My own self. As I hear, I judge, and My judgement is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who has sent Me ……… The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works.” (Compiled from John 5:19-20, 30, 8:16, 14:10)
Second, that as the power of true obedience is found in the relationship with God the Father, Jesus spent a lot of time alone in prayer and communion with His Father. He modelled this for us in His lifestyle and relationship with His Father, telling His disciples and us, in Mathew 6:6 for example: “But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Note, it not a case here of IF you pray, but a stated WHEN you pray. Prayer is the means by which Jesus communicated with God the Father in obedience, and as it was for Him, it is and must be, for us.
This obedience which Jesus gave His Father and which we, as born-again Christian, are also required give, is a minute by minute, day by day, submission; it is constant and ongoing. In his Second Epistle of the Corinthians, 10:5 Paul describes our action in this regard, saying we are to “bring into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ.” Every word, thought and action, large and small, must be brought into captivity for Christ. If we leave gaps for the enemy, the enemy will one day pick at these gaps of weakness, to pull us down. We must not leave weak foundations for the enemy to use against us.
God spoke through Jeremiah 7:23 saying: “But I commanded them this thing, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it may be well with you.”
Here we can see He required total and complete obedience to His voice and His will. In exchange for our obedience, God simply says “it will be well with us”. What an understated contrast this is, to the earlier quoted passage of Hebrews 10:31 in regard to rebellion.
Leaders, of government or the military, typically have a full legal authority in place, backing them. In exercise of this authority, typically there are two means of leadership, that of leadership by fear, and that by love. In either case, leaders do not usually stand and demand our compliance, because they have the law behind them. Similarly it is with God. Yes, he has given us His law, but seldom in the Bible does he say: ‘obey my commandments.’ He is not standing on His legal rights. What we read in Exodus 19:5 is typical of God’s words as He says: “And now if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to Me above all the nations; for all the earth is Mine.” God is not standing primarily on His rights as a legalistic God, but as a relational God. Just as any Mother challenging a belligerent child, will not stand other their legal rights but simple say; “I’m your Mother, please just do as I say…” What comes first is the relationship message. Yes, it may be supported by and based on a solid legal foundation, but first and foremost it is relational.
God wants and needs our obedience so we may come into relationship with Him: a personal relationship with the Living God, God the Father, and the maker of the universe. When you meet someone who has this type of relationship, the atmosphere around that person may be almost tangible. There is certainly no mistaking that there is an ‘aura’ around him or her to which we are drawn in awe. This, in a sense, is confirmed in the Bible, but in a negative way when, after Moses met God on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were so afraid of God, his smoke, fire and voice, that they demanded that He only speak to them through Moses. In making that decision, the Israelite made a disastrous choice, for they distanced themselves from the true and living God, deigning to approach Him, only through a third party. As they severed a direct relationship with God through fear, it opened the door for rebellion and idolatry and all the wiles and ways of the enemy, to enter the Jewish nation and drive them further from God. First Corinthians 2:5 confirms this view point as Paul warns his Corinthian brothers and sister such “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” In other words, Paul was saying to them in effect: please – have a direct personal relationship with God through Jesus and not through anyone else.
When we look at the Bible, many Christians tend to look only at the New Testament saying we are not under the law, so the Old Testament has nothing for us. This is partially true, for while Christians are not under the word of the law, we are under the spirit of the law as Romans 2:8 says ”But the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” The spirit of the law is life, the word of the law is death. The Word of the Lord which Jesus used was the Old Testament and if we are seeking in any way to understand Him, or anything about Him, we need to understand the words He read. Even in the New Testament we read 60 times the following phrase from the mouth of Jesus: “it is written.” When Jesus used this phrase he was directly referencing the Old Testament, the Words of God the Father which Jesus both learned and taught, in the Synagogue. In these references, Jesus is not citing His own words, but the Words of the Father. Indeed, the words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 4:4, 4:7 and 4:7 during His temptations by Satan, became the sword which vanquished Satan. The power of these words is just as real now as it was then. Look at three such verses and see how Jesus used them and referred to them in obedience to the Father.
John 17:12b “…., that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me to proclaim the Gospel……. He has sent me to heal……. to proclaim deliverance ……… (give) new sight….. to set at liberty…… “
Luke 24:27 “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
In life on earth, Jesus taught His disciples and anyone else who would listen to his Word. Even as a child he taught, and even as a child he spoke as one who had learning and more than that, had authority. Now in Heaven, Jesus is still teaching through His word, for the Bible is not an A-Z of life, it is THE A-Z of life. If we are to follow Jesus in His obedience to the Father, we need to follow His Word and His written instructions, no matter that they require lifestyle changes from us.
Imagine how Isaiah felt as he wrote about his lifestyle with God in Isaiah 50:4-5 saying: “The Lord Jehovah has given Me the tongue of the learned, to know to help the weary with a word. He wakens morning by morning, He wakens the ear to hear as the learned. The Lord Jehovah has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious, nor turned away backwards.” For Christians, it is the Holy Spirit. As First Peter 1:12 says referring to the spirit behind those who taught the Gospel: “those who have preached the gospel to you in the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” Yes, the Word of God is so wonderful that when it is preached, the Angels of God come to listen!!
In all things and at all times, Jesus referred to God the Father, doing nothing on His own. He referred back to the Word for His truth and His understanding. But reading the Bible with a just passion for knowledge, will lead one nowhere. Jesus and God do not want us filled with knowledge, for “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (First Corinthians 8:1). Our God is relational and wants a relationship with us from our hearts, which beat for Him. Heads full of knowledge are as changeable as the winds, for when a new piece of information arrives, they change, or when a new more logical explanation arrives, they change. No, we need hearts, minds and bodies which are in total obedience to God. Less than that is falling short of the mark.
Amen and Amen.
I bow before You now as an acknowledged sinner and guilty of rebellion and disobedience toward You, my Sovereign King and Maker of all that which is made. I recognise that Your Son Jesus, when he lived as a man among us, lived in obedience to You at all times. I pray, Lord, that You will lead me and show me, how to do the same. I lay down my will, my pride, and my all at Your feet, and I humbly ask you to lead me by the path and the way of Your choosing. Please Father, change me into a new person, who is obedient to You and to you alone. Change me please Lord, such that You may be glorified and raised high, and I, made small.
In the mighty and awesome name of Jesus Christ I pray.
Amen and Amen and Amen.