JESUS, OUR EXAMPLE OF OBEDIENCE
by Wayne S. Walker
The Bible tells us that Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps. One area in which Jesus was an example for us was in His obedience. "Though he were a Son, yet he learned obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). By breaking this verse down into its basic parts, we can gain a better understanding of Jesus as our example of obedience.
Though He was a Son
Jesus is the Son of God. While all humans are sons of God by creation and all Christians are sons of God by regeneration, Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense. This concept is comprehended in the phrase, "the only begotten Son." Thayer says that the word translated "only begotten" means "single of its kind, only." Further, he points out that this phrase does not denote that Christ is the offspring of the Father but that He possesses the essential nature of God and is therefore divine. This is what we are saying when we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 8:36).
To say that one is a son implies a special position. Just ask any father if his son is special to him and see what kind of answer you receive! Jesus illustrated this idea in Matthew 17:5-6. "Of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers." Why? Because the king’s sons occupy a special position and are therefore free. Christ is in an extra-special position.
Yet He learned obedience
Yet, even though Jesus occupies this special position by reason of His divine Sonship, He claimed no special privileges on that account, but learned obedience. The word translated "obedience" means compliance or submission. The verb form means to listen or hearken. The winds and the waves obeyed the voice of Jesus. Servants are to obey their mastes. Abraham obeyed the command to leave Ur for Canaan. In a similar way, Christ obeyed the Father’s will to carry out the saving purpose of God. The Greek here has "the obedience" to underscore the idea of the well-known complete obedience in experiencing absolute submission to God’s will, implying both the duty and the necessity of obedience.
One example of His obedience was His baptism. He was baptized to "fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:13-15). Christ was not baptized for the remission of sins, as we are, because He had no sin. Rather, He did so because it was a command of God to be obeyed. Christ has commanded us to be baptized. Thus, we must also obey, for "being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
By the things which He suffered
How did Jesus learn obedience? It was "by the things which he suffered." Jesus suffered for you and me (1 Peter 3:18). As mere mortals we do not fully understand the depth of His suffering–the loss of heaven’s glory in His condescension, being tempted in all points as we are, the loneliness of Gethsemane, and the shame of the cross, among other things. Yet, He willingly obeyed the Father’s will to experience all this so that we might be free from sin with its horrible consequences and have the hope of eternal life. We should ever be thankful for His sacrifice.
As those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, it should be no great surprise to us that we also must suffer (1 Peter 4:16). The same world which mocked and crucified the Savior will scarcely look with any greater favor upon His disciples. As we live upon this earth, we shall be called upon to endure persecution, ridicule, hatred, and deprivation for His sake. It has ever been so. Early Christians were thus persecuted, and they rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41-42). The time may come when we shall suffer as they did.
Yet, in the midst of our trials, we must still obey. Tribulation is no excuse to compromise our convictions to gain the approval of an ungodly world. We must learn that being different has its consequences and face up to them. Yet again, Jesus is our example even in this for He "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). May we react to our sufferings in a similar manner.
Yes, Jesus is our example of obedience. Because He is the Son of God, by His life we can know what it means to be a son of God. He learned obedience, and, as He obeyed the Father’s will for us, so must we obey His will to become His followers. Even when we must suffer in this life we must continue to obey Him. Jesus once said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." No one could demand our obedience with any more authority or deserve it than the One who Himself perfectly obeyed God’s will and thus became our example of obedience. (—taken and slightly altered from Christianity Magazine; Nov., 1984; Vol 1, No. 11; p. 20).