Learning Obedience

By Pastor Teck Uy

In serving the Lord, it is only when we get to the point of actually making some sacrifices that we receive the blessings. Though we know that there are promised blessings that come with our faithful service, we do not realize that we need to make some sacrifices for the blessings to come. It is in actually serving and making sacrifices that we eventually learn that God is faithful in all his promises. This was the exact experience of Jesus when we are told in Scripture that “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). It was in actually experiencing the suffering of a man that he learned what it means to obey.

When reading this portion of Scripture (Heb. 5:8), many think that Jesus was disobedient and he suffered as a consequence. This thought is completely out of line with the Scriptures that say that Jesus was obedient to the point of death. The truth is that Jesus did not come to learn “how” to obey. Rather, he came to learn the true meaning of obedience. We all have the right concept of obedience, but unless we ourselves submit to someone, we will never know what it really means to obey. True obedience is not just following orders and instructions, but submitting fully, even to the point of denying ourselves. No wonder Jesus had to say, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

As for Jesus’ obedience to the Father, he submitted fully without precondition. He did not withhold even his own life. It would have been easy for him to say “No” to the Father, but even to the end, he said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for Thee; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). Because of his complete obedience, he received the greatest reward: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). This could have not happened if he did not submit to the Father in complete obedience.

With what he suffered, as a man, in the hands of wicked men, Jesus learned that it was not easy for us to obey the commands to live holy lives. There are temptations that confront us every day and we always think that no one else can fully identify with us in those temptations because we believe that our situation is unique. However, with what Jesus had gone through, we are now told:  “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18). Therefore, there is no more reason for us not to resist temptation the way he did. He set a pattern for us and we should be able to overcome just like him.

The reality in life is that we can never learn something well unless we go through it ourselves. The reason why Jesus can fully identify with us is that he himself had gone through every perceivable situation we can be in. He even went through extreme temptation but he overcame it without sinning. In the same manner, we are expected not to yield to any temptation. While we may argue that Jesus was able to overcome it because he is God, we must remember that he “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). When he was here, he was just like you and me. Therefore, we should also be able to overcome just as he overcame without sinning. Besides, we shall overcome not because we are able to do it on our own but because Jesus is in us.

Our struggle with obedience is due to the thought that it is not worth it. However, Jesus’ obedience proved that it is well worth obeying, even to the point of death. Therefore, “let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16). Hallelujah!