The Obedience of Christ
One of the most profound deathbed confessions came from Prof. J. Gresham Machen, the founder of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. As he laid suffering in a North Dakota hospital bed, he sent a telegram to his friend and fellow professor John Murray on the very morning of his death. The telegram read: “I am so thankful for the active obedience of Jesus Christ. Without that there was no hope.”
As we read the Scriptures we are in awe for the obedience Jesus demonstrated throughout His life of 33 years on earth. It was like an art He perfected – His submission to the will of the Father. Never did He think of His own way. One can say that Jesus left an exhibition of
pictures of His obedience behind for His followers to see and remember. As we journey on the Via Dolorosa with our Lord, He brings those images before us of how He demonstrated unconditional obedience to His Father. We see the image at the temple when He was just a little boy and His parents were looking for Him and after three days they found Him. His response was, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Obedience to the Father Who sent Him had preference. There is the image at the Jordan River of Him been baptized by John the Baptist. To John that was something impossible to do for Jesus and he said, “I need to be baptized by You, and do
You come to me?” In perfect obedience to follow the Father’s way Jesus replied, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” And then my friends, we have the pictures of Gethsemane and Golgotha before us – the obedience to death on a cross in the
end. His obedience had no boundaries!
Our passage from Hebrews speaks about 1 The Price Of Our Saviour's Obedience. We read in verse 7, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth.” We should stop here for a moment when we meditate on Jesus’ obedience, because too many people in the world don’t have a comprehension what His life on earth was about. Someone made the comment that when Jesus came down to earth and took our human nature it was like He put on a costume. After He accomplished what the Father asked of Him, He just took off the
costume. No my friends, it was more than a play. God took upon Himself something He never had before, something the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were never before, for God is Spirit. The obedience Jesus demonstrated was to become a man – a human being in any form we can think of. He was at the same time Creator and creature; infinite and finite; limitless and limited. It was at a price when Jesus made the decision of being made in human
likeness. He experienced every moment of His suffering to the fullest extend – He felt the pain of the beatings He received from the chief priests and the flogging of the soldiers. He felt the pain when nails were driven through His hands and the whole time on the cross, He felt the strain on His body – yes the cup He pleaded with His Father not to take, He had to take. There are those who believe that Jesus’ divinity swallowed His humanity when His suffering
reached a point that became humanly intolerable. That my friends, is just not true – our Saviour took the full penalty of the world’s sin upon Himself. Again we hear the words of Isaiah’s prophecy, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.” Louis Berkhof once put it like this: “The way of obedience was for Him at the same time a way of suffering. He suffered from the repeated assaults of Satan, from the hatred and unbelief of His own people, and from the persecution of His enemies. Since He
trod the wine-press alone, His loneliness must have been oppressive, and His sense of responsibility, crushing.” Can we just pause for a moment and think of the Son of God on the cross? Of that moment in time He hung between heaven and earth – heaven couldn’t have Him and earth didn’t want Him. He was the only One Who could take the price of salvation upon Himself. It asked everything and He gave everything. The apostle Peter reminds his
readers of the expensive price of Jesus’ atonement, 1 Peter 1:18, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect.”
We learn from Hebrews 5 that 2 Our Saviour's Obedience Was Complete. There are two things in this passage the writer says about the completeness of Christ’s obedience. The first is found in the last part of verse 7, “and He was heard because of His reverent submission.” This is equivalent of saying that God the Father listened when His Son spoke these words of affirmation, “Father I did what You sent me to do.” And my friends, from the moment Jesus arrived back in heaven, He became the One to be heard by the
Father on our behalf. When a Christian prays, he is not heard by God because of who he is or what he has accomplished. Rather, the Father hears us only because we have a Mediator and High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, Jesus had no mediator. He had no high priest between Him and His Father. His role as the second Adam demanded that He perform all the duties of that covenant perfectly and without a mediator or priest to go between Him and God.
And Jesus fulfilled this perfectly. His obedience was lacking nothing; it was complete!
But there is something else in the writer’s text that shows us the completeness of Christ’s obedience – verse 9, “And once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” What does the writer mean when he says that Christ was
“made perfect”? Christ was made perfect in the sense that He finished the course set before Him. He actively obeyed the Father and suffered everything which He was called to suffer, even His death on the cross. Having done all of this, He was “perfected.” Just as God looked at the beginning at what He created and said, “It is good” He looked at what His Son accomplished and saw perfection. Jesus completed everything His Father required. There were words of completion He spoke on the cross, “It is finished!” Archaeologists have repeatedly found the Latin expression “consummatum est”, scribbled across tax receipts used in those days. It means "paid." A renowned Presbyterian professor has commented that
many standing near the cross probably interpreted the Savior’s words as having that connotation. With sin’s account settled, our debt of guilt was indeed wiped out! I think we all have experienced the great relief when the last payment of a debt was done and we came to the realization, “No more payments needed.” The Hebrew author brings the wonderful affirmation this morning – “Christ was made perfect in the price He paid for your salvation! It was completed. You are debt free.”
There is a last thought the author of Hebrews brings to us – 3 Be Obedient As Jesus Was Obedient. Listen to the condition in verse 9b, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” Lent confronts us – “Have you already placed your all on the altar? Are you willing to be mocked and made ridicule by many? Will you
endure the shame with Jesus?” Let’s never forget my friends, the obedience of our Lord to submit Himself to His Father, has become our obedience. As we continue our Lenten journey, we should remind ourselves of the lyrics of the hymn, “Will you come and follow me?”
Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Our Lord lived a perfect life of obedience as He gave everything of Himself to us. Are we willing to follow in His example?
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall