And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
I have had reason this week to think about the nature of Jesus’ obedience in going to the cross.
Back in the 1950s a psychologist by the name of Stanley Milgram carried out an experiment to see how far people would go in being obedient to commands. His studies involved placing participants in a room and directing them to deliver electrical shocks to a “learner” located in another room. What the participants didn’t know was that the person supposedly receiving the shocks was actually in on the experiment and was acting out responses to imaginary shocks. Surprisingly, Milgram found that over 60 percent of participants were willing to deliver the maximum level of shocks on the orders of the experimenter.
The terrorists who have attacked Brussels this week were being obedient to orders. Obedience is not always positive and life-giving.
What was the nature of Jesus’ obedience? What is it that makes his obedience something for which to be thankful? I think it comes down to whose voice he was listening to.
He was obedient to his Father all through his life. At age 12 in the Temple he showed his earthly parents that he had another voice he was responding to: ‘Didn’t you realise that I should be involved with my Father’s affairs?’ (Luke 2:49).
His obedience was neither a foregone conclusion nor easy for him. His struggle in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was the moment when his decision was made to be obedient to death: ‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine.’ (Mark 14:36)
The context and motivation for Jesus’ obedience was always one of love. The love of God displayed within the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, was always extended outwards to humanity, even though we humans could never be obedient to all God desires for his creatures. We need a Saviour. So, Jesus was obedient because we cannot be. ‘In my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood’.
Whose voice are you listening to as you go through life? The voice of authority? The voice of power? The voice that coerces? Or are you listening to the voice of love that echoes down the centuries from a cross on Calvary? Our obedience then becomes a joyful response of gratitude.