Why the obedience of Jesus matters for us

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. — Hebrews 5:8

Obedience gets a bad rap in some corners in this age. After all, if you are an assertive, goal-oriented person in the Western World, obedience is not one of the virtues that ranks high on your list. A quick search with Google of news stories about obedience brings up warnings to avoid “blind obedience” when it comes to the president or else a series of stories regarding pets.

Yet, when we look at Jesus and his death, we are told in verses like the one above that he learned obedience through his sufferings. Does that mean he had to learn to stop disobeying? No, because the Bible again and again teaches that he was sinless. In I Peter 2:22 it says Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” He wasn’t getting rid of some imperfections. Instead, Hebrews 2:10 gives some insight behind what his sufferings were accomplishing:

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Rather than making Jesus into a more perfect person, God was making Jesus into a more perfect sacrifice for us through the things he suffered. Even though Jesus was perfect and God, he still was human. And we can see that he experienced everything as we do when he lived on earth: hunger (Matthew 21:18) anger and grief (Mark 3:5) and pain (Matthew 17:12). The ESV Study Bible concurs on this view: In saying that Jesus was made perfect, the author is not suggesting that Jesus was sinful  but that as he lived his life, his maturity and experience deepened, yet always with full obedience to the Father. As a human being, he needed to live his life and obey God (which he did perfectly) to become the perfect sacrifice for sins.

In Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, John Piper puts the perfect obedience of Jesus into perspective:

If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man. His suffering not only absorbed the wrath of God. It also fulfilled his true humanity and made him able to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17). (Page 25)

So, we can rejoice in the obedience of Jesus to His Father. Through it, we were not only given a perfect sacrifice for our sins, but we were also given a special closeness to him that goes beyond advocate. He can understand and sympathize with our situation like no one else can.

The beautiful and perfect obedience of Christ

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. — 2 Timothy 1:9

A truly amazing part of the death of Jesus Christ was that it was done willingly, out of perfect obedience to His Father. Returning once again to Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, we see John Piper put it this way (my emphasis):

Jesus did not wrestle his angry Father to the floor of heaven and take the whip out of his hand. He did not force him to be mer- ciful to humanity. His death was not the begrudging consent of God to be lenient to sinners. No, what Jesus did when he suffered and died was the Father’s idea. It was a breathtaking strategy, conceived even before creation, as God saw and planned the history of the world. That is why the Bible speaks of God’s “purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

The idea that God had planned for the death of Jesus to satisfy justice before any history took place is astounding and shows God’s great love. As we have talked about, it is a high standard that God sets, but it is an equally great love He shows in providing a way for us who fall way short of that standard. The fact that it says in Ephesians 5:2 that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” shows that not only was the death of Jesus a willing act of love, but that it pleased His Father at the same time.

We have been saved not by some begrudging arm twisting, but by a beautiful act of obedience. It is well worth our time to consider this and worship the one who has not only planned this by done it for us out of love.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. — the words of Jesus in John 10:17-18

The demand for justice: He had to die. The bountiful love: He provided a substitute.

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. — Romans 3:25 (ESV)

Continuing from our post yesterday, we are looking further at the death of Jesus and why it matters so much to us today. There are two sides to the death of Jesus, namely: It is a just act and it is a loving act.

The reason it is a just act is because God is just and the punishment for sin demands a price. After all, in Deuteronomy 6:5 it says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That is a high standard that no one has achieved. It’s not that we don’t try to achieve that, it’s that we can’t fully. Sin itself is preferring something else to God, and we do it all the time in the choices we make. We show our love is greater for other things rather than for God. That is why the Bible also says in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So what is that price? The price is death and punishment. In Fifty Reasons Why Christ Suffered and Died, John Piper says “[S]in is not small, because it is not against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore, failure to love him is not trivial—it is treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness.”

If God were to brush sin aside or put it under the rug, it would make Him smaller and make him less worthy of worship. But God is at war with sin and has made clear through the Bible what that means. “For the wages of sin is death” it says in Romans 3:23 and “The soul that sins shall die” it says in Ezekiel 18:4. Clearly there is a consequence to sin, and justice is demanded from a holy God.

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The purpose in the passion of Jesus Christ: Why one man’s death matters

This month, like every other month, christianaudio.com is offering a free download of an audiobook. In fact, this month’s deal is even better than in past months because they are offering not one but two free downloads: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” is free along with John Piper’s “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die.”  If these books are not in your library, then this is a great time to add them. To get them for free, all you have to do is go to the page for each audiobook, add it to your cart and then when asked for add coupons or promotion codes enter MAR2010 for the Bonhoeffer audiobook and MAR2010B for the Piper audiobook. After that you will be given a page with the files to download.

Since we are in the lenten season and Easter is just over a month away, I thought it would be good to look through “Fifty Reasons” and see why it matters — not just for Christians, but for all of humanity — why Jesus came to die. It has been said that there is no one who has anyone against Jesus. After all, he is viewed by people of all stripes favorably depending on your world view and what you seek to advance. His death by crucifixion brings the most important question of that time or any time in history: Why did Jesus have to die?

Beyond the human cause, which some would point to, there is a deeper cause if you explore the Bible. John Piper explains in the introduction of  “Fifty Reasons”:

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah said, “It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). The Christian New Testament says, “[God] did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). “God put [Christ] forward . . . by his blood, to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).

But how does this divine act relate to the horribly sinful actions of the men who killed Jesus? The answer given in the Bible is expressed in an early prayer: “There were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus . . . both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). The depth and scope of this divine sovereignty takes our breath away. But it is also the key to our salvation. God planned it, and by the means of wicked men, great good has come to the world. To paraphrase a word of the Jewish Torah: They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20).

And since God meant it for good, we must move beyond the question of human cause to divine purpose. The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the purpose—the meaning. Man may have his reasons for wanting Jesus out of the way. But only God can design it for the good of the world. In fact, God’s pur- poses for the world in the death of Jesus are unfathomable. I am scraping the surface in this little book as I introduce you to fifty of them. My aim is to let the Bible speak. This is where we hear the word of God. I hope that these pointers will set you on an endless quest to know more and more of God’s great design in the death of his Son.

There is so much to learn from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is my hope that we will spend less time thinking about meals, clothes, candy and gatherings at Easter and more about what the Jesus Christ accomplished not only in history but for our lives. In the coming days I will be going through the chapters of this little book. If you are not a big reader (and it is not a big book at all to read), you can go download the audiobook for free so you can follow along. If you do like to read, Desiring God offers the book for free online as a PDF download. Either way, take some time to think about the death of the most important man in history and what purpose it served.