It is historically safe to say that there has never been any other human being like Jesus. The early church was insistent that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. That was, and is, a difficult concept to understand! They claimed it because they were completely amazed at the life, words and works of Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews says this about Jesus: During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… (Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV) I love that phrase, “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Reverent submission is exactly what God is looking for in the lives of all people who seek to follow Jesus.
Yet too often we offer something besides reverent submission. Many choose “irreverent rebellion” – the path of the prodigal who seeks to navigate through the world on the basis of being obedient to their own desires. This path is marked with heartache and tragedy, but even with all the evidence saying this is a bad road, everyday many people walk this path. Irreverent rebellion is a crowded road, but it only leads further away from the will of God in our lives. The sooner you realize that irreverent rebellion will never become the basis for a meaningful life of faith the better, so you can take the off-ramp of repentance and begin making your way home.
The other crowded path – and alternative to reverent submission – is “irreverent submission,” which I take to be the practice of legalism. The practice of irreverent submission looks better than irreverent rebellion, at least on the surface, because it does not leave such an obvious trail of heartbreak and tragedy. Yet it is actually a much harder road and it is difficult to find the off ramp because like the prodigal’s older brother you despise the disobedient as a defense against feeling that you have missed out on the wild side of life. Irreverent submission can be defined as righteousness without joy (a false righteousness if there ever was one!). The pride that builds in your heart makes the idea of repentance repugnant. While you can get off this road, it usually takes a major train wreck to make it happen.
Jesus was remarkable because he did not practice “irreverent rebellion” or “irreverent submission” like so many others, but he willingly and excitedly embraced reverent submission as the path for his life. It lead straight to the cross – an unimaginable horror – but on the other side was glory. His first disciples saw his life, death and resurrection and had to construct new categories for it! God helped them by giving them the category of Son of God – fully God and fully human. It was his obedience that created such an amazing life.
Now he calls us to reverent submission – a life of obedience to our Savior.
- Kenny Payne