“He Learned Obedience”
A FATHER looks out the window, watching his young son at play with some friends. Their ball bounces out of the yard and into the street. The boy looks longingly after it. One of his friends urges him to run out into the street to get it, but the boy shakes his head. “I’m not allowed to do that,” he says. The father smiles to himself.
2 Why is the father so pleased? Because he has instructed his son not to go out into the street alone. When the boy obeys—even though he does not know that his father is watching—the father knows that his son is learning obedience and is much safer as a result. That father feels as does our heavenly Father, Jehovah. God knows that if we are to remain faithful and live to see the wonderful future he has in store for us, we must learn to trust in him and obey him. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) To that end, he sent us the best of all human teachers.
3 The Bible says something amazing about Jesus: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Hebrews 5:8, 9) This Son had existed for countless ages in heaven. He saw Satan and his fellow rebel angels disobey, but the firstborn Son never joined them. Inspired prophecy applied these words to him: “I . . . was not rebellious.” (Isaiah 50:5) How, then, could the words “he learned obedience” apply to this perfectly obedient Son? How could such a perfect creature be “made perfect”?
4 Consider an illustration. A soldier has an iron sword. Although it has never been tested in battle, it is perfectly formed and well crafted. However, he trades that sword for one made of a stronger metal, hardened steel. This new sword has already served well in battle. Is that not a wise trade? Similarly, the obedience Jesus demonstrated before he came to the earth was flawless. But after his sojourn here, his obedience was of an altogether different quality. It was now tested, hardened, as it were, and proved by trials that Jesus could never have encountered in heaven.
5 Obedience was central to Jesus’ mission in coming to the earth. As “the last Adam,” Jesus came here to do what our first parent failed to do—remain obedient to Jehovah God, even under test. (1 Corinthians 15:45) Yet, Jesus’ obedience was not mechanical. Jesus obeyed with all his mind, heart, and soul. And he did it with joy. Doing his Father’s will was more important to him than was eating! (John 4:34) What will help us to imitate Jesus’ obedience? Let us first consider his motives. Cultivating motives like his will help us both to resist temptation and to carry out God’s will. We will then review some rewards that result from manifesting Christlike obedience.
Jesus’ Motives for Obedience
6 Jesus’ obedience stemmed from what was in his heart. As we saw in Chapter 3, Christ was humble at heart. Arrogant pride makes people disdain obedience, whereas humility helps us to obey Jehovah willingly. (Exodus 5:1, 2; 1 Peter 5:5, 6) Further, Jesus’ obedience arose from what he loved and from what he hated.
7 Above all, Jesus loved his heavenly Father, Jehovah. That love will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 13. Such love gave rise to Jesus’ godly fear. So intense was his love for Jehovah, so profound his reverence, that he feared to displease his Father. Godly fear was one reason why Jesus’ prayers were favorably heard. (Hebrews 5:7) Fear of Jehovah is also an outstanding mark of Jesus’ rule as Messianic King.—Isaiah 11:3.
8 Love for Jehovah also involves hatred for what Jehovah hates. Note, for example, this prophecy addressed to the Messianic King: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness. That is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your partners.” (Psalm 45:7) Jesus’ “partners” were the other kings in the family line of King David. More than any of them, Jesus has cause for exultation, or intense joy, at his anointing. Why? His reward is far greater than theirs, his kingship infinitely more beneficial. He is rewarded because his love of righteousness and hatred of wickedness moved him to obey God in all things.
9 How did Jesus make his feelings regarding righteousness and wickedness evident? For instance, when his followers obeyed his direction in the preaching work and were blessed as a result, how did Jesus react? He was overjoyed. (Luke 10:1, 17, 21) And when the people of Jerusalem repeatedly showed a disobedient spirit, rejecting his loving efforts to help them, how did Jesus feel? He wept because of that city’s rebellious course. (Luke 19:41, 42) Jesus felt very deeply about conduct both good and bad.
10 Meditating on Jesus’ feelings helps us to examine our own motives for obeying Jehovah. Imperfect though we are, we can cultivate a heartfelt love of good deeds and an earnest hatred of wrong conduct. We need to pray to Jehovah, asking him to help us to cultivate feelings that are like his and like those of his Son. (Psalm 51:10) At the same time, we need to avoid influences that will erode such feelings. Careful choices of entertainment and associations are essential. (Proverbs 13:20; Philippians 4:8) If we cultivate Christlike motives, our obedience will not be a mere formality. We will do what is right because we love to do it. We will avoid wrong deeds, not because we fear getting caught, but because we hate such conduct.
“He Committed No Sin”
11 In regard to his hatred of sin, Jesus was tested early in his ministry. After his baptism, he spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness without food. At the end of that period, Satan came to tempt him. Note how crafty the Devil was.—Matthew 4:1-11.
12 Satan first said: “If you are a son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3) How did Jesus feel after his long fast? The Bible plainly says: “He felt hungry.” (Matthew 4:2) So Satan played on the natural desire for food, no doubt deliberately waiting until Jesus was in a physically weakened state. Notice, too, Satan’s taunting phrase: “If you are a son of God.” Satan knew that Jesus was “the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) Still, Jesus did not allow Satan to provoke him into disobedience. Jesus knew that it was not God’s will that he use his power for selfish ends. He refused to do so, showing that he humbly relied on Jehovah for sustenance and direction.—Matthew 4:4.
13 For his second temptation, Satan took Jesus to a lofty spot on the temple battlement. Cleverly twisting God’s Word, Satan tempted Jesus to make a showy display by hurling himself down from that height so that angels would have to rescue him. If the crowds at the temple saw such a miracle, would anyone thereafter dare raise a doubt that Jesus was the promised Messiah? And if the crowds accepted Jesus as the Messiah on the basis of such showmanship, might Jesus not avoid a lot of hardship and trouble? Perhaps. But Jesus knew that it was Jehovah’s will for the Messiah to carry out his work in a humble manner, not to influence people to believe in him by means of spectacular displays. (Isaiah 42:1, 2) Again, Jesus refused to disobey Jehovah. Fame held no lure for him.
14 What, though, about the lure of power? In his third attempt, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would perform a single act of worship to Satan. Did he seriously consider Satan’s offer? “Go away, Satan!” was his reply. He added: “For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matthew 4:10) Nothing would ever induce Jesus to worship another god. No offer of power or influence in this world would sway him to commit any act of disobedience.
15 Did Satan give up? He did leave at Jesus’ command. However, Luke’s Gospel states that the Devil “retired from him until another convenient time.” (Luke 4:13) Indeed, Satan would find other occasions to test and to tempt Jesus, right down to the end. The Bible tells us that Jesus was “tested in all respects.” (Hebrews 4:15) So Jesus was never able to let down his guard; nor are we.
16 Satan continues to tempt God’s servants today. Sadly, our imperfections often make us easy targets. Satan craftily appeals to selfishness, pride, and greed for power. Using the lure of materialism, Satan may even appeal to all of these at once! It is vital that we pause, at times, for honest self-examination. We do well to meditate on the words of 1 John 2:15-17. As we do, we might ask ourselves if the fleshly desires of this system of things, the yearning for material possessions, and the desire to impress others have to some extent eroded our love for our heavenly Father. We need to remember that this world is on its way out, as is its ruler, Satan. Let us reject his crafty efforts to lure us into sin! May we be inspired by our Master, for “he committed no sin.”—1 Peter 2:22.
“I Always Do the Things Pleasing to Him”
17 Obedience involves far more than refraining from sin; Christ actively carried out his Father’s every command. He declared: “I always do the things pleasing to him.” (John 8:29) This obedience brought Jesus great joy. Of course, some might object that obedience was less complicated for Jesus. They might imagine that he had to answer only to Jehovah, who is perfect, whereas we often have to answer to imperfect humans in positions of authority. The truth is, though, that Jesus was obedient to imperfect humans who had positions of authority.
18 As he was growing up, Jesus was under the authority of his imperfect human parents, Joseph and Mary. Likely, more than most children, he could see flaws in his parents. Did he rebel, stepping out of his God-given role and telling them how to manage a family? Note what Luke 2:51 says of 12-year-old Jesus: “He continued subject to them.” In this obedience, he set an excellent example for Christian youths, who strive to obey their parents and show them due respect.—Ephesians 6:1, 2.
19 When it comes to obeying imperfect humans, Jesus faced challenges that true Christians today never have to face. Consider the unique times in which he lived. The Jewish religious system of things, with its temple in Jerusalem and its priesthood, had long been approved by Jehovah but was about to be cast off and replaced with the Christian congregation arrangement. (Matthew 23:33-38) Meanwhile, many of the religious leaders were teaching falsehoods derived from Greek philosophy. In the temple, corruption had become so rampant that Jesus called it “a cave of robbers.” (Mark 11:17) Did Jesus stay away from that temple and the synagogues? No! Jehovah was still using those arrangements. Until God stepped in and made changes, Jesus obediently went to the temple festivals and the synagogue.—Luke 4:16; John 5:1.
20 If Jesus was obedient under those circumstances, how much more so should true Christians remain obedient today! After all, we live in far different times, the long-foretold era of the restoration of pure worship. God assures us that he will never allow Satan to corrupt his restored people. (Isaiah 2:1, 2; 54:17) Granted, we encounter sins and imperfections within the Christian congregation. But should we use the failings of others as an excuse to disobey Jehovah, perhaps staying away from Christian meetings or becoming critical of the elders? Never! Rather, we heartily support those taking the lead in the congregation. Obediently, we attend Christian meetings and assemblies and apply the Scriptural counsel we receive there.—Hebrews 10:24, 25; 13:17.
21 Jesus never allowed people, even well-meaning friends, to stop him from obeying Jehovah. The apostle Peter, for instance, tried to persuade his Master that it was not necessary to suffer and die. Jesus firmly rejected Peter’s well-intentioned but misguided counsel that Jesus be kind to himself. (Matthew 16:21-23) Today, Jesus’ followers often cope with well-meaning relatives who may try to dissuade them from obeying God’s laws and principles. Like Jesus’ first-century followers, we hold that “we must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
Rewards of Christlike Obedience
22 When Jesus faced death, his obedience was put to the ultimate test. During that dark day, “he learned obedience” in the fullest sense. He did his Father’s will, not his own. (Luke 22:42) In the process, he established a perfect record of integrity. (1 Timothy 3:16) He became the answer to the long-standing question: Can a perfect human remain obedient to Jehovah even under test? Adam had failed, and so had Eve. Then Jesus came, lived, died, and set the record straight. The greatest of all of Jehovah’s creatures gave the strongest possible answer. He obeyed even when obedience cost him dearly.
23 Integrity, or wholehearted devotion to Jehovah, is expressed by obedience. Because Jesus obeyed, he preserved his integrity and benefited all mankind. (Romans 5:19) Jehovah richly rewarded Jesus. If we obey our Master, Christ, Jehovah will reward us as well. Obedience to Christ leads to “everlasting salvation”!—Hebrews 5:9.
24 Further, integrity is a reward in itself. Proverbs 10:9 says: “He that is walking in integrity will walk in security.” If integrity could be likened to a great mansion made of fine bricks, each act of obedience might be compared to an individual brick. A brick may seem insignificant, but each one has its place, its value. And when many are joined together, something of far greater worth is built up. When obedient acts are brought together, one added to the other, day after day and year after year, we build up the beautiful house of our integrity.
25 A course of obedience that stretches over time brings to mind another quality—endurance. That aspect of Jesus’ example is the subject of the next chapter.
How Can You Follow Jesus?
● What are some of Christ’s commands, how may we obey them, and what blessings will result?—John 15:8-19.
● Why should we never worry that obeying Jehovah might deprive us of a happy life?—Luke 11:27, 28.
● What can we learn from Jesus’ willingness to obey a law that did not really apply to him?—Matthew 17:24-27.
1, 2. Why is a loving father pleased to see his son obey him, and how do his feelings reflect Jehovah’s feelings?
3, 4. How is it that Jesus “learned obedience” and was “made perfect”? Illustrate.
5. What made Jesus’ obedience so important, and what will we consider in this chapter?
6, 7. What were some of Jesus’ motives for obedience?
8, 9. As prophesied, how did Jesus feel about righteousness and wickedness, and how did he make those feelings evident?
10. What feelings do we need to cultivate when it comes to righteous deeds and wrong acts, and what will help us do so?
11, 12. (a) What happened to Jesus early in his ministry? (b) How did Satan first tempt Jesus, using what crafty tactics?
13-15. (a) What were Satan’s second and third temptations of Jesus, and how did Jesus respond? (b) How do we know that Jesus was never able to let down his guard against Satan?
16. How does Satan tempt God’s servants today, and how may we reject his efforts?
17. How did Jesus feel about obeying his Father, yet what objection may some raise?
18. As a youth, Jesus set what example in obedience?
19, 20. (a) Jesus faced what unique challenges regarding obedience to imperfect humans? (b) Why should true Christians today be obedient to those taking the lead among them?
21. How did Jesus respond to pressure from humans to disobey God, setting what example for us?
22. Jesus gave the answer to what question, and how?
23-25. (a) How is obedience related to integrity? Illustrate. (b) What is the subject of the next chapter?
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Does your choice of entertainment show that you hate what is bad?
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We obediently apply what we learn at Christian meetings