Why did Jesus have to learn obedience?

There is much controversy and debate as to the person, nature, and role of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it is best to see what the Bible says, which is in fact very clear.

Jesus was tempted in all points as we are

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

How are we tempted? “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1:14. All of us have a desire to do our own will (sin in the flesh) and are tempted to do it. Jesus was tempted as we are, which means He also had this desire, because He voluntarily partook of the same flesh that we have. However, He never gave in to these desires, so His temptation did not result in a conception, and was therefore “without sin” – Jesus never committed sin.

Jesus had His own will, which He denied

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

Jesus prayed that God’s will be done rather than His own, because this will was at odds with God’s will. If He had followed His own will, he would have had to disobey God. However, as always, God’s will was done in Jesus’ body, and the result was that He overcame sin, and we received the possibility to be saved!

Jesus humbled Himself and came in the likeness of men

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8.

You could think that the ultimate act of humility was when Jesus made Himself of no reputation and was born on earth as a human being. But here it says that it was as a man that he humbled Himself. That was because as a human being He had a will that was at odds with God’s will and which had to be denied and crucified. In other words, though He had the opportunity, Jesus never sinned, and Paul goes on to write. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name …” Philippians 2:9-11.

Jesus had to fight and obey to be saved from sin and death

“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Hebrews 5:7-9.

Death is the wages of sin. To be saved from death, Jesus had to battle and deny His own natural inclinations. He had to learn to learn to obey God’s will because He had a flesh, His own will. This led to suffering in the flesh, but in doing so He overcame all sin. We are now called to do the same. (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Jesus tells us to follow Him on the way of self-denial

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-25.

Jesus said that we must come after Him, which means going the same way that He did. He says Himself that this is the way of self-denial – denying those lusts and desires in the flesh that all people, including Jesus, are born with, and putting them to death on the cross we bear. If we continue following Him on this way, we will end up where He is.

Jesus was “made like His brethren”

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-17.

Jesus was made like us. Not similar to us, not with any special privileges, not with anything added or missing. No, He was made like His brethren in all things. This included being tempted – like His brethren, so from the same source, the lust and desires in His own flesh. In the strength of God’s Spirit, Jesus was the first person ever to overcome all sin in the flesh. In doing so He opened a way for us to follow. Having been tempted, He knows the way out, and has sent us His Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us.

The fact that the our Savior is Christ, manifested in the flesh – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man – means that the salvation comes not only through forgiveness of committed sins, but much more by following Him on the way of self-denial that He opened up, thus becoming completely transformed to His image. It was a human being that He opened this way, and it as human beings that we follow Him. We are His brethren!

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



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