One of the passages that comes into focus as we approach Holy Week is Isaiah 52:13–53:12. This is the poem of the suffering servant which foretold Jesus’ substitutionary death.
One of the things that often gets overlooked in the passage is the complete obedience of the servant. Rightfully so, the typical focus of the passage is that there would be one who would bear the sins of all as a substitute. This is only possible, however, because the servant is…well, a servant; he is obedient. He does what the Master asks of him.
In Philippians 2 Paul urges the believers at Philippi to have the same mind that was in Christ. He then goes on to describe how Christ was obedient to death, even death on a cross. The text says:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5–11)
Jesus told his followers that he only did what he saw his Father doing (Jn 5:19), or what his Father asked him to do (Jn 8:29). Often times what his Father asked him to do must have been thrilling. If God told me to go walk on water, heal people, cast out demons, and preach the Good News, I would be thrilled, just as the seventy were when they came back. Luke 10:17 says, “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, ‘Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!’”
It would be an entirely other matter however, if God asked me to go get beaten, stripped bare, and nailed to a cross for something I didn’t do. This is where obedience becomes something altogether different. There’s no thrill in that.
Nonetheless, Christ obeyed. He was completely obedient in all things.
As Paul makes clear in the Philippians passage, it is possible for us also to be completely obedient. He tells the Philippians to do so. In fact, the very purpose of Christ’s suffering was precisely for our complete obedience. His death was so horrific because he bore the entirety of sin. He didn’t bear some of the sin of the world, but all of the sin of the world. He was obedience first on every point so that we could follow him in the same manner.
As we approach Holy Week, have the same mind that was in you as what in Christ when he was completely obedient. Honor the efficacy of the suffering of Christ with holiness.