Whether you are a spouse, a parent, a child, an employee, an employer, a student, a teacher, a citizen of a country, a member of a church, or any combination of these things, your every-day interactions involve authority and submission. For most of us, mentioning the topic of authority and submission brings with it feelings of fear, anxiety, regret, guilt, and/or shame from a lifetime of repeated failures in these areas. Husbands don’t always use their authority to serve their spouse. Wives don’t perfectly submit in everything to their husbands. Parents exasperate their children sinfully with their misuse of authority. Children fail to honor and obey their parents in every interaction. Workers fail to honor bosses. Bosses fail to exercise perfect care and kindness towards their employees. Even the best of us are humans at best.
While reading through the gospel of John in family worship, our family just arrived at John 17. This chapter invites humans into the perfect relational intimacy between God the Father and God the Son. In reading the first 5 verses of this prayer, I was once again gripped and brought to stunned bewilderment, deep repentance, and heart blazing gratitude for Jesus’ perfect WAY of submitting under authority and exercising authority to serve. Since I was so helped, I wanted to jot down a few thoughts that may be a help to you as you wrestle to use authority and submission in your everyday living.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:1-5 ESV)
Jesus’ submission is astounding! We see it in verse one where even His posture while praying shows submission. Jesus turns His eyes upward towards His Father in heaven when He speaks to Him. Jesus had no trouble giving eye contact to His Father. He didn’t get distracted by lesser things while praying. His mind never drifted off into the deep sea of nothingness while speaking with His Father. From His posture to His careful use of each word, Jesus is fully engaged as He interacts with God the Father.
The first words that Jesus speaks to His Father in this prayer indicate that He is fully aware of the suffering soon coming upon Him. When Jesus says, “The hour has come” He is referring to the hour of His betrayal and death on the cross. In verse 4, when Jesus says, “having accomplished the work that you gave me to do,” Jesus is proclaiming that He submitted perfectly by obeying His Father in every instruction. Jesus never cut a corner. He never wriggled out from under a hard command. He never delayed in His obedience. He obeyed in every way all the way to the cross. He resisted temptation to the point of shedding His own blood. From His posture to His costly surrender, Jesus was, is, and will always be perfectly submissive to His Father.
If Jesus is perfect in His submission, Jesus is also perfect in His use of authority! Through being God and through His perfect obedience, Jesus is granted authority from God the Father over all flesh (see verse 2). This authority allows Jesus the right to give eternal life to all whom the Father has given to Him. Astounding. Jesus lives a perfect life, always making it His food to do His Father’s will. Jesus never sins and is thus granted authority to give eternal life to all who belong to Him. That is an utterly kind way to use that authority, especially since its recipients are far from worthy. By right, every human deserves wrath, condemnation, and eternal punishment in hell. BUT Jesus uses His authority to GIVE eternal life to those who have been given to Him. This indeed is lavish grace!
And there’s more. If you belong to Jesus, if you’ve been born again, if you have come under the cleansing blood of His sacrifice, then His perfect submission and use of authority belongs to you! For every Mom who has failed to use her authority well in every instance, for every husband who has been selfish towards his wife, for every worker who has slacked off from an assignment, hear this good word: Jesus’ PEREFCT submission to His Father belongs to you! When you believed, His righteousness was freely given to you. When you trusted in Him for your salvation, His obedience became your obedience. His perfection became your record. His submission to His Father has been accounted to you! You are no longer condemned because Jesus took your condemnation when He deserved none. Won’t you take His perfect righteousness? Won’t you freely confess your sins and failures to Him? Though your sins be as scarlet, and your guilt be as common as the rain, He has made you white as snow. Doesn’t this, shouldn’t this, won’t this change everything increasingly for you and your use of authority and submission for the rest of your days!