Summary: Through submission I learn to trust Jesus more and more.
Paul Miller, the author of Love Walked Among Us, begins teaching seminars by writing these words on a flip chart: "I do nothing on my own. I can only do what I see my dad doing." Then, he asks for analysis of this statement from the audience. Typical responses that he hears are these, "The son sounds weak; he's helpless. Does he have a mind of his own? If he’s an adult, he needs a little separation from his dad. Has this person been to counseling? The son is not healthy. He's a child. If he’s an adult, he's codependent." Miller writes in his book, “After I’ve let the hook go deep, I tell them that Jesus said those words.” – “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does . . . .By myself I can do nothing . . . ” (John 5:19, John 5:30).
What Jesus is talking about is submission. He's teaching us what submission is and showing us what it looks like.
In Romans 13 the first thing Paul teaches us in this chapter is that we must submit to authority. Of course we know all authority belongs to Jesus because God gave it to Him. Jesus followers submit to authority because we love God and we want to obey Jesus. This is why we do everything we do. We learn submission by obeying laws and we practice submission by loving others. Through submission I learn to trust Jesus more and more.
Everyone has an authority they answer to. Jesus did too. Even the Son of God had a Father and Jesus submitted to His Father, until God gave Him all authority over heaven and earth after His resurrection. When we're children our parents are that authority. As we grow up other authority figures are introduced. As we submit to the authority of these teachers, police officers, judges, bosses, church leaders, and other authority figures we learn what submission really is. Why do we learn to submit to authority from the day we're born? Because it's for our good.
When I was two years old my mom was ironing clothes. She commanded many times, "do not touch the iron." But I was two. I was just beginning to learn about obedience and submission, I'm still learning. My mother knew that if I touched the hot iron I would be severely burned. I disobeyed her. There is a burn mark on my finger to this day that is a daily reminder that I should always trust my mom. Submission and trust are linked. We submit to those we trust and we tend to disobey those we don't. Through submission I learn to trust Jesus more and more.
The only exception is when human authority is commanding you to disobey God.
Luke relates an episode in the life of Peter and some of the apostles in Acts 5 where they are arrested for teaching people about Jesus. “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” The court demanded a response and Peter calmly replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority"
Sometimes you'll be told that you can't share your faith in Jesus in the workplace or at school. Sometimes your convictions will be challenged by authority. In those moments you must answer as Peter, "I must obey God rather than any human authority." But this kind of stand takes a lot of courage. This kind of faith only endures as trust in Jesus Christ grows. A Jesus follower must submit to every human authority; a command to disobey God is the only exception. We submit to those we trust.
I believe that one of the most misunderstood words in the Bible is submit or submission. Church leaders have misused the word to create power for themselves. The word has been used to diminish women. I`ve listened as preachers use Ephesians 5:22 to teach a wife she must not leave a physically abusive husband. It's easy for men to quote Ephesians 5:22 but they need to quote the verse right before it, too, "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." That's right. Submission is mutual. Women submit to husbands who submit to their wives and both do so out of reverence for who Jesus is.
Remember what Jesus showed us in John 13 when He washed His disciples feet? He was showing submission to His followers. The King of kings submitted to His followers by taking the job of a slave and washing the caked mud off of their feet. And then He said this, "...I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you."