Summary: There are different ways to "encourage" obedience. As we study Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience, God teaches us obedience to the Law through the Gospel.
The Second Sunday of Easter
The philosophy for dog obedience training has changed quite a bit in the last few decades. It used to be that many dog obedience schools operated by teaching the dog, “you better obey me, because I’m your master. And if you don’t obey me, bad things will happen.” And plenty of dogs were trained this way, and trained well. They obeyed, but they obeyed out of fear. But now there has been a shift in the thinking of many trainers, though some still do it the old way. If the old way was punishing disobedience, the new way could be characterized as rewarding obedience. In this new way of training, you don’t strike the dog, you don’t yell at him any more than a firm “no!” But whenever you catch him doing something good, he gets praise and rewards. The thinking here is that the dog is going to want to do the things that make you happy, because positive things happen to him when you are happy.
Both obedience philosophies get results, but they produce very different dogs. The old way produces a dog that is terrified to do the wrong thing. The new way produces a dog that is eager to do the right thing. And these two schools of thought work not just for dogs, but maybe you’ve seen children raised by these two ways. And this should be nothing new for us, since basically we are talking about the difference between Law motivation and Gospel motivation. In our lives, sometimes we do things, like hitting the brakes when you see a cop car, that would be obeying out of Law motivation. It is the fear of punishment that motivates you to slow down. But now let’s say that you are driving your children in the car with you. You are so happy for the gift of a family that God has given you, that you want to drive as carefully as possible, and so you don’t even think about breaking the speed limit. That would be Gospel motivation. You are motivated by thanks and love.
This morning, the Lord takes us all to obedience school. Sometimes, he uses the Law to motivate. But he would much rather use the Gospel to get his people to obey. That’s what he’s going to do this morning. We are going to look at Jesus, who is our motivator, our pattern, and our Savior. We will take a look at his brand of obedience, which consisted of two parts: the Active Obedience of Jesus, and the Passive Obedience of Jesus.
Every once in a while, there is a passage that you read from the Bible, you read it again, and you are still a little puzzled about what exactly it was saying. Maybe that’s what you thought when you heard our sermon text this morning, the first half of verse 6, where St. John writes, “This is the one who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.” What on earth does this passage mean, with Jesus and water and blood? Maybe you thought, “this passage must be talking about the Sacraments. Water – that must be a reference to Holy Baptism. Blood – that must be a reference to Holy Communion.” That would be a good guess, but that’s not what this passage is talking about. While it is true that Jesus does come to us through the waters of Baptism, and he does come to us through his blood in the Lord’s Supper, look at this passage again, “this is the one who came by water and blood.” St. John isn’t talking about something that happens in the present, he’s referring to something that happened it the past. In an almost poetic way, John is talking about two pinnacle moments in the life of Jesus. One of these moments has to do with water. The other event has to do with blood.
And there is where we see that this is a text that is all about obedience – the obedience of Jesus Christ. The first part of Christ’s obedience had to do with water. And this does refer to Baptism, but not the Baptism that Christ gave us, rather the Baptism that he underwent under the ministry of his cousin, John the Baptist.
Why did Jesus get baptized? Did you ever think of that? I mean, if Baptism takes away our sins and creates faith in our hearts, that wasn’t really anything that Jesus needed. He had no sins to be forgiven of. And of course he had a perfect faith in his Heavenly Father. Perhaps you even remember that John tried to convince Jesus not to get baptized. So what was the point of Jesus being baptized if he didn’t need it? One word: obedience. You see, a lot of times we talk about how Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins so that we would go to heaven, but that was only half of Jesus’ work. He had to do something else to save us. Since we people don’t do a very good job of keeping God’s laws, Jesus also had to do that for us. This is what we call “the Active Obedience of Christ.” And part of this Active Obedience was Jesus getting baptized. He underwent this, not for his benefit, but for ours. Jesus did that so that we could be sure that everything that we need to do to get to heaven was done – by him! Jesus was actively obedient for you!