One of the least mentioned parts of Jesus life may be his subjection to authority and what that means for us. Not just the authority to the Sanhedrin, the Romans, and Jewish law. He was ever faithful and subject to the authority of God, his Father. And, to his mother and father.
Image by Engin Akyurt
By John Pearring
One of the least mentioned parts of Jesus' life may be his subjection to authority and what that means for us. Not just the authority to the Sanhedrin, the Romans, and Jewish law. He was ever faithful and subject to the authority of God, his Father. And, to his mother and father.
Jesus’ intentional subjugation to the life of a human being brought him frustration, derision, and hunger. These consequences of being human are familiar. Jesus expressed every emotional reaction to authority figures that we too have deeply felt. Jesus reacted, though, without condemning the truth or arguing with God. The setting aside of his own will as a model for us is rarely vocalized in our shared conversations, though the incidents are astounding, beginning with today’s gospel.
And he said to them (when he was just a boy), “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
The next verse reveals how we should react.
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
Jesus, according to the will of his Father, remained obedient to his parents. The only record of him challenging his parents (Cana Wedding) ended in him responding to their authority as if it came from the Father. Consider the many times Jesus’ spoke about will and authority. In all cases, the will of the ‘Father’ remains his focus.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13-14)
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matthew 11:27)
As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. (John 6:57)
Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:15)
My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will. (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus’ bending of his will to that of the Father God is clear and consistent. Such selfless result is uncharacteristic for us. I believe we balk because of our difficulty with the place of humility and how others perceive us. This is not just an American problem. It’s in human DNA. We do not automatically, much less willing, live as accomplices and friends of Jesus over our own wills. A conversion is necessary before we can do that. Our lives are primarily in synch with the world, not with God. We think of Jesus as special, uniquely in tune with God. We often couch Jesus’ specialty as beyond our capabilities. Copying Jesus’ selfless consideration of God’s will seems anti-human.
Like obeying his parents, Jesus reveals that the authority to those given over us is a mark of the Father.
Christians start out as flesh, like everyone else. While most Catholics fall into their religion because of parents, enjoying a primarily childish relationship to God in the sacraments, we inevitably only give over our wills to God’s Holy Spirit when we mature into adults. Converts more eagerly submit to that necessary part of Catholic commitment, aware of the full meaning of faith.
Submitting to God may be the biggest reason people abandon the faith. Even for the most committed, a battle to be faithful to God in all things continues throughout our life. Literature, movies, and most other art forms are largely based upon this shared conflict. We don’t enjoy being corrected or veered off our willful desires. Everyone, Catholics and Christians included, bristle at the notion that someone else can hold us accountable.
Humans are beyond mere grudging. We’re defiant. For instance, it takes more courage to apologize in public than to stand up to evil. Both are difficult, but heroism helps motivates the bold believer into action, while admitting our failures looks like weakness. Give us a good shouting match and even a fistfight. But to bow our heads and affirm our weaknesses? Maybe in secret.
Bending our will to God requires God’s help. I don’t know the statistics, but I suspect most of us are forcibly brought to our knees before we give in to God. The initial cajoling by the Holy Spirit to believe and trust in God rarely converts.
Something new happened with Jesus’ gift to us of the Holy Spirit. We must accept his indwelling, but even that does not make us perfect. We have the gifted capability of Jesus’ humility and can tap into his keen focus upon the Father’s will. Still, God knows we can’t continue alone. We need to go to the Father. Jesus’ personal relationship to he Father is also possible for us because with God we can emulate the authority calling to us from the Father, and through the Holy Spirit, as taught and exemplified by Jesus.
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Dismissal of our shared divinity in Christ will come back to haunt us. By not cooperating with God’s will, and accepting his help to do so, we are stopping God’s authority from taking place. Allowing God’s will to be revealed to us means we will next be challenged to follow him.