There is a glorious freedom in subjection, which seems to be the opposite of what the word “subjection” actually means. So let us explore what Christ teaches us concerning this mysterious discipline. What we will find is that this notion is not a suggestion but rather a direct call to obedience. The beauty of this condition of the heart is that it ushers us onto the narrow path, or what the Apostle Paul calls, the Way. For, without this clearly marked path into subjection, we miss what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ; and therefore, we miss all that God has for us as His children.
First, let me point out a structural element found in Luke, Chapter 9. Now, we know that the Bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and based on that Truth, we need to notice His intent not only in content but also in the very specific order in which it is presented.
Let me outline it simply first, and then we will unpack it so we can digest it and wholly bring it to bear.
- Subjection of Christ to Father, vs. 22: Christ tells His disciples that He must suffer and die.
- Subjection of the Beloved to Father, vss. 23-24: Christ tells His disciples that they too must “take up their cross”, and in order to gain their true life, they must lose it.
- Subjection of the Beloved to Christ, vss. 29-35: The transfiguration shows Christ’s glory, and Father confirms Christ’s deity.
- Subjection of the Beloved to One Another, vs. 48: Here, Jesus defines greatness as subjection to one another.
For edification, let us define the word “subjection”. Webster defines the English word as, “to bring under control or dominion, to make (as oneself) amenable to the discipline and control of a superior.” And the Greek word is hypotasso, meaning, “to subordinate; reflexively, to obey:—be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.” These definitions will guide us into what Christ is teaching us here. Also, be aware that a similar word in English meaning the same thing, is the word submit.
We first must address the subjection of Christ to Father. In perfect obedience, Jesus will soon walk the lonely and torturous path to Calvary. In many references throughout His teachings, Jesus confirms that He does nothing of His own initiative. He speaks that which Father speaks, and He does what Father asks Him to do. In the garden of Gethsemane, we find the prayer that we all know well: Our Lord feeling the anguish of what true obedience entails. He was in such desperation, He actually began to sweat blood! But nevertheless, Christ subjected Himself to Father with the famous words, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” The telling condition of His heart screams out to us the true statement that Christ’s will was to NOT “drink of this cup”, the cup of suffering and the gruesome death on a cross, the ultimate in humiliation! But, in the end, the Father’s will was done. So Jesus subjected Himself to the Father’s will.
Next, we enter into the mandate given from Christ to us, that we too must subject ourselves to Father by taking up the cross (daily no less!). Here, our Master is laying the foundation to what pure, undefiled discipleship looks like. He tells us plainly that in order to follow Him, we must crucify our flesh as well. But why? Can’t we say that Christ paid the full price? Why must we pay that price as well? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:2-3: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NASB)
Jesus, for the joy set before Him, took up the cross. We, for the joy set before us, take up our cross. But what joy? What joy is there in dying? It does two things: 1.) It puts to death the slavery of sin. Note what precedes verses 2 and 3, found in verse 1. We do this so we can “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” So we take up a cross to “kill” the flesh, to exterminate the sin that easily overtakes us, and to be able to not “grow weary and lose heart”. So in essence, to put to death our flesh is to put on the “new man”, the spiritual man. And 2.) It presents Christ to a dying world. Crucifying the flesh allows us to operate in the Law of Love, where the joy is in knowing you are pleasing to Father and also bringing the lost to Him! Jesus had nothing to gain from the cross…except us! We must do likewise. What we gain is freedom from our evil hearts and desires, and yet we also gain victory in “lifting Him up” to draw all people to Him. Oh the joy one day, when we shall see those that we presented Christ to, standing next to us in Paradise! But woe to us if while standing in Paradise, we look across the “great gulf” and see those we knew and think to ourselves how we could have done more.
Now we come to the third part of subjection, mainly, that we subject ourselves to Christ Himself as our Lord. Think of the progression here: Jesus subjects Himself to Father, we subject ourselves to Father, and then Christ is seen in His glory thereby pointing us to subject ourselves to Him. And this is not something that He asks us to do; this is Father telling us directly as reflected in the Father’s statement to the three disciples that witnessed the transfiguration: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” Wow. Jesus shows us that He is indeed an obedient Son and that glory awaits Him very soon; in like manner, He is pointing us in the same direction! Glory awaits you dearly beloved! Is it worth the price? Listen to what Paul says concerning this future glory for those who take up their cross: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 (KJV)
We absolutely must grasp this concept that echoes all through Christ’s teachings in the gospels and in Paul’s letters to the Churches: We must follow Him. Following Him requires us to walk in His footsteps, pain and suffering, the world hating and mocking us, and ultimately the world being blessed by us. We should be able to say at every offense by an unbeliever, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” We think this a high and lofty goal that seems unattainable, do we not? The fact is YOU CAN’T, but He can by the working of Holy Spirit through us! If we don’t take up our cross, then the flesh wins, and the flesh simply does not possess the ability to love enemies, to pray, to have faith, to create joy or peace, and certainly does not have the ability to subject itself to God! Romans 8:7 says, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” So, to submit ourselves to Christ is to obey the mandate to follow Him.
The final destination for us here on earth is to subject ourselves to one another. The structure of Luke 9 is brilliant! I have skipped many points to get here in this teaching for time’s sake. I challenge you to go back and study the flow of Luke 9 and see the “icing” that smothers this profound cake. But suffice it to say, the law of subjection is presented here as best as I can deliver it. Notice the final step of subjection found in verse 48: “…for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” This should be nothing new to us, as the Scripture is quite clear concerning this biblical definition of “greatness”. Here are some other citations:
Philippians 2:5-11: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! NIV
Matthew 20:25-28: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 23:11-12: The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
And finally, but not exhaustively…
James 4:10: Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
So as we can see, subjection to one another in love is the defining factor in discipleship. In fact, Jesus tells us in John 13:35 that “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And love defined by Holy Spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
We have to know that this type of love is impossible by ourselves. So we must submit first to Father, then to Christ, and the Holy Spirit will make His home within us! By our hearts beating as one with Christ, this type of love just flows naturally. But all is a moot point if we have not subjected ourselves by taking up our cross and being crucified with Christ! Subjection to one another is the mark of a mature Christian. In fact, one simply cannot submit themselves to another without first having submitted to Father and then to Christ. The order is paramount.
Ultimately, we must die in order to live, we must surrender in order to walk in victory, and we must humble ourselves to receive glory. God is awesome isn’t He? Now we must embrace this Truth and walk in it. You can’t and won’t walk alone in this subjection. Holy Spirit is here to guide and comfort and advocate for us, and we are surrounded by loving brothers and sisters that are walking the “narrow way that leads to salvation”.