Most people accept that Jesus was crucified. They may not understand the significance of this death, or think it has any personal relevance, but the historical evidence that the event took place is overwhelming. This verse gives an extraordinary insight into what happened to God the Son at Calvary. Although Jesus was God in a human body, He chose to place Himself under the curse which had afflicted mankind ever since the fall (Galatians 3:13). He was born into a body so that He could do the one thing which the eternal invisible God cannot do ... to die.
But, extraordinarily, the verse says that He 'became obedient to death'. It was as if death itself was demanding His life: the inevitable consequence of accepting the liability for the sin of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21). But more accurately, Jesus was obeying God's law which says that the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). More specifically, He was obeying Father God's commission to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). By this action, Jesus demonstrated the sort of obedience which stripped Him of every rightful advantage, and willingly accepted the shameful and degrading public crucifixion.
None of us can in any way atone for our own sins; let alone the sins of others. Only Christ could do that for us. But the purpose of this verse is to remind us that, in Christ, our lives are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We have no right to cling onto our 'rights' but are responsible to accept every divine commission - even if it ends in death. The Apostle Paul fully expected that he would need to make that sacrifice (2 Timothy 4:6) and knew that many other believers would too (Philippians 1:29). With the prospect of martyrdom, the obedient example of Jesus Christ was the inspiration to remain steadfast until the end (1 Peter 5:9). Suffering is inevitable if we follow Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). As we endure, we show how closely we identify with our Saviour (Colossians 1:24).
So keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3) and keep being obedient to His will. If life is hard at home or work, know that it was harder for Him. But He knows how to bring justice in the end (2 Peter 2:9). So, encourage the other believers at work, on your travels and in the church. They may really need that strengthening support today.
© Dr Paul Adams