BY: Bishop Gerald Musa

Obedience is a common word, but not a popular practice. Obedience for many people means dependence, a symptom of an uncritical mind and a sacrifice of personal freedom. Thus, a person who obeys is considered to be childish and someone who is under the manipulative influence of another. The word obedience comes from the Latin word Obedire which means to listen to. Edwin Louis Cole, a prolific writer on the theme of men and religion says, “Obedience is an act of faith; disobedience is the result of unbelief.”


Christian, Jewish and Islamic scriptures present Abraham as a model for obedience. God said to Abraham, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust” (cf. Genesis 22:1-2). Why did God command Abraham to go and carry out such a cruel act against his son? He did not only ask Abraham to sacrifice his son but to offer him as a total burnt offering (holocaust). The Hebrew word that describes a holocaust is ‘ola,’ which is normally a burnt offering for atonement and thanksgiving (Leviticus 1). In the days of Abraham human sacrifice was a common phenomenon among the Canaanites in whose land he lived.

This command was a test of Abraham’s faithfulness and a test of his obedience and love. Abraham passed the test of his willingness to execute the order from above. We can use various adjectives to describe the response of Abraham: complete, loyal, trustful, loving, or absolute Obedience. However, when Abraham raised his knife to end the life of his son Isaac, God quickly intervened by providing a ram in place of Isaac. God’s intervention was meant to abolish the culture of human sacrifice and to promote the sanctity and culture of life. In addition, the story proves the sincere and unreserved obedience of Abraham and it shows the total surrender of Isaac who was willing to lay down his life to co-operate with the will of God. Many years later, God offered his son for the salvation of many. According to St. Paul, God “Did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all (Romans 8:31).

Jesus had told his disciples several times, that he must go to Jerusalem, where he was to suffer and die, but they found it difficult to comprehend or believe him. When the time was getting closer for him to go to Jerusalem, the disciples were in a state of confusion and fear of the future gripped them. Jesus needed to comfort and convince them about God’s presence in his life. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus, which came just before his crucifixion, made it possible for the disciples to catch a glimpse of the glory that would follow his crucifixion and death.

The event of the transfiguration shows that glory and blessings come after the trials of obedience. It was in obedience to God that Jesus left the comfort and beauty of Galilee and took the road to Jerusalem where grievous suffering, violence and death awaited him. The cross and death are not the end of the story but only a part of the story. This is the reason why Paul wrote: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Besides, we should pay attention to the voice of God heard from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him” (Mark 9:7). Listening to Jesus implies total obedience to his word in a world where there is a cacophony of voices, philosophies, ideologies and theologies. The Transfiguration prepared the disciples to remain faithful amid the forthcoming trials of Jesus and to exercise obedience in faith. The life of Jesus teaches us that obedience is not just about following rules but undergoing a spiritual transformation that aligns one’s life with God’s purpose. Jesus submitted himself in obedience to God “…He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name…” (Philippians 2:8-9)

Obedience demands sacrifice and Jesus, the model of obedience obeyed even to the point of sacrificing his own life unto death on the cross (Philippians 2:11). He died on the cross to prove to his disciples there is no glory without the cross and there is no cross without obedience. An aspect of religion that is very challenging is obedience. We clearly understand what obedience is, but we strongly dislike the cost of obedience. The writer Mark Twain says, “When I read the Bible, the parts that trouble me the most are not the ones I don’t understand, but the ones I understand.” Obedience is costly and difficult, but it has some value. Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey my commandment” (John 14:15). An ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus considers obedience as the mother of success and the wife of security” and St. Augustine considers obedience as the mother of all virtues.

This period of Lent is a time to listen and it is a time to offer acceptable sacrifice to God, which is a contrite heart and a humble spirit (Psalm 51:17).

Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10.


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