We are considering submission in John 17 because it is at the very heart of this prayer. In this prayer Jesus is perfectly submitted to His Father. He calls God His Father, and this speaks of submission. Jesus says that He is doing what the Father wants Him to do, and this speaks of submission. In seeing this submission, there are messages for our lives as His people. Submission is not popular for a people bent on self-identity, self-realization, and self-reliance, but God calls us to a life of submission, and we can learn something about it from this passage.

I want to address four myths about submission in the Christian life.

Myth 1 — Submission to God Is a Loss of Freedom.

Many people believe that if they submit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, they will lose their freedom; they cannot do anything that they want to do in life. A tragic flaw in this reasoning is that a person who is not under the lordship of Jesus is not free. The Bible says that you are in bondage to sin, to the lusts of your own flesh, to the whims of an evil spiritual opponent who wishes you destroyed, and to a world that is alienated from the one who brings true freedom. Or as that great theologian Bob Dylan put it,

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may the Lord
but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.1

This myth then precipitates another lie: You can be a disciple of Jesus without a radical submission to Jesus in every area of your life. This desire to have it both ways took on a very seductive heresy a few years ago when we heard about Jesus being our Savior but not our Lord. This is a lie. If He is not Lord, He is not Savior.

I want to show you that Jesus, while being God, was in total submission to God the Father.

He claimed to be God, and there can be no mistake about it. In John 10:30 He claimed that He and the Father were one. The religious leaders plotted against him because He claimed to be God. He said that if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. Yet this one who is God, who claims divinity,2 who says in John 17 that He was with the Father before the world ever began,3 also says that He does only what the Father wants Him to do.4 He is submissive to God His Father. His being is perfectly equal, but His role is submissive.

This prayer of Jesus in John 17 shows total submission. Even the opening of His prayer shows this:

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed, “‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you’” (John 17:1).

The phrase “the time has come” is meant to say that His appointed time to die for the sins of His people has come. Jesus is living a life that His Father ordained for Him. He is headed for the cross to die for sinners. Yet, there has never been anyone more free because our Lord is controlled by a love that He said existed before the world began. He is free from every other passion and interest because of His one holy passion. And one holy passion makes you free.

Shall you think that you, a mortal, a creature created by this God, can maintain independence by being alienated from this God? Can you, believer, actually think for one moment that you, who are said to be a gift of love from Father to Son, can actually be independent from God? Going your own way? But many imagine such a thing.

The classic tale of resisting God for his own supposed independence is that of the great church father Augustine. In his Confessions Augustine recounts how he did not want to yield his life to God, thinking that do so would be to give up his own rights. But the prayers of his mother, Monica, and the words of a child drove him to the Scriptures where he saw the insanity of unbelief. Augustine wrote these words: