Connections 10.17.2021: Christ’s Submission

Hebrews 5:1-10

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (v. 7, NRSV)

The word “submission” has negative connotations in American English. We tend to envision something like slavery, where one person is oppressed and controlled by a person in power. In the context of marriage, some of us get offended by the idea of submitting to a spouse, as if it means giving up ourselves and losing who we are.

The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that “submission” is a late fourteenth century concept from the Latin word submissionem, which means “a lowering, letting down; sinking.” Related terms include “put down,” “reduce,” “yield.” Apparently, the connection of “submission” to the more palpable idea of “humble obedience” only became popular in the mid-fifteenth century.

So maybe it’s understandable that we read this word negatively. Maybe the positive connotation came later, perhaps in connection to Jesus Christ. Other Bible translations choose different words for the last part of verse 7:

ESV and CSB: …he was heard because of his reverence.
KJV: …he…was heard in that he feared.
NASB: …He was heard because of His devout behavior.
NLT: …God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God.

It’s difficult to think of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ submitting in the sense of reducing himself, yielding to someone else, or sinking into the mire of humanity. But when we think of him submitting himself in the sense of his reverence for and obedience to God, we understand the example that he presented to us. In becoming human, Jesus wasn’t reduced. He was humbly obedient to a God who wanted to connect with creation on a firsthand basis.

When this lesson encourages us to “Pay Attention to His Submission,” it’s pointing us to the way of humble obedience that Jesus exemplified. This wasn’t easy for him, just as it won’t be easy for us. But we can approach Jesus with confidence knowing that he understands what it’s like to be a human being on this earth. When his ministry led him to torment and torture, he sought God’s direction and went that way. And now, he helps us to do the same.

Source: “submission (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary,


• What feelings arise when you hear the word “submit” or “submission”?
• Is there anyone you regularly submit to or anyone who submits to you? If so, what does that look like? What are the dynamics of that relationship?
• What is the difference between damaging submission and healthy submission?
• Why do you think the NIV and NRSV use the phrase “reverent submission” in verse 7? How do the other translations above help clarify what this means in Jesus’ case?
• How can you live in reverent submission—humble obedience—to God in your daily life?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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