Have Disagreements Revealed Your Level of Submission to Authority?
By Rick Renner
And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
— Mark 14:44,45
When I was a young man and just getting started in the ministry, God positioned me under a great man of God who could read Greek and exegete New Testament verses, yet was also strongly anointed by the Spirit of God. To me, this minister had the best combination possible — brains and anointing all mixed together in one package! The first time I heard him preach, my jaw dropped open! His preaching reminded me of the way Jesus baffled the scribes when they heard Him teach with such great authority. I immediately knew that I needed to be under this man’s anointing and to receive from his life.
God opened the door for me to be trained by this great man of God, and for two years I worked side by side with him every day — carrying his books and traveling to his meetings with him. I literally met with him seven days a week so he could teach and train me. It was amazing that a man of this caliber would put so much of himself into someone as young as I was, but he did it because he believed in the call of God on my life. This man imparted the tools, the skills, and the understanding I needed to become a man of God who could both grow in the things of the Spirit and establish a ministry that was balanced between the Word and the Spirit.
Everything was great between this minister and me — until one day when I got offended. The reason for the offense is not important, but the situation revealed that I had a flaw in my understanding of authority and submission.
This was an expensive lesson that God has used throughout the years of my ministry as I have worked with others who are themselves learning the hard lessons of submission and authority. Because of what I experienced, I understand the temptation people occasionally feel to think too highly of themselves and to run off and leave their spiritual mentors.
That is exactly what I did to this man who had been so gracious to me. After he had poured his life into me, teaching and training me, I left him when we had our first major disagreement. Although I called him my pastor, the conflict between us revealed that I had never really given him a place of authority in my life. He had been a great example to me, and I respected him as the best teacher I had ever heard. Yet I had obviously never received him as God’s authority in my life; if I had, I never would have done what I did to him.
Unfortunately, the true level of one’s commitment isn’t tested by good times, but by times of conflict and disagreement. It’s easy to walk together when you agree with the one you call your spiritual authority and you’re having a good time together. But what happens when you disagree or experience a conflict in your relationship? This is the critical moment when the truth about your level of submission will become observable.
When Judas Iscariot came to the Garden of Gethsemane the night he betrayed Jesus, he said something that revealed he had never been truly submitted to Him. The truth about Judas’ recognition of and submission to Jesus’ authority was exposed that night, just as my submission to that minister was also proven to be defective. Mark 14:45 says, “And as soon as he [Judas] was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.”
Notice that Judas called Jesus, “Master, master.” These words reveal the type of relationship that really existed in Judas’ heart toward Jesus. These words also reveal the reason the devil was able to use Judas, and not one of the other disciples, to betray Jesus.
The word “master” comes from the Greek word didaskalos, which means teacher. When it is translated “master,” as in this verse, it is intended to give the idea of one who is a fabulous, masterful teacher. This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word rabbi. Of course, a rabbi is a teacher who is honored and respected because of his understanding of and ability to explain the Scriptures. When Judas approached Jesus in the Garden that night, this is exactly the title he used when he referred to Jesus. He called Him, “Master, master.” It literally meant, “Teacher, teacher.”
Titles are very important, because they define relationships. For instance, the words Daddy and Mother define the unique relationship between a child and a parent. The word Boss defines the relationship between an employee and his employer — a relationship much different than the one that exists between the employee and his fellow employees. The words Mr. President define the relationship between the nation and its leader. The word Pastor defines the relationship between a church and its pastor.
A world without titles would be a world with confusion, for titles give rank, order, and definition to relationships. Jesus Himself told the disciples, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13).
Even Jesus acknowledged it was correct for His disciples to call Him “Lord” and “Master.” In fact, there isn’t a single occurrence in the Gospels where they called Him “Jesus.” They were always respectful, honoring, and deferential when they spoke of Him or to Him.
But I want you to notice what title Judas didn’t use that night — he didn’t call Jesus “Lord.” The word for “Lord” expresses the idea of One who has ultimate and supreme authority in your life. If you called someone “Lord,” it meant you were submitted to that person’s authority and yielded every realm of your life to his management, direction, and control.
Had Judas called Jesus “Lord” that night, it would have meant that Judas had surrendered his life to Jesus’ control and was submitted to His authority. But Judas didn’t use the word “Lord”; he used the word for “Teacher,” which revealed that Jesus had never really become God’s authority in Judas’ life. The truth is, Judas had only received Jesus as a teacher, a rabbi, and a gifted communicator, but never as “Lord.”
As happens in all relationships where submission to authority is required, the moment finally came that proved the true level of Judas’ submission to Jesus. When the test came, Judas failed it. There was a fatal flaw in his relationship with Jesus. In the end, it became apparent to everyone that even though he honored and followed Jesus as a Master Teacher, Jesus had never been his Lord. Thus, Judas’ side of his relationship with Jesus had been artificial from the very beginning.
Jesus knew what was in the heart of Judas, yet continued to work closely with him, extending mind-blowing mercy, amazing grace, and astounding patience toward him! Jesus graciously extended His time and attention to Judas to correct the fatal flaws in the disciple’s character and to get things right. But even with all of Jesus’ love and patience, the ball was in Judas’ court. He was the one who ultimately determined the level of relationship that would exist between him and Jesus. Jesus was willing to be his “Lord” — but Judas was never truly willing to be in submission to Jesus’ authority. Instead, Judas only authorized Jesus to be a gifted Teacher in his life.
I have learned over the years that it takes time to really get to know who people are. The apostle Paul urged us not to lay hands on people suddenly for this very reason (1 Timothy 5:22).
So don’t be too shocked if you discover someone whom you thought was with you all the way isn’t really with you at all. If this ever happens to you, remember that it happened to Jesus too. Just as God used Jesus to extend mercy, grace, and patience to Judas Iscariot, God may be using you now to give an unfaithful person a chance to have a change of heart so he can become a faithful person.
Can God count on you to be His extension of kindness to that person? Are you to be His mercy outstretched to give that person a magnificent opportunity to make a true turnaround in his heart, mind, and character?
When I wronged my pastor so many years ago, my actions uncovered a flaw inside me that needed correction. It revealed that I didn’t understand what submission to authority really meant. In retrospect, I’m so thankful that this happened, for God used it to expose a defect in my character that needed to be eradicated. To change me, He tapped a great man of God on the shoulder and instructed him to love me, forgive me, and teach me. Because he was willing to be God’s outstretched hand of mercy in my life, I was corrected, delivered, and changed. I can never thank God enough for placing me under a person who cared enough for me that he stuck with me and brought correction into my life.
Are you supposed to be that kind of person to someone close to you right now? It’s so easy to fixate on the kiss of betrayal, but just think about how much God loves that “problem person” in your life! He is trying to help him by giving him a friend like you!
If that person chooses not to respond to the mercy, grace, and patience that is being poured out to him through you, he will have to live with the results of his decisions. Just make sure that you fulfill what God is requiring of you in this relationship. It may seem difficult to do, but you need to be thankful that God has kindly entrusted you with the responsibility of giving that person one last chance!