Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. ~HEBREWS 5:8

This verse has intrigued me for many years.

Jesus learned obedience through suffering.

I have sat with this single sentence for almost three weeks now, and feel that my thoughts still have yet to coalesce into any sort of non-ambiguous distilled formation worthy of sharing.

But there’s so much here, so much I’ve poured over, thought about, prayed through that I desire to share….so I will simply start putting down thoughts in hopes that Spirit will move if this is of God, and stop me if it is not.

I’m blown away by the fact that Jesus had to learn what it meant to be obedient. Think about that thought alone for a second! He became acquainted with what it was to obey in the face of suffering, to obey even when that very obedience was the cause of harm to Himself.

He had to overcome and override His (God-given?) human desires whenever they were at odds with the Father’s will and plan for His life. He took on human desires to fully identify with us. Along with humanity came temptation and weakness. So it seems there must have been times when he humanly wanted something other than what the Father had in store for Him. The most obvious scenario we could point to is having to override that innate sense of survival when He was called upon to give up His life, and in a most cruel manner.

In my study of this verse, one theme that kept coming up across the different commentaries was this idea of reverential submission. William Barclay had a really thoughtful insight on this topic: “Jesus learned from all His experiences because he met them all with reverence.” I don’t believe I have ever thought of that exact idea before. Jesus was always, without fail, looking to His Father, deferring, trusting, obeying. So therefore, in every situation of His earthly life He was learning since he greeted each and every circumstance with reverence and submission. His human mind and body must have possessed urges, because of how complete was His identification with us flesh and blood beings. Urges to play it safe, to do whatever His flesh messaged Him was good to do and pleasing for Himself. Temptation and weakness are not sins. But they are challenging to deal with as humans. And He dealt. So focused was He on Father in every situation, and on learning His will more completely, that He never succumbed to allowing Himself to be overwhelmed with what this life threw at Him.

In thinking of this, I was reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about temptation with regard to Christ in his book Mere Christianity. If you think Jesus does not understand our plight because He never sinned, think again:

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is….A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.

It’s like if there was a CrossFit contest with a 40 day course, Jesus would have been the only one to ever finish it. How foolish it would be for someone who tapped out after day 6 to say, “You don’t know what this course is like; you don’t understand how hard this is!”