Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering [part 2]

Let’s go just a little deeper down the rabbit hole, shall we?

I’ve been intensely fascinated by the idea of Jesus arriving at new stages of experience as one commentator put it. One road of Hebrews 5:8 we could journey down is that Jesus learned obedience through a particular kind of suffering which we do not normally think of. Suffering is, as we know, not limited to physical pain. Pain is a part of growth as a human being. As Luke Timothy Johnson astutely points out in his commentary on this passage,

“intellectually, the learning of new ideas is a form of growth: our minds expand to include new realities of which we had not previously been aware. The growth is good. But it is also painful, since it implies the disruption and rearrangement–and often the abandonment–of our previous mental furnishings. To enter into new mental territory means at least a partial death to old mental territory. Stretching the mind to encompass new truth means suffering the pain of mental disequilibrium.”

Can you wrap your head around the fact that Jesus, taking on our humanity to the fullest degree, likely leaned new ideas which stretched him?

Perhaps he grew up hearing some corrupt religious teachings which he later found out, through seeing more of the light of God, were unhealthy and not truly from the heart of Yahweh. To shed something we’ve been taught, or simply heard and absorbed most of our life, is indeed a death, a suffering. We’ve all had to drop certain ways of thought which we discovered were unlovingly judgmental, and it does kind of hurt to admit to ourselves that we ever harbored such views.

Of course I am not saying Jesus ever sinned, nor will I ever. I’m merely pointing out this fascinating aspect which shows how deeply he can relate to us because of his great sacrifice and service to humanity that is no doubt greater than we’ve probably previously imagined.

The word “learned” in this verse is not conveying that Jesus went from disobedience to obedience, but rather has the connotation of coming to know something firsthand through personal experience. This is why I love the First Nations Version (a wonderfully fresh Indigenous translation of the New Testament) of this verse: Even though he was Creator’s Son, he still had to learn, through suffering, what it means to stay true to the ways of the Great Spirit.

Maybe Jesus had to experientially learn as a kid that life is not about pleasing people or trying to look good, but about pleasing God and serving people. At some point he probably recognized that we cannot transform others; we can possibly inspire them. Even God’s Son did not have a 100% conversion rate. Therefore, we can say with a little more certainty that Jesus experienced the suffering that comes with people not accepting what you are offering them, of people not really listening to you, and perhaps the most confusingly painful of all–people misunderstanding you and your intentions. How horrible is that?

But he had to keep obeying his Father anyway, through all of this suffering.

Despite the inevitable unmet expectations and desires that come with being human, he still had to trust in God. Gee, that’s always easy.

And remember, obeying is deeper than simply keeping the rules, as efficacious as that might be. Did you know that the Latin root of the word “obey” means to listen, to hearken to, to pay attention to? Despite suffering, we must keep listening to the One who designed us. We must keep our attention focused upon our Creator who is perfect love and knows us better than we know ourselves and wants the absolute best for us at all times. And not only listening and paying attention, but saying yes–every time.

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