Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. (Heb 5:8 NLT)
This must be one of the most surprising, if not most shocking, statements in Scripture. Jesus learned obedience? What can that mean? Surely the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did not need to learn obedience! Jesus says in the Gospel of John that he always does his Father’s will (4:34; 5:30; 6:38–39). And what does suffering have to do with it anyway? What can the writer of Hebrews possibly mean?
Since commentators vary widely in their interpretation of this statement, I need to be cautious. Nevertheless, I want to suggest a possibility, and one that has direct relevance to us. I suggest that before he became a human the Second Person – the Son – never had to confront the necessity of choosing to obey the First Person – the Father. It had never been a question before. The three-personed God knew what he wanted to do and all three Persons did it as a matter of course together. But now, as a human, Jesus encountered the possibility all of us humans have been given by God: disobedience. I don’t know what would have happened had Jesus actually disobeyed the Father; I suppose the universe would have flown to pieces. But in any case obedience now required a choice, and, praise his Name, Jesus gladly embraced it. He learned obedience.
But from the things he suffered? Yes, obedience always comes at a price. The minimum price is admitting that somebody else – anybody else – has the right to tell us what to do. But the price goes up steeply when what somebody else wants us to do hurts. Would Jesus still obey God when to do so meant that he could not use his power to feed himself when he was hungry? Would he still obey God when saying what he was supposed to drove the crowds away? Would he still obey God when his own people unjustly executed him? Yes, yes, and yes! Suffering is the truest evidence of what we really believe and what we are really committed to. Jesus passed every test, and we may live forever because of it.
(Continued next week)