"Though He was a Son He learned obedience through what He suffered." Hebrews 5:8
The very thought sounds vaguely blasphemous. Jesus learned something? That's precisely what the writer of Hebrews tells us, and if accept the full humanity of Jesus then we must take some uncomfortable things very seriously.
Hebrews 5:8 is part of a line of reasoning that starts at 4:14 and goes through 5:10. We learn a great deal about Jesus. We learn that He was tested in every way, just as we are, yet without sin. Some people object that Jesus really could not understand the tests and temptations we face because He was sinless. But think about it. Do you really know the full pressure of a temptation or a test when you give in to it? Or do you only feel the full strength when you resist completely. Jesus' sinlessness is precisely what makes Him able to sympathize with us (4:14).
Next we move to the paragraph that contains our key verse. It begins with a description of Jesus' prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane when "He offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death" (5:7). He asked God to take the cup of suffering from Him. He asked not to die. God was able to save Him from death, but He did not. Instead, He gave Jesus the strength to face that terrible test. Jesus did not get what He wanted, but got something better.
Now we arrive back to the learning through obedience verse. What did Jesus learn? He learned that the full measure of obedience entails suffering and tests. In this broken world, we simply cannot expect to avoid all cuts and bruises, and many times they will be severe. But God has so arranged it, that if we trust Him, obey Him, then He transforms the suffering into the means of our perfection. God wastes no suffering. Even the small hammer blows can refine us.
Through obedient suffering Jesus became our "source of eternal salvation" (5:9). Think of what God is making you! Your suffering is not pointless. You are not a victim who resigns from life. Trust God. Stay faithful. Don't give up!
C.S. Lewis wrote, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
Your pain, weakness, and failure do not disqualify you from His plan. You are bound for glory and see and hear echoes of it now. You simply have much to learn. Stay faithful and obedient no matter what.
Dr. Terry Ellis
April 15, 2013