In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. –Hebrews 5:7-10
We’re in this lengthy section in Hebrews where the writer is focusing powerfully upon the great high priesthood of Christ. The verses above are a little hard to understand, but also some of the most beautiful when you get into them.
God the Creator, who is the Father of Jesus, made the world perfect and, even though it has become wayward and corrupt, he remains deeply committed to it. If Jesus is to be the Promised Son, he must learn what creation is about and what it will take to remedy the mess in which we and creation find ourselves. Jesus may well know the heights, but he also must get to know the depths. He must learn obedience, which means suffering. This is not because God likes hurting people, but because this world is dark and hideous and the Son, to be the true Son, must suffer the sorrow and pain of it in order to rescue it.
When the verse says that Jesus was “made perfect” it doesn’t mean that he was at any point imperfect. It does mean that he needed to attain the full sonship through suffering the pain and grief that God the Father himself suffered over his world corrupted and cursed. In other words, he became truly and completely what he already was in his nature.
He did this and “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” What other religious leader in all of history in all of the world makes such a claim? When we think of the garden of Gethsemane and how Jesus prayed in increasing agony, he learned what the full extent of obedience would mean. Though God could have saved him, he did not. The answer to Jesus’ prayer with “loud cries and tears” for rescue was “No.” This is how he became the ultimately High Priest for us ever living to make intercession for his sons and daughters. That’s the gospel!
Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!