“How could Jesus ‘learn obedience from what He suffered’ and be ‘made perfect’? (Heb. 5:8)
Was there a time when Jesus was disobedient, or imperfect?”
I stopped by a yard sale one day a few years ago and noticed a toaster oven that looked like a good deal. “Does it work?” I asked the seller. “Yeah, you can try it out if you like. Got an extension cord right here.” So, I plugged it in, ran it through its settings – toast, broil, bake… checked out the timer… “ding!” Yep, it worked just fine. “OK,” I said, “I’ll buy it.” And that old toaster oven served us well for several years.
I’ll get back to this later, but now let’s look at the passage which prompted today’s question…
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 5:7-10).
In English the word ‘perfect’ generally refers to a thing that is ‘flawless,’ but the Greek word τελειόω used here for ‘perfect’ has a much wider meaning. It can mean to make perfect, but also to carry something through completely, to accomplish, or to add what is yet lacking in order to render a thing full or to bring it to fulfilment.
Elsewhere in scripture Jesus said He had not come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17). Sin still required a sacrifice to atone for it, but now Jesus Himself would be that sacrifice once and forever more. During his sojourn on this Earth he would show himself to be that ultimate high priest as well.
Suffering is a part of human experience. If Jesus were to fulfill the role of high priest, then sharing in suffering would be a necessary part of it. In order for Jesus to share in human suffering he had to be incarnate and live for a time among us. This He did for thirty years – from babe to man — prior to beginning His three year ministry.
Although Jesus was perfect in his very nature, to become our high priest he had to experience the temptations and suffering of our humanity and yet not be conquered by them as was the first man Adam. He had to demonstrate in practice what He knew He already was. Only in this way could he prove that he was indeed our sinless High Priest.
Where we failed when tested in the Garden of Eden, Jesus succeeded when tested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thus He qualified to offer Himself a Sacrifice in our stead.
Barnes puts it like this,
Yet learned he obedience – That is, he learned experimentally and practically. It cannot be supposed that he did not “know” what obedience was; or that he was “indisposed” to obey God before he suffered; or that he had, as we have, perversities of nature leading to rebellion which required to be subdued by suffering, but that he was willing to “test” the power of obedience in sufferings…
Like the toaster oven I mentioned above, He had to be “tried” in order to prove His worth.
Thank the Lord that Jesus always passes every test and — if we have made Him our Lord — He now dwells within us and helps us to do likewise.
Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.