August 13

We Learn Obedience, Too

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 5:7-9 [Jesus], in the days of His flesh…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

We know that Jesus was the Son of God, that He was sinless, and that He performed miracles. We can respect that, but it’s often hard to relate to it. Yet Hebrews 4 (above) tells us that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, and was tempted in all points as we are.

Hebrews 5 goes one further, telling us that Jesus wasn’t “perfect” until His struggle in the garden was complete. That doesn’t mean He wasn’t sinless; in Bible language, it means that He had to be made the sacrifice for sin, which involved spiritual battles and obedience. He became the author of our salvation by learning obedience, which he did through his sufferings.

The author remembers his shock at hearing his first Bible teacher say that Jesus wasn’t fighting disobedience in His time in the Garden of Gethsemane as much as He was struggling for obedience. It was a forward, progressive, conquering struggle, not a defensive one. The call to literally take up His cross and die was the last step in his humiliation: “He humbled Himself and became obedient [emphasis mine] to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Part of the goal of our suffering is to learn obedience. And it must be learned. It’s not a natural trait, and must be learned as much as we learn a subject in school or work. And the example of Jesus shows us that obeying doesn’t necessarily get easier as time goes by. He wasn’t ready for the call to come and die when He was 12, or even 30. He was ready when He walked out of the garden, having said yes to the most difficult challenge He was ever to face.

How did Jesus learn obedience? Not by reading the Torah, or even praying. According to God’s word, He learned it through the things He suffered. What a wonderful model for us of how God desires to use our sufferings! Jesus let His sufferings drive Him to greater obedience to higher callings. In essence, he leaned into obedience, letting His sufferings teach Him what God was asking of Him and allowing the sufferings to both soften and strengthen His heart to rise to the “Yes” that God was working in His heart.

What can we learn from this? We are, as He was, constantly being matured in obedience by God’s actions and His call on our lives. He had an appointed earthly end in God’s plan; so do we. God worked His plan in Jesus. He’s working His plan in us.

Regarding suffering: Instead of either complaining or enduring, can we allow our sufferings to teach us greater levels of obedience? That’s a wholly different perspective on what we go through, and one that is redemptive beyond words.

Prayer: Father, I receive the truth that You have a plan for me that involves my continuing to grow in obedience to You and Your call. Help me to see that, and help me to see my sufferings in a new and more redemptive way.