Hebrews 5: Experience Required

Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  When he had been made complete and perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, since he has been designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (5:8-10)

Maybe it was because of the discussion I had with Umm Muhammad on yesterday’s post that I was especially drawn to these verses today.  Let me anticipate the questions: If Jesus is God, can God learn to obey (and does he need to)?  Was Jesus not already “complete and perfect” before the cross?  Are these verses somehow diminishing the moral quality of Jesus?

In his popular level commentary on Hebrews in the For Everyone series, N. T. Wright explains this passage using a story about a rich business owner and his son who has just graduated from college and is now ready to take his spot in the family business.  One might expect the father to place the son in a posh corner office with a high position and the pay grade to match.  But the father does not.  He puts the son at an entry-level position and has the son rise through the ranks learning the business as he goes.  As a result, when the son does rise to upper management he is a far better leader who understands his trade and his workers better.

Wright said it this way: blood made the man a son, but experience made him a boss.

"Christ in Gethsemane" by Michael O'Brien

Many scholars think the Hebrews author is thinking about Jesus’ Gethsemane experience when he or she writes this.  Jesus’ ultimate act of submission was to face the reality that within hours he would drink the cup of God’s wrath and to humbly accept this propitiatory role though he wished otherwise.  When he had “completed” the journey to that point or finished the course, he had arrived “perfectly” at the point of pure obedience.  Perfect in this context means everything was in place and nothing was lacking, not that Jesus was somehow imperfect or morally deficient before this point.  Furthermore, the Hebrew author emphasizes the point that obedience is a “learning” experience, even as it was for Jesus.  Through a lifetime as a human, Jesus was learning the ins and outs of obedience: that it truly is the best route; what it means to obey in a fallen world; what humans must face to faithfully obey; to feel the true temptation that comes with humanity but also the transformation that comes with obedience.  Can an omniscient God know these things?  That would seem logical.  So it seems the knowledge that comes through experience was still required, at least for Jesus.

To mimic Wright’s conclusion above, blood made Jesus a son, but experience made Jesus the perfect high priest.

Personally, I am ever so thankful that my Savior truly understands in the most intimate ways what my life is like.  That actually makes me love him and respect him all the more.

What caught your eye in this short chapter?

Categories: Hebrews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Hebrews 5: Experience Required

  1. Melanie Semore

    I find myself reading nowadays with a different perspective. I read wondering what our two Muslim readers will find confusing an contradictory. I appreciate their questions and insights, and I’ve been left wondering if I am and always have read right over these chapters and books without asking any questions or thinking very deeply. Have I really delved into all the implications? Have I blindly accepted what I’ve always heard without question? I do believe the scriptures can withstand scrutiny, and I am grateful for this reading community.

    • I am grateful for your faithfulness to this group.

      I know what you mean about feeling like it is easy to skim the surface and miss the deeper questions. For me right now, this is why I have largely abandoned reading large swaths of Scripture. Like we are doing here, I sense I need to slow down, read less but with greater attention and contemplation. I have been doing this for a few years and it seems to make a difference, though I am sure there is so much more I am missing too. That is the beauty of the Bible; it is always speaking afresh, without fail.

      I am very thankful for our Muslim readers. I suspect there are others than Hifzan and Umm. They pushed me to go deeper and that is good. And they have always been polite about it.

  2. I notice John 10:30 mention about oneness of Jesus and God. It was totally correct if it was read as stand alone verse, but read as a whole chapter, it may bring different message. Let discuss when we found the verse next Dis.

    v8-10 : Still, from my view (by thinking Jesus is god), I see Jesus as demi-god. A man that been sent to earth, learn the hardship, and return back to sky. Even, the stories is different, the fundamental are almost same as Thor, Hercules, Superman, Krishna. I think this is where the concept of god is three, savior, there are higher order above Jesus, relationship of god and son, etc.

    I don’t expect to found demi-god style found in scripture, but I think there was a great influence of Greek/Norse god in Bible.

    (by Jesus is non-god), I see as prophet of God, which very obedient, and he refuse the world title (high priest).

    and in v11, the bible tease me by saying “you are slow to learn” if I don’t understand this. So in bible condition, I am still an infant (v12-14).

  3. Pingback: New Thought Ministries » Submission, Humility And Obedience In Living The Paschal Mystery

  4. What struck me this time around was the same verse as three years ago: “Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do.”

    Suffering teaches. It prepares us for faith. We can run away from suffering, as most of us want to do, but we will be missing the lesson God has for us in this day and our growth will be stifled.

  5. Andy

    In our Sunday school class, we watched a video from Francis Chan who went into detail about the Lord’s prayer, how we approach God in prayer. “Hallowed be Thy name”. Verse 7 says God heard Jesus because of his reverence… Even though he was God in flesh, Jesus presented supplications and prayers to God, crying out and with tears. How often do I approach God in prayer like Jesus did? As I prepared for the lesson in class this past Sunday, God continues challenge me on how to approach prayer as Jesus and the early church did. I’m thankful we came across this passage this week, as it echoes how Jesus prayed and commands us to pray.

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