Reflections of the Pastor

“… who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, …” [Hebrew 5:7-9a (NKJV)].

            Suffering is rarely seen as something to be desired.  Most humans will use everything within their powers to avoid suffering as though it were an evil to be cursed.  Verse 8 would indicate that suffering has a positive, productive purpose in the mind of God.  Maybe we should take another look at this subject.

            The first thing we observe is the person for whom this suffering took place.  It was the very Son of God,  Jesus Christ living in His incarnate status on earth.  Even though He was God’s Son, He was not exempted from suffering.

            Jehovah God is not in the enterprise of exempting people from hardships, pain, or suffering.  How much of our prayers are directed to God asking Him for exemption status?  Is it any wonder many Christians do not develop an effective prayer life because they become frustrated by unanswered prayers?

            Look carefully at the Biblical stories of Old and New Testaments.  God did not exempt Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace.  He saved them amid the fire.

            God did not save the Israelites from the dangerous crossing of the Red Sea.  He saved them by sustaining a path through the sea.

            And God did not even exempt His own Son from the suffer and death on a Roman cross.  He just resurrected Him from death to give Him eternal victory over death.  And in the process, Christ opened the door of every grave for a day of resurrection.

            Verse 8 tells us that Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered.  I would like to think that what the author meant is that Jesus learned the special discipline of severe human experience as preparatory for His role as our High Priest who can be touched by all human experiences.  Jesus declared that obedience was his delight in John 2:29, “And He who sent Me is with me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”

            Verse 9 tells us that through His suffering, He was made perfect.  Perfection in Scripture has the idea of bringing a person or thing to the place for which it was created.  It is the fulfillment of design or purpose.  God had a purpose for Jesus’ life just as He has one for your life and mine.

            I close this thought with the final words of Jesus from the cross, “IT IS FINISHED!” [John 19:30]. What is important is that John used the same Greek verb that the Hebrew writer used in our text for perfection.  (The New Testament writers consistently used this same Greek verb when writing about the things Jesus accomplished.  See Luke 12:50, John 4:34, 17:4.)

            It will serve us well to keep in mind that God always has a purpose He wants to perfect by means of the things we suffer.  Suffering is the primary school of divine education.  To suffer is an honorable thing — to suffer for Christ is glory.  The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do this.

Prayer: Lord, give us hearts to accept and endure suffering so that Your glory may be revealed in us.  Give us courage to embrace suffering to the end that Your purpose will be perfected in us.  Amen. 

Pastor Ivan Schwenn – 2021-04-09