March 14, 2018
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. ~ Hebrews 5:8-9
The capitalization of “Son” makes clear that the writer is talking about Jesus, who is divine. Given that, what is said of him might cause us to scratch our heads. We don’t associate “learning obedience” or “being made perfect” with God. What we need to understand is that neither of these expressions, in Jesus’ case, implies sinful shortcoming, as it would for us. To say that we learn obedience is to admit that we grow through trial and error: we try doing things our way and discover that we’ve made a mistake. Gradually we come to see that listening to God and following his direction is the right way. This was most emphatically not the experience of Jesus. He was never in a position of realizing that he should have obeyed his Father in heaven, because he was always obedient. For him, “learning obedience” means that he experienced, as a man, what it is to obey when obeying is costly, when to be obedient entails unimaginable suffering. Just as no one knows temptation like Jesus, because he never succumbed to it, no one knows obedience as he does because he obeyed in the most adverse conditions possible. Likewise, “being made perfect” may suggest to us that he was in some way imperfect to start with. When we perfect something, we remove defects and blemishes. Not so with Jesus. Perfection here for him is not a moral condition but what we would call a “finished product.” As a man, to qualify as “the source of eternal salvation” for sinners, Jesus had to complete and fulfill the requirements, chief among which were precisely sinlessness and faithfulness unto death. His “perfection” is his achievement of what, in the divine plan, he was intended to be and to do. All that remained was for the Father to acknowledge this by raising him from the dead, exalting him into heaven, and giving him “the name …above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth” (Philippians 2:9-10).