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There is a connection between suffering and obedience that tends to make us uncomfortable with both. As we enter Holy Week, it becomes impossible to separate the two—and we should eternally praise God for it!
Speaking of Jesus, Hebrews 5:8 says, 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.
This passage can seem like a quandary and leads many to ask:
- How did Jesus “learn” obedience? Wasn’t He always perfectly obedient?
- How was He perfected? Wasn’t’ Jesus always perfect?
- What is it about suffering that helps with obedience?
Jesus, as the Perfect Son of God was and is perfectly obedient. He was conceived without Sin and did not bear the fallenness of the flesh within Him. Jesus is perfectly God!
But Jesus is also the Perfect Son of Man. He is eternally the “Second Adam.” His human nature was susceptible to the same temptations that the first Adam was susceptible to. Like Adam, Jesus began without sin. But in stark contrast, Jesus remained without sin—turning to Father in obedience with every insult, every test, every punch, every slap, every indignity, every lie, every whip strike, every thorn puncture, every nail, and every drop of blood… Jesus is perfectly Human!
Adam the First, meanwhile, never suffered anything in the perfect Garden and yet turned away from the Father in outrageous disobedience.
As a human being, Jesus had the same free will as the rest of us do, and as Adam had. Yet He always responded in obedience—even while suffering unjustly and horrifically.
And that leads us to a great mystery—suffering can actually “perfect” (complete) us as we respond to it correctly. Suffering is a given in a fallen world. Our response to it is contingent upon our free will. Do we turn to Father in hope and faith when the pain erupts, or do we erupt at the Father over the injustice of it all?
In a strange way, Adam’s lack of suffering left him weak when dealing with decisions of the heart. For those tested and purified by the crucible of suffering, turning to and trusting in God’s perfect love can strengthen us and lead us to the joy of obedience!
As Romans 8:17 says, we children become heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
As fallen human beings, God does not expect us to be either perfect or perfectly obedient. Yet in times of suffering, as we choose to trust God during confusion and pain, we grow in obedience and are perfected (strengthened) in our connection to our Brother, Jesus.
Jesus is the Perfect High Priest. He is perfectly Divine… And He is perfectly Human. He suffered as a human and perfectly identifies with our suffering. As we turn to Him in our suffering, we identify with His Glorious Divinity.
As Coheirs with Christ Jesus, we will reign and rule with Him eternally in perfect obedience—obedience that was formed in us not by easy comfort, but rather by being comforted by the One who knows perfect suffering…!