“For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God – for whom and through whom all things exist – should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
How do you make something better? You have to work it and work with it. Great improvement doesn’t come overnight. Not even small improvement does. It comes one step at a time…often one hard step at a time. Sometimes, the harder a road something has been through, the better it has become. This isn’t a guarantee my any means, but perfection doesn’t often come without suffering. This applies to just about everything…including Jesus according to the author of Hebrews here. Let’s talk about it.
This is a challenging verse to try to wrap our minds around. And if we were going to take it totally out of context, it would probably be even more challenging. It could very easily be used by someone who has bought into a heresy about the nature of Jesus (namely, that He somehow grew into His divinity over time) to make their case. It seems to be as clear as crystal. Jesus wasn’t perfect at first, but once He had suffered, He was. But is that really the case? What’s going on here?
We have been taking our time through the author’s argument that Jesus is greater than the angels because there is a lot going on here and I don’t want to miss any of it if we can help it. It is interesting to track how the argument develops over the course of chapters 1 and 2. In the first chapter, it seems like his point is simply to argue that Jesus is greater in glory than the angels. And his warning at the beginning of chapter 2 seems to fit that pattern. We are to remain faithful because Jesus is greater than the angels, and if disobeying their word was bad, disobeying His word is really bad.
But then he moves forward from there and we learn that the greatness of Jesus as compared with the angels isn’t quite what we thought at first. He is greater in glory. There’s no question about that. But His glory isn’t the same kind of glory we normally think about. We talked about that a bit on Tuesday. Jesus’ greatest glory is in His suffering and death. The reason for this is that His suffering and death and refusal to back down from His path of righteousness in spite of facing them is how the price for our sins was paid. His facing suffering and temptation and remaining steadfast in His commitment to obeying the Father’s plans meant that He understood our experience as humans as fully as He possibly could.
What the author is getting at here by saying Jesus was made perfect through sufferings is not that He was somehow less than perfect before He suffered and died. He was the glorious second person of the Trinity, perfect in righteousness and unapproachable in holiness from eternity past. That fact was never threatened or somehow in doubt. But in being fully God, He was not fully human. Even once He was fully human, until He experienced the kinds of sufferings and temptations and persecutions we face, His experience was not fully complete.
The reason that matters is that God’s plan was always for Him to become our mediator. That is, Jesus’ role was to become the one standing in between us and God, interceding on our behalf so that our relationship with the Father could be restored through Him. In order to do that effectively, though, He had to be able to look at us and say, “I know what you’re going through, and I can help you make it,” and also look at His Father and say, “I know what they’re going through, and I’m going to take their failings on me.” There is a huge gulf dividing us from the Father and Jesus had to be able to span the whole thing. He was able to stand on God’s side at the start. Until He was fully acquainted with every part of our experience, though, He could not effectively plant a foot on our side. Therefore, it was entirely appropriate that God should make Him perfect through sufferings. The perfection was not a moral one, but a perfect familiarity with and thus ability to intercede for us.
The point here is simple: Because Jesus suffered and died, He knows what you are going through. Because He faced incredible temptations, He understands your experience of it. Because He loved and lost and felt that heart-wrenching pain, He can support you when you are there too. And He’s fully God. He knows where you are and can get you to where you need to go. No one else can do something like that. He’s worth it.