Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Hebrews 5:8
This is the second in a series on the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, found in the central portion of the epistle to the Hebrews which spans chapters 5 through 10. In verse 2 we learned that among His high priestly duties was to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward. Although this may not initially sound like a particularly high calling, we learn that it is in fact an office of immeasurable majesty. The author quotes from Psalm 2 and 110 to show us the transcendent glory of the One who appoints the office, and the special relationship between God Almighty and the one on whom the office is conferred. Jesus, who is installed as God’s King on His holy hill of Zion, declared to be the Son of God, is sworn in and appointed a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
How then is it possible that such a highly exalted Being could qualify as a high priest who must be able to identify with and understand those who are erring and weak? We can understand how our Lord’s eternal and divine sonship are consistent with His installation as God’s King, but how is it possible as a sinless Being, for Him to understand and commiserate with sinners? The answer is found in his incarnation. Jesus was hungry, thirsty, tired; he felt distress, loneliness, pain and sorrow because, Son of God though He was, He became genuinely human. And as a human being, he learned, by experience, the cost of resisting temptation and obeying God in a fallen and sinful world.
Doing God’s will in heaven is only pure delight, so if the Son of God remained in heaven, He would have no need to be taught the Father’s will; he just naturally carried it out as a product of His nature and the environment. But when He came into our world, though it is a world He created, nevertheless He had to learn what it was like to resist bitter opposition as well as painful anguish of physical and mental suffering that brought him to loud crying and tears(v. 7) . Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (v. 8). This is a remarkable statement. If the unique Son of God was just like us, there would be nothing remarkable about the process of learning to obey; but here we find the eternal Son of God with all of the universe at his disposal, still had to learn obedience through the act of human suffering. And in this way He became our faithful and merciful High Priest, fully acquainted with our grief.
We must not ignore the High Priesthood of Jesus as something of little consequence. The fact is that apart from His high priestly sacrifice and incessant intercession for us, we would be lost. It is because we have such a High Priest, that in spite of our weaknesses and failures, there remains mercy for us at God’s throne. Our High Priest has himself gone through the heavens and sat down at the right hand of Majesty, having already arrived at the destination to which we strive to enter. May this truth cause us to grow in our assurance and hold fast the confidence of our faith.