Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.
Hebrews 5:8 uses a pair of rhyming words that were proverbial at the time Hebrews was written. The Greek words emathen “he learned” and epathen “he suffered,” were used together to depict how people learn lessons through their suffering. This saying was frequently applied to foolish people who only learn things the hard way because of their mistakes.
In a fairly bold move, in Hebrews 5:8, the writer applies this proverb to Jesus. This was not done to teach that Jesus was a fool who learned through the consequences of His mistakes. Instead, the writer does this to show that Jesus understands what it is like to suffer as a result of remaining obedient to God. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” In other words, Jesus learned through experience how hard it can be to remain obedient to God. He learned through His own suffering how a person can suffer because of their faithfulness to God.
For the original audience of Hebrews, this was written to be a source of encouragement as they were undergoing their own trials and persecution. Jesus was fully sympathetic to how they felt. In fact, the Greek word from which we get the English word “sympathize” is used in reference to Jesus in Hebrews 4:15. Jesus knew how difficult it is to remain obedient to God and yet He did it. This is a source of encouragement for us as well. Despite the trials and suffering of this life, there is comfort in knowing that God never asks you to endure anything He wouldn’t endure Himself.
JESUS THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
6 And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
We learned on Day 3 of our reading that the high priest served as a mediator between God and the people, atoning for their sins. According to Hebrews 4:14-16, Jesus fulfills the role of High Priest, absolving the need for a human high priest. Now, only through Jesus could the people become right with God. Consider what a huge change that would have been for the Jewish people and their religious traditions! How does Jesus’ role as the High Priest affect us today? What comfort and assurance can this bring us?
In Hebrews 4:15, we are reminded that Jesus faced all of the same temptations we do. Reflect on what these temptations look like in your life, and consequently the sins that have resulted. Take time to journal your confession below. How does it feel to confess to a God who has experienced the same things you have?
While on earth, Jesus suffered greatly (Hebrews 5:7-10). He endured physical torture, betrayal, abandonment, and rejection, yet He freely chose to continually make God’s will His own. He chose to obey even though His obedience would lead to suffering.
We often ask, “Why would God allow people to suffer?” When you experience suffering of any kind, how does it affect your obedience? What can we learn from Jesus’ suffering and the great reward obedience brings?