Jesus, The Source Of Eternal Salvation
Key Verse 5:8
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”
Once again we will be talking about the High Priesthood of our Lord Jesus. One of the questions that we always ask is why is the subject of his High Priesthood so important? And we have answered this question many times in the past in several lectures. But it does not hurt to answer it again, albeit briefly. Because of sin! We needed a high priest who could mediate between the Holy God and sinners like us. In the Old Testament there were high priests who served the people of God. But they themselves were weak and sinful, and they themselves couldn’t fulfill the full requirements and qualifications of the high priesthood in a way that could satisfy both God and represent humanity. So God promised through prophesy that he would send such a High Priest who would meet all the qualifications of the high priesthood, someone who would genuinely and completely and perfectly represent the human race before the throne of God and stand for them to mediate for us as our High Priest— someone who would perform before the throne of God all the functions that a high priest is called to perform before God in life and eternity for the people. The author has been telling us very simply and clearly here in these chapters that it could not be anyone other than Jesus. He alone is our High Priest. He has already given us many good reasons why. In these verses we are looking at today we are given another rare glimpse at how Jesus became our honored and worthy High Priest. The picture we see of him in these verses is beautiful beyond measure.
But before we look at today’s verses, I want us to recall some of the verses the author used to describe Jesus’ high priesthood. Look at Hebrews 2:14-18. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Here’s another verse to recall as well— Hebrews 4:15. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.” So why did the Christ have to become a human being like all of us? Well, in brief, and according to these verses, so that he might help us! To help us, he had to become a flesh and blood (incarnate) and then experience (or go through) death. Why did he need to experience death? Because it was the only way to destroy the devil who holds the power of death over us— only then could Jesus Christ free us from our slavery to death and to the fear of death. Another reason the Christ had to become human according to these verses is so that he might make atonement for our sins. In other words, so that he might take the punishment for our sins. But only the high priest could perform such a ceremony before God, so Jesus needed to be a high priest. And not just any high priest! He had to be a merciful and faithful one— one who understands our weakness to temptation and our failings— one who could indeed help us! But I want you to notice a very important phrase here which we will return to later. The author says: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted” and then he continues saying, “He is able to help those who are being tempted”.
Now we come to our passage where the author talks again about the high priesthood of our Lord Jesus. Let’s read it. Hebrews 5:7-10. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Time and again the author tells us that Jesus Christ had to become a man. We touched on this earlier. Jesus Christ became a man of flesh and blood for many a good reason. He needed to experience our humanity in every way. He needed to experience our death as well. But at the same time, the author also tells us that Jesus Christ also needed to act as our High Priest in order to atone for our sins. And that’s another good reason why he also needed to become a human being. He couldn’t possibly act as our High Priest unless he was a human being just like us (5:1-4). But “just like us” means that he would consequently be subject to everything we are subject to, responsible, accountable, liable, obedient and answerable to everything we are. Can we understand what this requires? What it means?
Earlier the author said, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.” (2:17) Then he said: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.” (4:15) To answer the question, “do we understand what it requires that Jesus Christ had to become like one of us in every way”, I can say quite honestly, we cannot begin to fathom what it meant for our Lord to experience our humanity and to be subject and accountable to everything we are subject and accountable to, both to God and to man. But what the author told us in the verses we just read (2:17; 4:15), he deeply explains in our passage today— in 5:7-10. In other words, how did Jesus prepare for his priestly ministry? He prepared by experiencing all the trials and temptations that his own people experiences as they lived their lives of faith before God and walked by faith before the living God. They were weak and failing in their walk with God, and faced many temptations which the Lord Jesus himself experienced in his preparation to be the high priest eternal of a new humanity. Oh what suffering he suffered. What anguish he went through. But because of his experiences, he was and is able to fully identify with the needs of us all. And he is fully able to supply all the grace that we all need to see us through our journey of faith in this world towards life eternal. He alone can understand the sinner. This is what this passage reveals. It reveals the Lord as he experienced our life and became the source of our eternal salvation.
Look at verse 7. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” The author tells us what our Lord Jesus did during his life on earth— that is during his earthly ministry— with a few words. He says that Jesus prayed to God with loud cries and tears. There are three records of Jesus shedding tears while praying in the gospels. Of course, there may be more, but we know of three. The first one is at the tomb of Lazarus just before he raised Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:35) Many think that Jesus was emotionally overwhelmed because of his love for Lazarus and the sisters. But in truth, Jesus wept because he was distraught at the power of death which consumed the hearts of God’s people. He longed for the day when life rather than death ruled their hearts. I wonder if he still weeps when he looks at our hearts overcome by sorrow and despair. Another time Jesus wept was over the city of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41) They thought they were a holy people righteous and worthy of the Lord, outwardly beautiful like a pearl, but inwardly rotting with the cancer of pride, greed and immorality. So Jesus wept over them because they couldn’t recognize God when he visited them. I wonder if Jesus still weeps over the cities of the world, especially over Chicago. And whether we should weep over it with him. We cannot ignore the fact that even the Son of God prayed during his life on earth, and his prayers and petitions were often with loud cries and tears. The author of Hebrews does not tells us more than this. But we can learn from Jesus his passion in prayer, as he engaged his mind, heart and soul— which takes us to the author’s intent.
And the third time Jesus wept was in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is perhaps what the author is alluding to when he summarized Jesus’ life on earth as a life of tearful prayer. At Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus bowed his head and prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) It was one of the most agonizing moments in Jesus’ life. We wonder how it is that the Son of God prayed like this. But on that night he poured out his heart and soul to God with a prayer request. “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He was talking about the cup of death. As a man, he did not want to experience the agony of dying the death of the cross. In truth, no one would. It is said that death on a cross was not only the most cruel kind of death, but also the most agonizing. But as an obedient Son, Jesus did not leave his prayer like this. He continued saying: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” What Jesus meant was, nevertheless Father, I submit myself to your will, that your will may prevail. Jesus knew that it was absolutely the will of God that he deliver his life on the cross for the sins of the world. In fact, it was Jesus himself who willingly surrendered his life for this cause. In the Psalms prophesies Jesus says: “Here I am— it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:6-8) But as a man, Jesus suffered like all of us to surrender his life to the cross. Yet, he did as an obedient child of God. Jesus prayed to God with loud cries on that night on our behalf, for he was about to surrender his life for our sake. He could have changed his mind. He could have refused. We only need to consider how easy it is for us in a moment of pain and anguish to give up and turn around. Jesus, who was subject to everything we were subject to, who felt everything we feel, could have abandoned his post and returned to heaven without blame. But Jesus prayed.
Look at verse 7 again. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” In Gethsemane, Jesus decided to surrender himself to death on the cross. So what does it mean when the author here says that Jesus “offered up prayers… to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard…” How could Jesus have been heard when he had been given over to the cross and died? Let me explain. When Jesus was praying in Gethsemane for God to take the cup of death from him, he prayed as a man, like you and me who would avoid torturous death by any means. As we said, it was the prayer of an anguished soul who anticipated the cruelty and pain of the cross, and then prayed that this cup may pass if possible. But we already said that Jesus also prayed to submit his will to the will of his Father God and that he did. He firmly decided to give his life on the cross. It was for the cross that he had come to this world. It was to shed his blood on the cross that he had come to this moment in life.
But Jesus did not only pray one prayer that night in Gethsemane. He had another prayer topic. He also prayed that God “save him from death”. What then does this mean? This clearly isn’t physical death then, since Jesus was willing to give his life on the cross. What then is it? We know that every human being who has ever died, has not been able to overcome the power of death. Death has swallowed up everyone. Ever since sin entered the world, death also reigned in the world, such that every person who died remained in death and under its power. The author mentioned this in the previous passage, when he said: “He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (2:14-15) Jesus lived like us in this world, in the flesh. He surrendered himself to the limitations of the flesh. He felt what we feel, and touched only what we touch, and saw what we saw, and heard what we hear. He was a human being in every way. Although he was the divine Son of God, he was a human being experiencing the limitations of the flesh like us in every way. And death was the ultimate enemy who crouched and waited to devour all living things. Jesus completely trusted God. Yet, Jesus anguished in prayer asking God to save him from death. He knew that, once he laid down his life on the cross, only God could save him from death and raise him from the dead. So he prayed asking God for strength and for courage and for faith and for all that it takes to fully trust God who alone could rescue him from the power of death and raise him by the power of life. It is hard for us to understand this. Jesus who said: “I am the resurrection and the life”, who raised Lazarus from the dead, who had command over the fishes and oceans and demons and all, to cry out to God to save him from death. But this might give us some insight into how much Jesus had to give up in his death on the cross for our sake. His sacrifice for our sins cost him that moment of separation from his Father and the Holy Spirit. That moment must have been a darkness unknown to anyone in all of eternity. It was that that might have caused the Lord of glory to cry out to God to save him from death. And the author tells us that Jesus was heard. Why? Because of his reverent submission.
He was heard because of his reverent submission to God. “He was heard” clearly means that God raised him from the dead. Indeed the whole New Testament is a testimony of God’s glory that raised Jesus from the dead. In fact, Jesus Christ was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:5). Jesus was heard and delivered from death because of his reverent submission. But the question is, how did he submit himself to God? Well, Jesus submitted himself to the will of God. He submitted himself to death— even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) And this is the climax of his life. What I’m saying is that the author summarizes Jesus’ life with the words “during his life on earth”, meaning that his whole life on earth reflected reverent submission to the will of God. He lived in submission to the will of God all his life. The incident at Gethsemane only reflected what Jesus had been living his whole life. He lived a reverent life, means he lived a life of worshipful devotion to God, as well as a life of total submission to his will. And in the end, it all culminated in God’s will for him to offer his life as ransom for our sins. But now it’s very important that we see what kind of reverent submission our high priest lived during his life on earth. What was his reverent life like? How did he identify with us? How did he come to understand us? What qualified him to become our glorious high priest who could represent us and eventually qualified to help us? I believe that all this may be understood from verse 8. And we can see the ultimate result of his life in verse 9-10.
Read verse 8. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” There are many things in this statement that seem hard to understand at first. For example, how is it that the Son of God should learn obedience like a common person when he is the Son of God? The author begins by saying that “Although he was a son”, meaning that as the Son of God, he was already in a place of privilege, a place of supreme authority. He had spoken and all things in heaven and on earth had obeyed. His word was the law. But we must not forget that he had now taken the place of a servant. He had become like one of us, a man of flesh and blood. And as such he had made himself subject to another, particularly to all the laws that apply to our lives, whether they are the laws of God or the laws of this world as they press upon the natural man living in a fallen world under the power of sin. It was a totally new experience of what it was to obey. So, although he was a son, he now needed to learn obedience. Particularly he needed to learn to obey God and to submit himself to God’s will. And it wasn’t easy for him either, because pure and sinless as he was, still the flesh fought against him, as well as all the hordes of hell that battled to fell him. What this means is very hard for us to understand, simply because we are born in sin and to disobedience and rebellion against God, and even as Christians disobedience and rebellion often mark our way. But for the Son of God, who knew no sin, no rebellion and no disobedience, one would think that obedience would come naturally, easily. But in truth, it did not! It was an intense struggle to obey God to the point of suffering beyond imagining. In fact it was a process of learning obedience through what he suffered. The author tells us that Christ Jesus learned obedience to God from what he suffered. In other words, we learn from this, two things: first, obedience to God doesn’t come naturally, that obedience actually requires learning; Second, that the process of learning obedience is painful. If you and I are serious about our Christian lives and we want to grow in our obedience to the Lord, we cannot rule out suffering to achieve that glorious purpose. If we do, we are only fooling ourselves.
Still, this is not easy to understand. So let me try to explain it. The author says that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” So then, if we can understand what he suffered from, maybe we can understand how he learned to obey. Earlier I said that there was a verse that was very important for us to remember. Hebrews 2:18, where the author says: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted”. This sheds light on what some of Jesus’ suffering had been. Jesus suffered when he was tempted. Many things tempted him. The devil tempted him at the onset of his ministry. During his ministry, he was tempted by many things. Like all of us, everything that tempts mankind was tempting to the Lord Jesus who came in the flesh. When people insulted him, he was tempted to retaliate. Like us, he was tempted to anger, to un-forgiveness, to greed, laziness, and to whatever else this world holds trap for the children of men. He was also often tempted to give up the way of the cross. In the end, in the Garden of Gethsemane the temptation to walk away from the pain and anguish of the cross caused him to even pray that if possible God’s will be changed and the cross be avoided. What painful anguish our Savior endured during his life on earth from all the temptations that assaulted him!
But Jesus “suffered when he was tempted”! What did he suffer from when he was so tempted? We only suffer when we are tempted when we do not give in to the temptation. That is when we really suffer inwardly the most. If we give in to the temptation, there is no suffering at all. But if we resist the temptation, if we do not give in to it, oh what anguish and what struggle, what pain and suffering there is to endure! But every time Jesus resisted temptation, he resisted in obedience to the word of God, in submission to the will of God. God called him to live a holy life as he had called Adam. When Adam failed, God called Jesus to head a new humanity and to rescue us from what misery Adam plunged us into. So Jesus had to fight and win against what Adam lost against. During his life, Jesus our Lord learned obedience to God. Slowly, one day at a time, he learned obedience to God through what he suffered.
Jesus learned obedience to God. The incarnate Son of God actually learned what it is to obey through intense suffering. He did so by resisting everything that is contrary to the will of God, and abhorrent to him. How did Jesus do so? He denied himself. He renounced his own will. He did not please himself. (Romans 15:3) We know from Scripture that Jesus grew up like one us, and went to the synagogue and learned as any would learn. He learned the Scripture. He studied the Bible. He prayed. He learned what the will of God is, that he might obey it. He learned what God hates that he might avoid it. He learned all the pitfalls of the humanity and the wiles of the devil that he might resist them. Then he lived a life of self denial, of self sacrifice and of self giving. His life was the light that shines in the darkness. He is the one who boldly said: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46) Why? Because “He suffered when he was tempted”. And then “Learned obedience from what he suffered”. We do not suffer much because we often do not resist temptation. In fact most usually either give in to it then justify it to ease their conscience. So it is hard to learn obedience to God. But obedience to God is imperative. Otherwise, our Lord Jesus could not have become our High Priest. Jesus suffered much in order to become our High Priest who is qualified to atone for our sins.
What happened when our Lord Jesus learned obedience through his suffering? Look at verse 9. “And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” He was made perfect and became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. When Jesus learned obedience through his suffering, it was not only credited to him as reverent submission to the Lord, but he was also made perfect. This word made perfect is better understood as made complete. In other words, when his work was completed, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. By virtue of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father’s will, he became the source, the fountain, of our eternal salvation. He became the wellspring of salvation. From him now all the wells of eternal life spring up and flow. Apart from him there can be no life nor salvation. The author says two interesting things here. First, he says: “eternal salvation”. This means that Jesus’ salvation for those who are in him, is eternal. There can be no doubt that we are talking here about a salvation that’s founded and secure in the eternity of the Lord Jesus himself— a salvation that cannot be shaken.
The Second interesting and critical thing here is that he says that this eternal salvation is: “For all who obey him”. Salvation, the Bible tells us is given for all people, regardless. The salvation that Jesus came to bring to humanity is for all. But in truth is not given at random for everyone. The apostle makes it very clear here who may receive this eternal salvation. He says: “For all who obey him”. Everyone who hears the gospel of our Lord is commanded to believe it. (1 John 3:23). This is the responsibility of every person who hears the gospel. But to obey the gospel is a matter of faith, for we call people to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5; 16:26) Obedience to Christ is one of the most important elements in a Christian’s life. One can do a hundred and one things in the name of Christ, but unless one obeys Christ, what are the prospects! Even Jesus taught his disciples obedience as one of the most important and critical things in their life as a disciple. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23) As our Lord Jesus learned obedience to the Father through suffering, we first obey Christ by faith, and we devote our lives to obedience to Christ by faith. Obedience isn’t easy. Obedience means self denial, self sacrifice, and self giving, in the footsteps of our Lord. Just as he paved the way through his own obedient faith, so also those who love him must obey him. And he is the source of eternal salvation for those who obey him. And they obey him willingly, out of their faith and trust in him, out of their love for him. But they also obey him knowing that obedience to him is crucial to their eternal salvation. There are many among the children of God who take this obedience lightly. They obey according to their own agenda, according to their own understanding, by their whims and fancies, in their own way, in their convenience, to their own comfort. There is no sign of suffering, no self sacrifice, no self denial, no sign of self giving. Selfishness reigns in their lives. Such people may speak openly about their Christian heritage, but they must consider very carefully the words: “For all who obey him”. On the other hand, those who obey him, live by his word. They are the ones who also learn obedience from what they suffer. May God help live a life of obedience to the Christ who saved us.
Read verse 10. “And was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” And that is how Jesus was finally designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Now that he was made perfect, or complete and now that he had become the source of eternal salvation, our Lord Jesus became our fully qualified High Priest.