As Clear As Mud: Did Jesus Have to Learn Obedience?

Yesterday’s post on Luke 22:30 has sparked an idea for a new series on the blog called As Clear As Mud. In this ongoing, and probably sporadic, series, I will be addressing various difficult or unclear Scripture passages and processing through them. I am not, by any means, an expert in Scriptural interpretation, but I do want to come to grips with what I believe about the Bible’s difficult passages. I expect this series to be exploratory. I am not planning on answering questions unless those answers are clear.

My true aim in this is to grow in my own understanding of Scripture, but I hope that this series will serve you (my 2 dozen readers) as you wrestle through Scripture, seeking to know God’s heart.

Today, I want to tackle Hebrews 5:8-9. Which 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

There are at least two parts of this passage that are potentially problematic. First, what does it mean for Jesus to “learn obedience”? And second, If Jesus is already perfect, how can He be “made perfect?”

Let’s take them one at a time.

What does it mean for Jesus to “learn obedience though what He suffered”?

I am your classic do-it-yourself-er. I start building and then look at the instructions if I get stuck. I read regularly on my own, but read very little while in school (which is one of the reasons why I never graduated college). I inherited this from my dad who challenges me constantly to figure things out for myself. Experience has been our preferred method of learning.

I was fortunate enough to sit under Dr. D.A. Carson for a week as he walked a classroom full of pastors through the book of Hebrews, and he explained that this sort of experiential learning is exactly what is referred to in this passage. Jesus (by experience) learned obedience through what He suffered. As a Son, the Son of God, Jesus did not experience any suffering whatsoever. Heaven is a perfect place, and Jesus, being perfectly God, did not experience any measure of imperfection. But, when He came to earth and took up our likeness in His humanity, He experienced suffering, temptation, and, ultimately, death. He learned by experience. He gained firsthand knowledge of what it actually felt like, as a human, to endure the very deepest and most painful suffering.

He learned obedience through what He suffered.

If Jesus is already perfect, how can He be “made perfect?”

This one is easy to answer once the first question is clearly. Obviously, Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He does not wrong. Never has. Never will. But is that the only definition of perfect? Can’t perfect mean “complete”? Dr. Carson was also helpful in pointing out that perfect does indeed refer to “completeness” in this instance. Jesus perfectly experienced humanity through temptation, suffering, and death. In this way, He is a more perfect human that we can ever hope to be this side of eternity. His suffering was greater, His temptation was more intense, and He experienced death, something that none of us have ever personally experienced. Jesus suffered all these things and remained fully human, rising from the grave, conquering sin and death, and becoming exalted to reign on the throne of Heaven. In this risen, glorious state, Jesus is still perfectly God and perfectly man, and therefore, He is sufficiently able to save all who trust in Him.

He was made perfect.

I look forward to this series finding a home here and I hope that you are helped by it as I am. If you have a particular text that you would like me to explore, please leave a comment and I will do my best to work through it during this series.

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