I gritted my teeth and held my tongue. I didn’t want to, you understand. I wanted to lash out at this man before me who was unleashing his anger upon me. I wanted to strike back in kind. I wanted to hurt him as he was hurting me.
In that moment, I did something right. Not everything, for my heart was not offering him grace. And I couldn’t have cared less that he was made in God’s image, that he too was a treasured possession of the Most High.
But I did control my tongue. It’s something.
For weeks after that encounter, I wondered why I had been singled out by this man. Unfortunately, that moment wasn’t a onetime event. But I didn’t understand why I was the recipient of his displeasure. Why did it seem like he intentionally frustrated everything I tried to do?
I cried out for God to save me from this man. I wanted vindication. I wanted someone to defend me. I wanted … freedom from the onslaught that I didn’t believe I deserved.
The truth is that this situation was much bigger than I could tell you about in a blog post. It involved many other people with all their personality quirks, agendas, and problems.
But among the lessons I learned through those days was this: I was learning obedience the same way Jesus did.
Confused? Let me help you. Let’s look at Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV):
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. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
God had the power to save Jesus from death. And while Jesus was on earth, he begged God with loud crying and tears to save him. He truly worshiped God, and God listened to his prayers. Jesus is God’s own Son, but still he had to suffer before he could learn what it really means to obey God. Suffering made Jesus perfect, and now he can save forever all who obey him.
A little better? Bear with me through just one more version because this is important. This is The Message:
While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity, … he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.
Tell me that I am not the only one who struggles with this. I’ve been in church all my life, and the supreme message I’ve heard about Jesus is that He was perfect.
Don’t get confused here. I’m not saying that Jesus wasn’t perfect.
But I think many of us equate His perfection with some sort of automatic knowledge of everything. We forget that while He was fully God, He was also fully human.
As a toddler, He would have had to learn to walk. And probably fell a few times.
As a small child, He would have had to learn to tie His sandals, handle a mallet, and fish. Do you really think Joseph didn’t have to level the legs on Jesus first chair?
Luke 2:52 says that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Matthew Henry says,
In the perfections of his divine nature there could be no increase; but this is meant of his human nature, his body increased in stature and bulk, he grew in the growing age; and his soul increased in wisdom, and in all the endowments of a human soul. Though the Eternal Word was united to the human soul from his conception, yet the divinity that dwelt in him manifested itself to his humanity by degrees, ad modum recipientis—in proportion to his capacity; as the faculties of his human soul grew more and more capable, the gifts it received from the divine nature were more and more communicated.
Some will argue that these verses in Hebrews are speaking of Jesus’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before He went to the cross.
But when I think about all Jesus endured during the last hours before His crucifixion, I see instances of God preparing Him during His ministry years. And when I think about all Jesus endured during His three years of ministry, I wonder about the instances when God likely worked to prepare Him during His years at home with Joseph and Mary.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.
May I be as good a student as Jesus was.