Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
(Heb 5:8 KJV)
This verse has provoked me to think a lot over the years. What does it mean that Christ learned obedience? How would suffering teach him obedience?
Jesus did not need to learn to obey, as though he was disobedient. As such, suffering could not teach him to obey. Jesus learned experentially what it was to obey and to suffer because of that obedience. We complain, often and loud, when our disobedience leads to our suffering. Jesus did not complain when our disobedience led to his suffering. This puts him in direct contrast to Adam.
Scripture makes clear that Adam was not deceived by the lies of the serpent. He knew that God had not lied or withheld anything from them. He knew they would not become gods. He knew they would die. Yet he went ahead and ate from the fruit. Why? I think Adam looked at Eve and loved her more than he loved God. He chose to sin and join Eve in judgment, rather than obey and trust God. He learned suffering through disobedience, rather than obedience through suffering. Seeing no hope of saving Eve, Adam despaired and joined her in sin. Ironically, his love for Eve failed immediately, and he ‘threw her under the bus’, blaming her (and God) for his own sin.
The contrast goes further. Adam attacked his wife, the one he had pledged to love. By contrast Jesus suffered betrayal by Judas. Judas is often shown in movies as a loner, always slinking somewhat outside the circle of the apostles. This is mistaken in my view. David prophesied of Judas’ betrayal in the psalms, speaking of the one who went arm in arm with Christ to worship. The new testament makes clear that James, John, and Peter were Jesus’ innermost circle of trusted disciples. I think David shows Judas to be Jesus’ best friend among the disciples. He is a countertype to the type of David’s great friend Jonathan. Jesus suffered betrayal by His friend in contrast to Adam’s betrayal of Eve. He chose Judas as a disciple even though He knew that Judas was going to betray Him.
What is the point of all this?
Are we willing to learn obedience through suffering? Are we willing to obey the Lord knowing that doing so means that we will be betrayed? That we will be scorned? Are we willing to love those who spit on us? Who viscerally hate us and want to kill us? Are we willing to lose everything we have, everyone we love, in order to have Christ?
Because if we are not, then we will have just the nation that we have today.