Painful Perfection

I’ve been reading the Epistle to the Hebrews for the last few days, and yesterday was struck by the way God chose to perfect Jesus. If the Bible didn’t say that Jesus had to be made perfect, I wouldn’t believe it; I would believe that He was already totally perfect when He got here. But look at what Hebrews 2 says:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9-10)

I’ve often run into the idea that suffering makes us perfect by burning out our impurities and sanctifying us; that by going through pain, we become holier. But that can’t be what this passage means when it talks about Jesus. He didn’t have any impurities to burn out; He couldn’t have been holier than He was. Instead, the perfection in question is that of suitedness to a certain role — in this case, to the role of “captain of our salvation.”

This got me thinking, and I realized something: the crucifixion was excessive. Jesus did not have to suffer like that in order to pay for our sins. Think about it. The animal sacrifices that foreshadowed Christ were not tortured to death; they were killed quickly and cleanly by practiced hands. The blood of Christ takes away our sins, and it would do so without the scourgings, the mockery, the crown of thorns, the betrayal, the nails, the insanity that is suffering inflicted on a man by other men.

So why do it? Why voluntarily die like that?

Because, as Hebrews 2:17-18 goes on to say,

In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

Jesus was made perfect in His role as our advocate and priest because He chose to suffer like us. Because He chose to identify that deeply with who we are. Suffering has been part of human experience since the world fell in Adam. Suffering is often senseless and confusing. It tempts us to abandon faith or lash out at others. Suffering is often brought on by others, deliberately, compounding the pain. And Jesus chose to experience all of that so He could perfectly identify with us.

I’ve always known the cross was proof of God’s love, but this takes that to a whole new level.






5 responses to “Painful Perfection”

  1. […] Remember my post about how God made Jesus perfect? […]

  2. […] Remember my post about how God made Jesus perfect? […]

  3. Judith Avatar

    Wow. Thank you for this …

    I’ve never thought of this like THIS before! Just this morning I woke up with a bad dream (too much history, me thinks!) and my first thoughts were, “God, why do You allow suffering like THAT … ?” I never realised until this moment that He didn’t just allow it, He endured it … and He endured it not “just” (as if that wasn’t enough!) to save us for all eternity, but to identify with us in our humanity … to UNDERSTAND us in the darkest moments of our lives.

    As I said, thank you for this …

  4. Sally Apokedak Avatar

    I came over from Becky Miller’s blog. This is a wonderful post.

  5. Elisabeth Avatar

    Wow. These were some very interesting observations. I’d never looked at Jesus’ death that way before. The more I learn about His death, the more I realize just how great is His love for us. Thanks for posting your observations!
    I’ve always had the notion that it isn’t suffering itself that makes us holier, but our response to pain and suffering–either submitting to God or fighting him. Is that more or less what you meant?

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