The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – the 5th Sunday in Lent (Day 3)

Hebrews 5:5-10

5 In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him,
You are my Son.
Today I have become your Father,
6 as he also says in another place,
You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.
7 During his days on earth, Christ offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death. He was heard because of his godly devotion. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. 9 After he had been made perfect, he became the source of salvation for everyone who obeys him. 10 He was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Despite our Western conceit that we can and ought to avoid suffering, suffering is unavoidable. But there is suffering, and there is suffering. Some comes from simply being a fallen human being and living in a fallen world. Bodies decay and become ill. We hurt one another wittingly and unwittingly. The creation is fouled and takes its toll on us. Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the like wreak havoc on a large scale. Political and economic powers threaten and oppress the poor and the weak. No, none of us are immune from such suffering.

We also suffer from the choices we make. What will be our standard of living? Where will we live? With whom will we associate? What causes will we support? And most important of all, for whom or for what will we live? Each of these decisions entails a choice and such choices can be costly. We offend others who will seek pay back.
Friends may leave us for stands we take or causes we support. Our job security may be threatened. Families may get upset. It has been well-said that even the decision to marry and bear children is a covenant to suffer. Yes, we will all suffer in some way shape and form from the choices we make.

It was no different for Jesus. He lived in the same fallen world we do, under the same conditions of mortality, of Roman political and economic oppression, susceptible to nature’s caprices and creation’s brokenness. This unavoidable suffering Jesus had to bear and cope with as does every human being.

This is not, however, the kind of suffering the writer of Hebrews speak of when he writes: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (v.8). The word “obedience” sets this kind of suffering apart from the inevitable kind. The suffering spoken of here is that which is chosen. It is part and parcel of the life choices he made. Like all of us, Jesus had to determine what his life was all about.
And determine it he did. At least from the time he was twelve Jesus knew that it was his “Father’s business” he was to be about. Not even his parents’ wishes and desires for him could take precedence over his calling. His determination caused pain and doubtless friction as well between him and his mother and father. He suffered the misunderstanding, doubt, and at the last, defection of those he counted and counted on as friends. And at the last, he was so shaken at what lay ahead that he sought another way than that the one his Father desired for him (even though he finally gave himself over to Father’s will).

Yes, Jesus single-minded commitment to his Father’s will cost him dearly; far more, infinitely more, than we will ever know. Yet it was this suffering that fully secured Jesus’ identity and commitment even in the most trying crucible of all, Gethsemane.
And Jesus calls us to a similar commitment to God, suffering and all. No commitment that’s worth anything comes free of suffering. For only in such suffering do we choose ever more firmly to stay the course of our commitments. After all, if such commitment is never tested, how can we or anyone else know if it is real? And is that not what Lent is about?


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