|I have long-believed that when people's faith is truly well-nurtured, then is when they'll really live like people of faith. It's also true that then is when Satan is liable to begin working his hardest, though. I've had a share of tough days and times as have many of you, and this message declares that Christ is the key for making it through whatever this earthly life can throw at us. Hopefully you'll find it to be highly faith-evoking...
FULLY TRAINED & QUALIFIED
7During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
The Bible's Book of Hebrews gives a fascinating look at the Old Testament sacrificial system and explains how it's all summed up in Christ as the once-and-for-all Atoning Sacrifice for our sins. The Book systematically outlines how Jesus is superior to Angels, to Moses, to the blood sacrifices of animals and to the Hebrew priesthood. It identifies Jesus as both the Initiator and Finisher of our faith, and it encourages our bearing up bravely under God's discipline, pointing to Christ not only as our Example but also as our actual Help and Stay.
This text, also from Hebrews, reflects some of the same thoughts:
"In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear. 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, being designated by God a High Priest..."
Nobody becomes a Doctor, Judge, Military Officer, Olympic Contestant or even a Pizza Maker without some degree of specific training experience and coming to be recognized as qualified. - Jesus, too, underwent a rigorous training program - identified as His SUFFERING. What He learned through it was OBEDIENCE. Once He completed the course, Jesus was fully trained and qualified to be our sole SOURCE of eternal salvation and the only PRIEST anyone needs.
CHRIST'S "TRAINING" WAS TO SUFFER
Do you ever take time to ponder all the ways in which Jesus was subjected to anguish and pain, clearly realizing one-by-one the number of things He suffered, to whatever degree may be humanly possible, anyway? There's nothing we ever feel or go through concerning which He couldn't sincerely say that He knows what we're feeling and genuinely sympathizes with us!!!
(IN HIS EARLY EARTHLY LIFE AND PUBLIC MINISTRY)
Remember that the Lord's earthly life began in that cold cradle of straw, and then He was soon placed in danger by Herod the Great's quest to have Him killed. Already as an Infant His family had to flee all the way to Egypt for safety. Christ's suffering really began early on in His life!
Early in His ministry Jesus was led by God's Spirit into wilderness territory to be severely tempted and tested by Satan. Jesus knows how cunning, relentless and totally demoralizing his attacks can be. - As He then proceeded to the towns and villages of Israel, Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders and at His hometown of Nazareth and other places. Remember that "His own people received Him not," when you maybe don't feel very well accepted in some circles. He knows from His personal experience how it feels!
(AT HIS TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION)
Consider how strenuous and agonizing all the suffering was for Jesus in body, mind, heart and soul at the time of His trial and crucifixion, because it went far beyond just the nails piercing His hands and feet...
Jesus hurt and suffered profoundly in His body! He was tied to a post and harshly lashed 39 times with a short-handled and many tentacled whip embedded with sharp cinders (the official count and apparatus of scourging recorded in Roman documents of the time and also experienced by St. Paul). The whip's strands wrapped around His shoulders and torso, tearing away chunks of His flesh. Large treacherous thorns were woven into a ring and roughly pushed down on His head and brow like a mock crown. Blood flows profusely from scalp and face wounds.
Some will perhaps remember the terribly swollen face and eyes of an American pilot captured and tortured in Operation Desert Storm against the military forces of Iraq in the early 1990s. Jesus, too, was beaten around the head and face to the point that He became almost unrecognizable. (That was predicted in the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 52 verse 14.)
By the time He was forced to begin carrying His crossbeam to the site of His crucifixion, Jesus had already lost much blood. Being kept up through the whole previous night had severely weakened Him as well.
Then came the excruciating shock to the sensitive nerves of His hands and feet as large hideous nails were pounded through them. Hanging there, exposed to the elements, Christ's body essentially dehydrated as He suffocated to death through the long, arduous hours of Good Friday's early afternoon. Crucifixion creates a situation of cramping the lungs and diaphragm, so that it becomes increasingly tiring and difficult to breathe.
There is no physical pain we can feel but that Jesus can't say He also knows what it is to hurt severely and without relief. He cares when we're in pain!
There was also the onslaught against Christ's sanity of mind and the feelings of His heart. - His disciple Judas, for love of money, betrayed Him with a hypocritical kiss. The other disciples ran away in fear. Peter became embarrassed and afraid to own up to even just knowing Jesus. - All those things had to have pierced the Lord's heart as surely as the nails did His hands and feet!
The Jewish Court, Governor Pilate and King Herod each tried and tested Jesus to lay aside His claim of Messiahship, and it continued with the mob at the cross teasing and challenging Him to come down. It even came from the thieves dying next to Him. He suffered the verbal abuse of the soldiers who had scourged Him as well, and even the humiliation of being spit on. He had to watch the murderer Barabbas be set free while Pontius Pilate for all intents and purposes overturned his own decree of innocence concerning Jesus.
You and I know of no mental cruelty or rejection for which Jesus couldn't say with greatest love and kindness, "I know, dear friend; I know."
We need to especially realize, though, what intense suffering Jesus experienced in soul and spirit! There were no Angels to minister to Him at the Cross as there had been on other occasions. His Father-God turned His back on Jesus, letting Him be weighed down and punished for the sins of all the world. We can't imagine the enormity of the load - all charged to Christ!
The essential definition of "hell" is to be completely cut off and separated from God, and that's what Jesus suffered most deeply in His innermost Being while everything else was happening to His body and externally. To willingly face and then actually suffer so deeply on our behalf marks how terrible our sin is, but it also exhibits a love that is infinite, incomprehensible and precious to us! There is no degree of loneliness or abandonment but that Christ doesn't understand it altogether.
Jesus already knew and anticipated beforehand all that would happen, offering up "prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears" as the text says, at the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Judas betrayed Him. Then Jesus went through and completed His "training program" of immense suffering!
HE LEARNED "OBEDIENCE" THROUGH HIS SUFFERING
The text tells us what it did for Jesus:--> "He was heard for His godly fear" and "He learned obedience through what He suffered."
JESUS had to learn obedience? Yes. -- But why? Wasn't He the perfect and sinless Son of God? What did HE need to learn?
He came to earth and lived a fully human life to "learn" what it really is like for us here. He personally experienced the difficulties we face in obeying God! A young person is shunned by others, for example, for choosing the right path and refusing to follow the crowd. Jesus really knows! He learned for HIMSELF the pains of body and heart and the persecution we sometimes may experience in trying to follow God's Commandments. He tasted death and even the anguish of hell in His going to such lengths for us! HIS obedience even took Him to the extreme of dying, which is far more than most other people could ever claim. Scripture says, "Christ emptied Himself (that is, laid aside all His Divine Right and Power) and became obedient unto death, - even death on a Cross." It was an absolutely total submitting to His Father's will! Jesus fulfilled all the will of His Heavenly Father perfectly in every way, shape and form, and the Bible clearly teaches elsewhere that His own accomplishment is graciously credited to the account of every true Christian believer.
(HIS GODLY FEAR)
Thus it was that Jesus "was heard for His godly fear" by the One "who was able to save Him from death." Yet He did die, true enough. God did subject Him to death, - but then raised Him to life again, giving Jesus all glory and an everlasting Kingdom! --- Jesus completed His course and was now fully trained and uniquely qualified, becoming (as the text says) the very "Source of eternal salvation" and designated as God's Most High Priest!
THOSE THINGS FOR WHICH CHRIST "QUALIFIED"
(AS "SOURCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION")
Let's believe Jesus in saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, that truly no one can come to the Father but through Him, and that He and the Father truly are One! It is all true because He is the sole qualified Source for eternal salvation, and none of us is able to stand before the Holy and Just God in our own goodness or merit. We are altogether in sin! But that sin has been paid for by Christ alone! Throughout all human history He alone "qualifies" as the world's Savior.
(AS "HIGH PRIEST")
The two primary qualifications for priests, according to the Book of Hebrews, are that they not be self-appointed and that they be able to sympathize and identify with those whom they serve. Jesus perfectly qualifies in regard to both points, of course.
GOD designated Jesus for the High Priestly Office, the text says, and His learning obedience and what all human life is like and about, including the extremes of suffering and death, make Him the perfect Candidate! He now is the one perfect Advocate for us before God, with pure and sincere sympathy for our condition.
When our consciences trouble us with the quite real weight of our sin, we can rest assured that Jesus felt it, too, - not as having been a sinner Himself, but in carrying ours and the world's sin for us. There is forgiveness with God as we regularly repent and confess our sins to Him. (See the Epistle of First John, chapter 1 verse 9.) - When you're burdened by the offenses of others against you, know that your dear Savior is always with you and sincerely cares for the hurt your heart carries. - When intolerable pain or illness strike, Christ promises to carry you through because He honestly feels for you from His own experience. - And when even death strikes a loved one or comes calling for you one day, you can trust that Jesus was entirely touched by that, too - but came away as its forever Conqueror!
May God's Holy Spirit make and keep you each strong in trusting Jesus as our fully trained and qualified Source of eternal salvation and High Priest, our perfect Sympathizer and Advocate!