In the book of Hebrews, we read something about the Lord Jesus that at first glance seems strange or even wrong:
‘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 2:10
How can this be? Surely the Lord Jesus was always perfect?
To rightly understand what the writer to the Hebrews means, we need to make a distinction between Jesus as the son of God and Jesus as his people’s Saviour, between Jesus as a person and Jesus in his office as Redeemer.
As we explore this, we find beautiful truths about the Lord Jesus and a profitable theme for reflection this Easter.
Jesus as a Person
The Bible is clear that Jesus was sinless and holy. As the Son of God, he was perfect. As a human being, he was perfect. He lived his whole life without sin. Many scripture passages prove this.
Writing about Jesus, Peter tells us that he ‘did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth‘ (1 Peter 2:22). Peter also tells us that ‘ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot‘ (1 Peter 1:8). In this, he is pointing back to the Passover lamb (a picture of the Lord Jesus) that had to be ‘without blemish‘ (Exodus 12:5).
When the angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was pregnant with the Lord Jesus, he referred to him as ‘that holy thing which shall be born of thee‘ (Luke 1:35).
Twice God the Father spoke audibly from heaven saying ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’. God could not have been well pleased with the Lord Jesus unless he was perfect and without sin.
One final example, we’re told later in Hebrews that Jesus was ‘in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin‘ (Hebrews 4:15).
So it is clear that Jesus as a person (with both his divine and human natures) was always sinless, always perfect.
Jesus the Saviour
Let’s consider Jesus in his office as the Saviour of his people. This is where Jesus can be said to have been ‘made perfect’.
In explaining how, I want to think about this in three closely linked ways.
1 – Jesus’s obedience to his Father’s will.
As Jesus was growing up we are told that he ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man‘ (Luke 2:52). It seems remarkable that the Lord Jesus could increase in favour with God, however, this shows us that as a real man, his continued obedience to his Father’s will was pleasing to God. Later in Hebrews, we’re told that Jesus ‘learned…obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him‘. (Hebrews 5:8-9)
There is an important reason why Jesus’s ongoing obedience to his Father’s will was so important. This is in the doctrine of Justification – the way God declares his people to be righteous. God’s justice requires two things: all sin must be punished, and his law must be perfectly kept. Jesus fulfilled both of these. He died on the cross to make atonement for his people’s sin, and he lived a perfect life to completely fulfil the law so providing a perfect righteousness that could be imputed to them. Through his life, Jesus lived in complete and perfect obedience to his Father’s will, even in all his suffering.
So we see that in his obedience to his Father, Jesus became that perfect Saviour for his people.
2 – Jesus as his people’s mediator.
We’ve looked at the obedience of Jesus to his father. In this second aspect we’ll see how Jesus becomes a perfect mediator for fallen human beings.
We’ve already quoted part of Hebrews 4:15, but the full verse tells us more; ‘For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.‘ Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and be tempted. He was born a baby, became a child, a teenager, and a grown man. He passed through all stages of life, experiencing its challenges and difficulties. He was ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief‘ (Isaiah 53:3). This means that in whatever situation we find ourselves, we can be sure that Jesus empathises with us as our mediator. It was only through growing up on earth as a real person that Jesus is able to fully represent us as our substitute.
So we see that through living a fully human life with all its physical, emotional and spiritual suffering Jesus became that perfect Saviour for his people.
3 – Ultimate culmination.
The most significant suffering Jesus experienced was as he endured the various parts of the Easter story. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was ‘very heavy‘ and ‘in an agony‘ (Mark 14:33; Luke 22:44). In the judgement hall, he was mocked and beaten. On the cross he endured an agony of body and soul, even being deserted by his Father.
This ties together the things we have already considered. Jesus’s death was the ultimate culmination of his life of suffering. It was in the garden and on the cross that he showed that he would perfectly obey his Father’s will. He prayed, ‘take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.‘ When challenged by the Pharisees to come down from the cross – ‘He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.‘ (Mark 15:31-32) – Jesus stayed on the cross out of obedience to his Father and love to his people. This was the culmination of his obedience and the point at which he made atonement for his people’s sin.
On the cross he was made perfect through suffering. He bore his people’s sins, giving his life and so becoming their perfect Saviour.
Let’s look back to the original verse we started with.
‘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.’
This shows us the ultimate necessity of Jesus being made perfect through suffering. The reason…to keep the covenant agreement made with his Father and the Holy Spirit in eternity past, to save their elect people and to bring ‘many sons unto glory‘.
This Easter, consider him, the captain of our salvation. Remember what and why he suffered. Are you one of those who obeys him and for whom he became the perfect author of eternal salvation? This perfect Saviour is worthy of all praise and adoration, for his life and death, and that through suffering he worked out ‘so great a salvation’ for us.[A00107 – 18/04/2019]