I was reminded of Hebrews 5:8-9 the other day when we studied it in church. It's a verse that can be confusing:
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered, and having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. (NASB)
The phrase "having been made perfect" seems contradictory since we know Jesus was perfect and never sinned. Therefore, what does "being made perfect" refer to?
In the margin of my Bible, I made a note: "perfection for the role of High Priest." I don't remember when I wrote that, but it makes sense.
Because of what Hebrews 4:14-15 tells us,
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (NASB)
How was Jesus perfected? By suffering what we suffer and being tempted by what we're tempted by. He felt the pain we do. He felt the pull and demands of temptation. He knows what it's like to be human. And yet He responded perfectly.
That way, He can sympathize with the trials and temptations we face. That's great news! It means when we come to Him, He never says, "Well, I wish I could understand what you're talking about, but I can't. I'll try to help but I'm a little clueless as to what you need."
Instead He says, "I know exactly what you're talking about and I've been there. I've experienced your pain, trials, and temptations. Not only do I want to help you, I can help you because not only did I create you, not only do I know everything about you, but I also know exactly how you're feeling. And I responded perfectly in trust of the Father."
That's why Hebrews 4:16 is so very very, powerful in what all this means to us:
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (NASB)
The implications for us are monumental.
Jesus offers mercy because He says: "I've experienced what you're going through. I feel your pain. I am sympathetic without condoning sin."
Jesus offers grace because He says, "I know your weakness, because I was tempted to be weak by distrusting the Father" (but he overcame).
What joy! Jesus became perfect as a High Priest and we enjoy the benefits: help, sympathy, empathy, and understanding. Jesus never pushes us away because of our doubts, stumbles, or confusion, even our sin. He knows what we're going through.
How wonderful that our confusion over Hebrews 5:8-9 can become rejoicing and gratitude. Do these verses and insights speak to you?