What does it mean to say Jesus was "made perfect"?August 13, 2014 1 Comment
What does the author of Hebrews mean when he says in Hebrews 2:10 that God the Father made Jesus, the founder of our salvation, “perfect through suffering”? Continue reading . . .
What does the author of Hebrews mean when he says in Hebrews 2:10 that God the Father made Jesus, the founder of our salvation, “perfect through suffering”? And what does he mean in Hebrews 5:8 when he says that “he learned obedience through what he suffered?” Again, what does it mean to say that Jesus was “made perfect” through his suffering (Heb. 5:9a).
In both cases our author is establishing the qualifications of Jesus to serve as our Great High Priest. The fact that Jesus “suffered” in this way proves that he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).
So what do these statements mean? The “perfecting” in view has to do with Christ’s vocation, his calling to be the savior of his people. It was a process by which he was shown to be fully equipped and qualified for his office.
He does not mean that Jesus was sinfully flawed or that he was morally imperfect and had to be purified and cleansed. We know this because of what he says in Hebrews 4:15, 7:26, and 9:14. The sinlessness of Jesus has never been in question. The perfection here has to do with completing one’s preparation to fulfill a task. He is saying that Jesus was fully qualified as our High Priest to make a sufficient atonement for sin and was able to secure for us a righteousness that becomes ours through faith because he faithfully obeyed his Father and offered up a sinless sacrifice for sin. Our Lord demonstrated that he was competent and qualified to be our Savior because he trusted in his Father from beginning to end, even when he suffered horribly at the hands of sinful men.
In Hebrews 5:8 it says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.” I think the words “made perfect” in 2:10 mean the same thing as his “learning obedience” in 5:8. It doesn’t say that Jesus learned “to obey” as if to suggest he was formerly disobedient. Rather he entered into a personal and experiential understanding of what obedience is and what obedience entails by actually obeying. As John Piper has explained, “This does not mean that he was once disobedient and then became obedient. It means that Jesus moved from untested obedience into suffering and then through suffering into tested and proven obedience. And this proving himself obedient through suffering was his ‘being perfected’"(from the sermon, Our Captain Made Perfect Through Sufferings, June 2, 1996).
Our inclination and habit is to suffer and conclude that God isn’t worthy of our devotion or praise. We bail out on him precisely in order to avoid suffering or to diminish its discomfort. Not Jesus. He pressed through suffering in complete devotion to the Father and his saving purpose and in doing so showed himself “perfect” for the job at hand.