Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Sufferings of the Priest (Hebrews 5:5-11)

"During 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" (Hebrews 5:7).

Remember that the author of Hebrews is exhorting his readers to persevere through the wilderness of trial and temptation so that they can enter the Promised Land of rest with God. He has told them that Jesus, their Captain, will help them by making them living sacrifices, so that they will die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness. He is now showing them why they can trust Jesus, and why Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant order. When they understand this, they will be less tempted to fall away and go back to the old covenant system. He argues that Jesus is the Ultimate Priest, and that He sympathizes with their pain.

In Hebrews 5:7, he says that Jesus offered the priestly sacrifices of prayer and petition, with loud cries and tears, to the God who could save Him from death. When was this? Commentators are agreed that we see it in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus cried to God to take the cup of death from Him. It was not mere physical death that Jesus feared; rather, it was the spiritual death of separation from God that He feared. We can extend this to the cross, for on the cross Jesus cried to God for three hours, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus felt the pain of spiritual death, separation from the blessed presence of God. Because Jesus has experienced death in its ultimate, most horrible form, He is able and more than willing to comfort those “who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).

Hebrews 5:7 goes on to say that God honored Jesus’ prayer because of His godly fear and reverence for God the Father. Jesus submitted to the cross and to the experience of separation from God, but we see from this that God never actually forsook Him. He experienced forsakenness, but He was never actually forsaken. This is a lesson for the Hebrew Christians and for us as well. We may go through “dark nights of the soul” and feel forsaken, but we will never actually be forsaken as long as we fear God and cling to Him. We will eventually come to the land of God’s rest if we hold fast to Jesus.

There are many forms of suffering, but the worst is feeling deserted by God. Sometimes when horrible things happen to us, at just that moment God seems to flee. When this happens, understand that you follow in the footsteps of the Master. He is pruning you in order to make a new and better servant.