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TEXT: Hebrews 5:10, 2:8

SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #4: To Learn Obedience

A few weeks ago we began to study The Passion of Jesus Christ, a short devotional book by John Piper. The purpose of the book is to explain why the Lord suffered and died. Perhaps 'explain' is not the word I'm looking for, for Piper does not get to the bottom of it all-and how could he? The wisdom, justice and love of God have no bottom. What he does it call us to mediate on the cross and what God was doing there. Both God the Son, in dying, and God the Father in willing His death.

After introducing the topic, we've looked at two Divine purposes for the cross. Jesus Christ suffered and died, (1) to absorb the wrath of God, and (2) to please His Heavenly Father. God wanted His Son to hang on the cross, He willed it, insisted on it, would have it no other way. But the Son was not dragged there; He so loved His Father that He made the Father's will His own.

As if this were not mysterious enough, Chapter 3 presents a mystery even deeper. Piper says


Christ suffered and died to learn obedience and be perfected.

At first hearing, this sounds wrong, offensive, even blasphemous. But even if it shocks our ears or upsets our piety, it's what the Bible teaches. The verses we began with say just what Piper has said,

He learned obedience.

The author of salvation was made perfect through suffering.

By the hard life God chose for Him, the perfect Man became more perfect; the obedient Son grew in obedience.


Because the words invite misunderstanding-if not heresy-Piper spends most of the chapter clarifying them. First, he tells us what he's not getting at, and then what he is. When he says the Lord learned obedience and became perfect, he doesn't mean He was ever disobedient or imperfect,

The very book in the Bible that says Christ 'learned obedience' through suffering, and that He was 'made perfect' through suffering, also says that He was without sin-'In every respect, He has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15).

This is the consistent teaching of the Bible. Christ was sinless. Although He was the Divine Son of God, He was really human, with all our temptations, appetites, and physical weaknesses.but His heart was perfectly in love with God and He acted consistently with that love-'He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth' (I Peter 2:22).

Therefore, when the Bible says Jesus 'learned obedience through what He suffered', it doesn't mean that He learned to stop disobeying.

The theological word we're looking for is impeccability. It means the Lord did not sin, and more than that, it means He could not sin. In this way, He was better than Adam and Eve before the Fall. They were sinless or innocent, of course, but still capable of sinning, which they did. But not the Lord. He could not be taken in-not by the flesh, the world, or the devil.

Instead of making His temptations lighter, this actually made them far heavier. Let me illustrate:

The devil wants Alan to become angry and take the Lord's name in vain. Because Alan is a short-tempered man, Satan's work is easy. He gets Alan's wife to burn the toast, and the man blows up.

Walter is a patient and kind man. His wife also burns the toast, and Walter says, Thank you, dear, I've always liked it better this way. After breakfast, he goes to shave and finds his wife hasn't been shopping and he's got no razors. I've been meaning to grow a beard! He gets in the car to go to work and he finds his wife didn't gas up last night as she said she would. Oh, she must have forgotten, nothing wrong with coming in a few minutes late. At noon, he opens his brief case to get his lunch and it's not there. I could lose a couple of pounds anyway. When he gets home, the house is turned inside out and his wife's on the phone, talking about soap operas with her girlfriend. It's easy to lose track of time. At dinner, Walter's wife opens a can of pork and beans. Dear, this makes me feel like I'm camping! Later she scolds him for not mowing the lawn in the last couple of days. I have been loafing too much lately, haven't I? Dropping into bed dead tired that night, Walter's wife lights into him for being a selfish and whiny man, who doesn't know how good he has it with her. You're right, dear, I'll try to do better.

Which of the two men has suffered more temptations and why? Walter has suffered far more than Alan. Because Walter is a better man than Alan. Because it's hard to make Walter mad, Satan has to provoke him all day long-and way into the night. Now, Walter is a fine man, of course, but he's not perfect. Jesus Christ is perfect, however, which means no one eve suffered more or harder temptations than He did. Yet without sin.

The Lord's temptations, therefore, are real, but they could not have succeeded because Jesus Christ is without sin-original sin, actual sin, even potential sin. Thus when Piper says Christ learned obedience and was made perfect, he doesn't mean the Lord was ever imperfect or less than obedient. He is

Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.


If learning obedience doesn't mean He was ever disobedient, what does it mean? Piper says,

When the Bible says Jesus 'learned obedience through what He suffered', it means that with each new trial He learned in practice-and in pain-what it means to obey.When it says He was 'made perfect through suffering' it means that He was gradually fulfilling the perfect righteousness that He had to have in order to save us.

So, what was God up to putting His Son through a lifetime of poverty, rejection, pain, and finally a crucifixion? He was qualifying Him to be your Savior!

To help others, you have to know what they're going through. Otherwise they become problems to be solved, rather than persons to be loved. Because He suffered what He did, Jesus Christ understands you-not 'understands your problem', but what the problem feels like, as well as what to do about it.

Because God calls us to hard and painful things, He first called His Son to the same things (and more) so that He can sympathize with us and so we can trust Him.

You can go to Christ with any problem, and He will know what its doing to you, and He care for you. Even if He doesn't take the problem away.


Piper knows this chapter has gone in several directions, and may leave us wondering what he's trying to say. I myself felt that way, and maybe you're wondering what I'm trying to say! Well, here it is:

The point is this: If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and His love, He would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man. His suffering not only absorbed the wrath of God. It also fulfilled His true humanity and made Him able to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17).

In other words, the Lord's human life enables Him to know what human life is-at its worst!

Socially, He knows what it is to be poor and uneducated. He knows what it is to have the accent and customs of a hillbilly. He knows what it is to have a mother whose morals people wonder about. He knows what it is to be a minority. He knows what it is to be a slave.

Domestically, He knows what it is to have parents who don't understand Him and brothers who are not saved and find Him a huge embarrassment.

Physically, He knows what it is to hurt, and to be hungry, tired, and unable to sleep.

Psychologically, He knows what it is to lose a loved one, to be disappointed by friends, to be lonely, to be hated without a cause, and to suffer God's No-"This cup will not pass from you!'

Spiritually, He knows what it is to be tempted. The Gospels list only a few of His temptations, but Hebrews says He was tempted in all ways as we are. I won't develop this at the moment, but think about how many temptations you have-just you. I've got plenty of my own. But the Bible doesn't say He was tempted in all ways I am, but we are. All of us. Put together. How many temptations are in this one little room? How many temptations are there in the world? He suffered every last one of them!

God has become one of us! And, unlike some who are embarrassed by their families, Jesus Christ is not ashamed of His!


Why did Christ suffer and die? He suffered and died to learn obedience and be perfected. For Himself? No, for us. Because we need a sympathetic Savior, He became that by the things He suffered.

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