Perfect Suffering

Jesus tear

Hebrews 2:10 “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

God intended to make our Savior perfect through suffering. Does that sound strange? We rarely think of pain as a good thing. We spend billions of dollars fighting it every year. But what if everything else about our lives remained unchanged, and all pain and suffering simply disappeared? How would you know how seriously you twisted your knee when you tripped on the steps? What would tell you that the ulcer in your stomach had grown dangerously large, or that your fever had climbed so high it was life threatening?

More serious still, how would we know the damage our selfish behavior had done to our relationship with husband or wife, parents or children, friends or neighbors if we did not suffer for these things? Would we realize the damage that has been done to the most important relationship of all–our broken relationship with God? In one way or another all our suffering, whether aching bodies or aching hearts, is a warning signal. It exposes the brokenness of our world, the ruin of our own souls, so that we cannot deceive ourselves with the illusion that we are okay just the way we are. It is a foretaste of a greater condemnation to follow. It leads us to turn our hearts to God and repent while he still gives us breath.

So suffering may be fine for us. But what need did Jesus have for it? Heaven was his home, a perfect paradise with no disease or injury to threaten health or life. His whole being was pure love. He knew no selfishness or carelessness. The heavenly Father’s only words about him were, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Jesus alone could say that all his suffering was undeserved.

Still, “It was fitting that God…should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Was there some flaw in Jesus that had to be corrected so that he could become perfect and holy? No, the word for “perfect” in this case is not the word that refers to sinlessness. It is a word closer to “complete.” It’s the kind of word you would use if you were putting the finishing touches on some project–decorating a cake, or remodeling a room in your house. As you put the cherry on the top, as you tighten the last screw on the last light fixture, you say, “Now it’s perfect.” Your mission is accomplished. Everything looks just the way you wanted it.

Jesus’ suffering finished God’s plan to save us. It made his mission complete. Now, Jesus’ project looked just the way God wanted it. His death on the cross removed every sin for all time. We know this suffering was not easy. He expressed his dread in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood and praying for another way if possible. But he carried the project all the way to its end. As Jesus was breathing his last, he cried “It is finished.” His Father could say, “Now, it’s perfect.” Forgiveness could be freely distributed to all. The whole world could know the depths of God’s love. Now, “He’s perfect.” Jesus looks like the gracious and merciful Savior and Son of God he is.

Dear Christian, do you see the glorious place you and I must have in God’s own heart? How deeply he must love you, how dearly he must treasure you to trade his throne for a manger, and trade his life for your soul. This Savior suffers to bring many sons and daughters to glory. Someday that will mean the heavenly glory from which he came. But already, that glory begins with being the objects of his love, the people so precious he embraced such suffering to bring them home.

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