A Lenten Journey: Climbing to the Cross – FIFTH Sunday

Hebrews 5:5-10, The Message

No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” 
While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. 

When you read the word ‘obedience’ in this passage, what picture comes to your mind? What kind of freight does obedience – the idea, the word, the process – what weight does it carry in your spirit? 

I’m guessing that you’re a lot like me, that the word ‘obedience’ connotes a list of do’s and don’t’s with some pretty hefty legalistic overtones. 
     Do this – or else. 
          Shape up or ship out. 
               Do the ‘right’ thing. 
                    Don’t disappoint anyone’s expectations.
                         Be good, now! 

And then couple those ideas with the idea of learning-through-suffering – and the whole concept becomes positively frightening.

But take a deep breath and think about this with me for a minute. Jesus came to be one of us, right? And we believe that he was exactly that – one of us…with one major difference: Jesus did not sin.

Yet these six verses describe something quite different than a moralistic list of things to do or things to avoid doing. These verses describe both a developmental process and a relationship of mutuality. 

First – Jesus learned obedience – over time and through suffering – ‘just as we do.’ And Jesus ‘arrived at the full stature of his maturity,’ in perfect time to become the source of ‘eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.’ 
And second, Jesus lived his life in a relationship of mutual care and concern shared with God the Father –
     Christ ‘did not presume,’
          God ‘set him apart,’
               God celebrated Jesus,
                    Jesus cried out to God, openly and honestly,
               Jesus honored God and was answered. 

All of that in six short verses.

What it reminds me of, just the teensiest bit, is Adam and Eve before the apple and the snake. Complete openness between Creator and creature and a natural inclination toward both being and doing what we were designed to be and do.

In fact, I would argue that Jesus did successfully what Adam and Eve did not do, what we cannot do on our own. He remained in completely open communion with God. So much so that obedience was a natural and comfortable outpouring of that communion.

Jesus did not succumb to the lie, Jesus did not desire to usurp God’s role in his life, Jesus did what came naturally to him and no longer comes naturally to us: he lived in obedience, with no sense of coercion, legalism, overbearing moral coaching, or anything else that might carry negative valence. Like the birds of the air, Jesus did what he was designed to do.
And because he did, we can, too. Not perfectly. Not always. But often. And increasingly often as we learn to walk with God – minute by minute, day by day.

It’s a developmental process – and it happens in a relationship of mutuality. Thanks be to God!


Sometimes, Lord, we really distort things, you know? If we can learn, over time and with lots of grace, to live in you, with you, open to you – then obedience is no longer burdensome. It just happens. We learn to want what you want, we learn to see with your eyes, we learn to live with joy – in the middle of good times and tough times. Teach us to listen, teach us to still ourselves regularly so that we can truly hear your voice of love, singing over us. Such a sweet song! Thank you.

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  1. Beautiful post.  Thanks for connecting the dots and for revealing the beauty of Jesus.

  2. Thank you Vicki – for coming by and for writing such encouraging words.

  3. kconwayireton says

    Diana, That photo of the heron flying: gorgeous! 

    And these words: “Jesus learned obedience – over time and through suffering – just as we do.” Wow! What a powerful image. I’m memorizing First John this year, and one of the things that strikes me throughout is the sense that John expects his “little children” to walk as Jesus walked, to no longer sin! It’s as though he believes that because Christ abides in us, we actually CAN not sin; that we can, as He did, reach the full stature of maturity. 

    And then I read your words, and you say it, too, that Christ-in-us and us-in-Christ means we can live in joyful obedience, fulfilling the call of God on our lives. I’m so far from that, but growing toward it, and the vision of it is a good one to keep daily before my eyes. As John says, “Whoever says, ‘I am in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2:6) High calling! Big vision! Thank you for articulating it here in words that captured my imagination!

  4. I think I need to add a label to some of my posts called ‘birds’ because I have a LOT of pictures of birds on this blog. Good for you memorizing that little book. Just led a study on it last fall and will write a portion of BibleDude’s study of it this spring. But memorizing it – WOW. SO much repetition – that would make it tough for me. Let me know how it goes! 

    And I do believe that re-thinking obedience is part of our journey as followers of Jesus. Though I do not believe we can achieve sinlessness in this lifetime, I do believe we can make forward motion towards a more natural and responsive way of living our lives in this plane. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Kimberlee. I appreciate it.

  5. kconwayireton says

    Diana, I hope I didn’t imply that sinlessness is on the horizon for us fallen people! Maybe  for the Apostle John (but even then I’m skeptical). But in 1 John, he does place a pretty high calling before us, a crazy high bar, and he seems to expect that his “little children” are capable of reaching that high bar. I think the high bar is total obedience to Jesus’ commands. Or maybe the high bar is Jesus Himself?

    Either way, we have to be looking at Jesus. This singleness of focus is crucial because I am so prone to compare myself with other people, often to make myself feel better (“at least I’m not like her!”). But when I look at Jesus, it doesn’t matter that I’m not like her because I’m not like Him, and that’s what matters. Keeping my gaze on the goal, on the Author and Perfecter of my faith, is the only way to keep my little life in proper perspective and keep me “moving forward,” as you say, toward the full stature of maturity. Not that I’ll get there–as Beth Moore says, “The closer you grow to God, the pickier He gets!” 🙂 –but I want to move in that direction.

  6. pastordt says

    No, I didn’t mean to imply that you implied anything! And looking at Jesus is indeed the only way forward, ’cause you’re absolutely right – comparisons can kill you!! Either direction – whether we come out smelling like a rose or stinkin’ to high heaven. :>) And I love your last sentence, paragraph one – YES the high bar is Jesus himself. He has become the perfect embodiment of a human person living life as intended – the law was only a guide to that.