When the author of Hebrews mentions the prayer of Jesus that was answered by God, he is referring to the passionate prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. It appears that Jesus prayed that God would deliver Him from the death that faced Him. But if the prayer was answered by God as the writer asserts, it must have been a prayer to be delivered, not from this death, but through this death. Piper suggests that it’s a prayer to “hang in there” through the excruciating ordeal He was about to undergo. Which is exactly what happened. He was successful through His trials and as Pfeiffer observes, “Jesus overcame the power of death. Jesus tasted death, but in so doing He opened the vistas of endless life for His people. The temptation of Jesus ‘in all points’ included the issues of death, but He accepted the Father’s will and ‘for the joy … set before him’ endured its agonies.”[1] But then comes Hebrews 5:8 which says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

I’m alarmed at how many commentators want to make this comment about us. You see, we learn obedience through suffering for sure. It would be clearer to say that we learn obedience through disobedience. But not Jesus! He was obedient from beginning to end! When I commented on Hebrews 5:7, I referred to Philippians 2:6-11. I’m still convinced that these verses are parallel to those in Hebrews 5:7-8. You see, Jesus wasn’t an ordinary priest or even an ordinary son. He was “the” Son of God and could have bypassed the pains and sufferings of the cross if He had so chose. That was even the temptation used by Satan in the wilderness. It was what Satan tried again, using Peter to dissuade Jesus from completing His mission. No way! Jesus would have none of it and I think Hebrews 5:8 is saying something to the effect of Philippians 2:8, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He was obedient up to and including death!

Jesus is so much more important than the priests of the Old Testament because He was not only intercessor, bringing sacrifices for the sins of the people, He was also the sacrifice itself. He was the perfectly obedient Son of God who had no need to offer sacrifices for Himself like the priests did. The sacrifices for sin offered by priests had to pass through sinful, human hands! The sacrifice Jesus brought was perfect in every respect and was presented to God as payment for our sins through the only perfectly obedient intercessor. Not even the death on the cross deterred Jesus from becoming the perfect High Priest for us all. Jesus did not experience disobedience but he suffered the consequences of our disobedience to the fullest extent possible, even death on the cross. No knees are going to bow to the Angels. They bow to Jesus. No souls will be saved through the Laws of Moses, and no sacrifice offered by sinful human priests will make peace with God on our behalf. He is the one and only! Several times already he has instructed his readers to keep their eyes on Jesus. In Hebrews 12:2 he says again, “Look to Jesus” and then again in Hebrews 12:3, “consider him…” Like Peter on the water, we must keep our eyes on Jesus! As soon as we take them off of Him and focus on ourselves, we will sink.

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 45.