Study Guide

Hebrews Suffering

Suffering

We do see Jesus […] crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9-10, NRSV)

We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:9-10, KJV)

Wait…suffering is a good thing? Sure, Jesus was beaten, flogged, and crucified, but according to Hebrews, it all turned out good in the end. He gets a primo seat in Heaven with God and the whole world gets saved.

He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:17-18, NRSV)

In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18, KJV)

Another perk of suffering: it fills you with empathy. The author says that because Jesus was a human being and knew what it was like to suffer and die, he's a little more approachable than the Big Guy when you're going through tough times.

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are. (Hebrews 4:15, NRSV)

We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, KJV)

There it is again: Jesus' suffering is his trump card. He knows how tough it is, and he's ready to talk anytime.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8, NRSV)

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8, KJV)

Yeah, suffering is no picnic and clearly no one would choose to be tortured to death. But that's what God wanted for him, so that's what happened.

[Jesus] entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! (Hebrews 9:12-14, NRSV)

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:12-14, KJV)

The ancient Israelites believed that their sacrifices of livestock and food would help make things right with God when they screwed up. But according to Hebrews, Jesus understood that the only thing left to do was go in and take care of things himself.

Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. (Hebrews 10:32-34, NRSV)

Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. (Hebrews 10:32-34, KJV)

Jesus suffered, right? Now, it's his followers' turn. The author tells them not to worry about a little persecution. After all, the rewards will be great.

Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38, NRSV)

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35-38, KJV)

Ah, role models. Even back in the Hebrew Bible, people were being killed for their faith in God. Suffering is nothing new, and the author says that readers should look to these martyrs as examples of faith and goodness in the face of adversity. It's a pretty tall order.

Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NRSV)

Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

Sure, the crucifixion was shameful, pain-filled ordeal, but it led to good things. That's a pretty sweet throne up there in Heaven.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. (Hebrews 13:3, NRSV)

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. (Hebrews 13:3, KJV)

Have a little empathy, says the author. Other Christians are suffering, and the author wants his readers to remember that. Translation: imagine yourself in their shoes and think of how you would feel.

Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. (Hebrews 13:12-13, NRSV)

Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. (Hebrews 13:12-13, KJV)

Again, Jesus is the example Christians should be following. He suffered when he had to, and they shouldn't be afraid to either.

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