5So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7In 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. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
For the past two years, I have been teaching Introduction to Christianity to freshmen at Meiji Gakuin University who, like the rest of Japan, are overwhelmingly non-Christian. This experience of teaching has been a wonderful learning experience because, in the essays and reflection papers that the students write, I get new insights into what they find to be the parts of Christianity that are difficult to understand.
One of the difficult concepts for most of my students to grasp is the hypostatic—the belief that Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine. Other religions have hybrid entities like demigods, which are a result of deities intermingling with humans, a mixture that is somewhat less than divine. In this respect, Christianity is very different from other religions.
Hebrews gives a clear explanation of why this belief in the two natures of Christ is so important. Hebrews 4 says that because Jesus is truly the Son of God without sin, and because he is at the same time fully human and thus truly able to sympathize with us, we are able to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15).
Often, Jesus is misunderstood to be some sort of superhero that came into this world walking on water and knowing everything there is to know. But that’s not the case. Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (v. 8). This demonstrates that Jesus had to learn things through life’s hardships, just like us. More importantly, it expresses the depth of Jesus’s love for us as he suffered for our sake.
Prayer: Father God, we give you thanks and praise for sending your Son into the world to dwell among us and to save us from our sin. We pray that in this season of Lent, we come to learn the depth of the love you have for us and to share that story of your love with those around us. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Abraham Kist-Okazaki and his wife, Sayuri, work in evangelistic training for congregations of the United Church of Christ in Japan, where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian. They also serve as associate pastors at Kugahara Church in Tokyo, in the area of local mission.