July 18, 2019
by Mickey Rainwater
Pastor of Fairview UMC
Smoky Mountain District
When I read these verses from Hebrews, I am aware there are two words that leap from the page at me: “sacrifice(s),” and “obedience.” The word sacrifice works for us in the area of athletic training, and perhaps “the sacrifice” a parent would be willing to make for our child, but our modern sensibilities seem increasing uncomfortable with the word: sacrifice and obedience.
For the people of Jesus’ day-and-time, sacrifice was big business, highly organized, and enforced by moral and legal sanctions. Jesus showed us sacrifice is a response to the love we feel from God and for God. Today sacrifice comes from the heart, willingly; or we say it means nothing.
In Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV), Paul writes to the Christians living in Rome saying, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The way these bodies of ours become “living sacrifices” Paul goes on to say is by not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Peter 2:4-5, Peter writes, “Come to Him (the Lord), a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chose and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Throughout Hebrews, the writer is examining Jesus’ life, and by His life, showing us how to live. That’s also the context in which the writer mentions the word (v. 8) “obedience.”
That Jesus “learned obedience” suggests that Jesus went through a process, even though He was God’s Son. The Incarnation means Jesus “learned” obedience in the same way we do, but unlike many of us – Jesus did so successfully.
Christ’s obedience calls forth our obedience. As a “high priest” Jesus knows the pain and the ambiguity of being human. Jesus embodied human life, including its frailty and limitation. Most of us deny we have what it takes to endure what Jesus had to bear, but Hebrews reminds us in Jesus we have a source of empowerment for our difficulties; from Him we can draw what it takes for a life of faithful discipleship.
Jesus was fully human, but His humanness did not erode into despair, loss of faith, and sin. Suffering is not sin. Limitation and weakness are not sin; they too, are part of what it means to be human. Jesus, as a human being, suffered and was limited and was weak, but His pain taught Him obedience, not faithless despair. His frailty deepened His reverence for God rather than stiffening His rebellion. Living and dying in the muck and the mire of human anguish, Jesus never forgot that He was the Son.
How about us? May we never become so absorbed with our own situation that we forget who we are: the children of God, may we never forget to express our love for God, and our obedience and our sacrifice.