Hebrews 5:7-8 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests 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 devotion. 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. NET
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,1 we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 12:2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 12:3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.
We have already looked at an overview of Hebrews, but we will spend 2 more weeks studying passages in Hebrews because they are so full of Christ! This is the 4th focus week on Christ’s humanity. We have seen He humbled Himself, He faced temptation, He faced suffering, and this week—He persevered!
Having moved to the northern part of China last Fall, we were delighted to discover that mountains to the north provided fun and cheap winter skiing options. At age 4, Kathryn was determined to conquer the mountain on her first attempt. Her confidence quickly faltered after feeling the awkward boots and slick skis that would send her plummeting down the slope. Yet, we had already paid for her ski lesson, and we were not going to give up that easy. Though her instructor didn’t speak any English, he was kind and patient with her. The beginning was a bit sketchy, as my ever emotionally-aware Kathryn cried out, “Oh, mommy, my heart feels like quitting.” The language didn’t end up proving a great barrier, as Kathryn discovered a certain ‘International Ski Language’. It turns out that a sheer look of terror means “Oh no, I’m going to crash!” in every language! By the end of the lesson, she had braved a downhill slope on her own and bore the satisfaction of accomplishment. “I did it, mommy! I’m glad you didn’t let me quit.”
During that hour by her side of faltering and falling, I tried my best to encourage her to persevere and not give up. Yet most of life’s challenges do not last an hour on the ski slopes, but rather weeks, months and long years. Can Christ’s struggles to persevere provide encouragement for own own?
Suggested Study Outline:
Day 1: Read Hebrews 4:14-5:10 and 11-12:13 to gather the context for our two texts
Day 2: Read Hebrews 5:1-10, considering why Christ is a more qualified priest than Aaron
Day 3: Read of Jesus’ struggle in the garden (Luke 22:39-46,) referred to in 5:7-8.
Day 4: Read Hebrews 11 of the saints referred to in Hebrews 12:1
Day 5: Answer the “discussion” questions
Day 6: Answer the “application” questions
Day 7: Praise Him for persevering on our behalf and ask His help to persevere.
Context for Hebrews 5:7-8
This passage comes in the larger section where the author outlines why Christ’s priesthood is superior to Aaron’s. Hebrews 5:1-10 shows His superiority over Aaron because He meets all of God’s priestly qualifications more completely. These two verses show how Christ fulfills the priestly role of identifying with the people.
Context for Hebrews 12:1-4
Chapter 12 follows the great ‘Hall of Faith’ listing in Chapter 11. Chapter 12 begins with the exhortation towards walking faithfully as all those mentioned in Chapter 11 have done. Yet, above and beyond the faithful saints, Christ is our ultimate example and mentor. The remainder of this section in 12:5-11 relates God’s use of painful discipline in our lives to bring us to maturity.
Other passages detailing the perseverance of Christ/ours in Christ:
Philippians 3:7-14; Romans 5:1-5; 15:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:10-15; Revelation 1:9
Discussion Questions: Grasping the Meaning
In Hebrews 5:7-8, what possible event(s) in Jesus’ life are referred to here? (Read Luke 22:39-46; Matthew 26:36-46; Matthew 27:45-50; Luke 23:34; John 20:301.)
In Hebrews 5:7, what was Christ asking for? In what way was He heard by the one able to save Him from death? (In light of the fact that He was not saved from death!) Why was He heard?
In Hebrews 5:8, what does it mean that Christ “learned obedience”? How was suffering a teacher to Him?
Christ is the culminating example on the heels of Chapter 11’s ‘Hall of Faith.’ Quickly read through Hebrews 11. Particularly take note of verses 11:9-10; 13-16; 26, 35. What motivated these saints to persevere?
In Hebrews 12:2, why are we supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus? What pattern does He give us to follow2?
Why do you think the author calls Christ both the “pioneer” and “perfecter3” of our faith in this passage?
In Hebrews 12:2, what do these phrases mean?
“…the joy set out for him…” (What was the joy?)
“…disregarding its shame…4”
“…has taken his seat at the right hand of God…”
How does considering Christ’s endurance in opposition cause us not to lose heart?
Pull them together: What is the combined picture painted by these two passages (5:7-8; 12:1-4) about how Christ persevered?
Application Questions: Grasping the Heart
1. Meditate on the dialogue between the Father and the Son in the garden. What does it mean (not just for our entrance into the faith, but also for our growth in holiness) that the Father said “no” to His request to be delivered from the cross? Besides the fact that we wouldn’t be saved, what would it mean for us if the Father had said “yes”?
2. The Son was not spared from death, but what kind of help was He given in the garden? What kind of help is (and is not) promised to us? What other passages would you turn to show how He helps us?
3. Meditate on the examples of the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11, culminating in Christ in 12:2. Picture the saints of history cheering you on as you carry the baton alongside this generation of saints. How does this metaphor encourage you? Which examples in this passage (11:1-12:4,) or among Christians in history, do you find most compelling?
4. In which ways are you being asked to persevere this week? (this month? this year?) How does the example of Christ spur you on as you ask for His help?
5. For you, what are the “the sins that cling so closely” which keep you from running with endurance? How will you lay them aside? How can you draw on the strengths of the Body around you to encourage and embolden you?
6. Sometimes we are not slowed down by sins per say, but we “grow weary in (our) souls and give up.” What are the discouragements that tend to slow you down and keep you from running strong? How are you spurred on by looking at Jesus?
7. How might an understanding of these two passages inform your response towards a ‘health and wealth’ perspective? (A belief that the physical and spiritual blessings & promises secured in Christ should be fully manifested now5.)
8. Share with one another what truths have been most meaningful to you. Spend a moment writing down the insights you have heard from others during this study that have enriched your own perspective.
9. What about this aspect of Christ’s humanity has made Him appear more glorious or beautiful to you this week? Write a prayer praising Christ for persevering on our behalf and asking His help to endure the race set before you. Include your application for this lesson in your prayer.
Group prayer requests
We are drawn to consider your life—not just in your final moments on earth, but your entire journey on the earth. You show us vulnerability, strength and triumph. We praise you for choosing to obey, especially when your Father did not deliver you from death. Because of your choice, we know you can truly identify with our struggles to persevere. Help us to fight with endurance against all that keeps us from following you. Help us to set your joy before us as we press on!
1 There is some lack of clarity about the scope of Jesus’ prayer. All agree His prayer at least includes His Gethsemane experience. John Piper says of this passage, “Some take verse 7 to refer only to the battle in Gethsemane when he sweat drops of blood and pleaded with God. I don’t think so…Not just a night or a day, but during all the “days of his humanity” he was wrestling and praying and begging and crying out and weeping. It was not brief. It was a lifetime of warfare against sin…Verse 7 says “he was heard.” I think that means God gave him what he asked for, and verse 8 describes the effect of that answered prayer: he learned obedience. Jesus was praying for obedience—for persevering purity.” John Piper, He is the Source of Eternal Salvation to All Who Obey Him, Sermon on September 22, 1996 at http://www.desiringgod.org/, accessed October 20, 2007.
2 The word for “fix” word implies longing with great expectation. New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (International Bible Translators, 1994).
3 This word “perfecter” is the same word we studied week 3 in Hebrews 2:10. See week 3, discussion questions 1&2.
4 “To see the true force of the expression here, it is necessary to divest ourselves of these ideas of glory which encircle the “cross”, and place ourselves in the times and lands in which the most infamous of mankind were stretched upon it…That infamy Jesus was willing to bear, and the strength of his confidence in God, his love for man, and the depth of his humiliation, was shown in the readiness and firmness with which he went forward to such a death.” Barnes Notes, in Biblesoft Electronic Database [CD-ROM] (Biblesoft, 1997).