This Sunday I am to be preaching on Hebrews 10:19-25, so I am re-reading that magnificent epistle. The writer makes quite a bit of the fact that Jesus was equipped for His own ministry and priesthood by suffering. To wit:
2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.The writer forcefully makes the point that suffering (which many did not [and do not] associate with Messiah) was not only conceivable, but essential. Suffering made Him who He is as a man, and as His people's great high priest.
4:14 - 5:2 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
In saying this, the writer said nothing that was not present in prophetic and typological Scripture, though unbelieving Israelites blinded (and still blind) themselves to it. Perhaps the classic and undeniably Messianic passage is Isaiah 53:3 — "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
So I come back to my previous point. If suffering is essential for pastors — and it is — it is no less essential for Christians at large. After all, what is God's goal for every one of us who are His children through faith in Christ? It is expressed in Romans 8:29 :
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."Conformed to the image of His son." And what made Christ who He was, in His humanity?
Is there any chance, then, that we can be made like Him, without suffering?