From the time we first became Christians, we have learned that the standard for our behavior is not those around us but Christ. Given that, it might be easy to give up and say that we can never reach that standard of perfection.
That’s true. Left to ourselves, we can’t.
But as the author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, we aren’t left to ourselves. In his infinite mercy, Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. Even though he himself never fell to the many temptations that weighed on him like a cross and surrounded him like a crown of thorns, he knows what it’s like to carry them, to bear their weight and feel their pain, but also to endure and overcome them.
Fully man, Christ knows what it means to feel the kind of pain that leaves us without words; able only to offer prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him (Hebrews 5:7). Enduring that kind of torment, he must also have felt the natural reaction of the human body to fight against and relieve the pain – on this day, to come down from the cross – yet Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).
But Jesus also taught us through his obedience unto death that glory waits on the other side of suffering; that being made perfect is not a matter of doing all things on our own, but the opposite: Letting go of control and uniting ourselves more and more to the will of the One who is our true strength.
This is the ultimate lesson of Good Friday. Christ’s triumph over self-will and self-reliance did not enable him to merely sympathize with our suffering or feel our pain but to be perfectly in himself the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9).
We adore you O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
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