Peeling potatoes for dinner, I was listening to music — a lovely arrangement around a poem by Robert Frost. Of course, I couldn’t help but sing along until . . .
The clock in the living room began chiming the hour.
The sudden dissonance stopped my singing, but not my enjoyment, because I love that clock, and because I knew that the dissonance that its chime created was only temporary.
Sure enough, the chiming stopped and the song continued, but I wasn’t singing anymore. The interruption had sent my thoughts onto the track of another dissonance that was slowing my preparation for Sunday’s class. It’s always a gift to be surprised by a text. (We “tame” the Word of God to our peril.) The Hebrews 5 examination of Jesus’ role as our high priest brings on a collision of concepts in verse eight:
” . . . though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Christ’s “Son-ship” (His deity) qualified Him to represent us before God, and to be the perfect priest and sacrifice for sin, and yet the verse focuses on His learning obedience. He was present at creation, and yet He became a learner. Here’s where I had to take a step back and let myself enjoy the dissonance. Obviously, as God, He needed to learn nothing, but in taking on human flesh, He had to experience everything we experience, or, as Warren Wiersbe puts it, He experienced “the sinless infirmities” of human nature.
It is also true that, as God the Son, Jesus had never experienced suffering. Clothed in humanity, however, he was subject not only to piercing and death, but also to the daily viscissitudes and exigencies that plague us and that comprise most of what the average person experiences as “suffering” on this planet.
Hebrews 5:7 pulls back the curtain on the truth of Jesus’ wrestling with God:
“He . . . offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death . . .”,
“Jesus Christ, the Righteous,” in Whom there was no sin, experienced terror over the prospect of becoming the sin-bearer, and I find myself, again, pondering this dissonance. Was His temptation in the wilderness an actual test? Could Jesus have made shipwreck the plan of God? Can there be a valid wrestling in the heart of a Son who is one with the Father?
With every aspect of the incarnation, reason argues for a 50/50 split. We want a theology that we can get our heads around; however, orthodoxy argues for the truth of “fully God, fully man.” Theologian Addison Leitch spoke of driving a stake in the ground representing one doctrine (Jesus’ humanity, for example) and then driving another stake in the ground representing a seemingly conflicting doctrine (His deity). No amount of reasoning can ever bring those stakes together.
So, peeling potatoes, listening to music, and enjoying the friendly sound of a chiming clock in the background, I also hold these two conflicting concepts in my mind — with joy! They help to reinforce for me the absolute other-ness of God.
This is NOT an argument for flabby thinking or lazy, “I-dunno” theology. Through the writer of Hebrews, God is calling us to a rigorous consideration of truth — a feat which is impossible without opening ourselves to the reality of dissonance.
Like the chime of the clock in my home, I know this dissonance to be temporary, for it will pass one day when I no longer see through a glass darkly. In the meantime, I will neither silence the clock nor turn down the music, but I will love both truths, knowing that when the clock has ceased its chiming forever and all dissonance has passed away, we will see Him face to face, and all will be made plain.
Photo credit: Jon Ottosson
Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book. These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. It’s not too late to catch up by reading Hebrews 1 -5, and, if you’re interested, last week’s blog post.
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