7. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
7. Qui in diebus carnis suae, quum et precationes et supplicationes obtulisset cum clamore valido et lachrymis ei qui poterat eum ex morte servare, et exauditus esset ex suo metu:
8. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
8. Tametsi Filius erat, didicit ex iis quae passus est, obedientiam;
9. And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
9. Et sanctificatus omnibus qui illi obediunt, factus fuit causa aeternae salutis,
10. Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
10. Cognominatus a Deo sacerdos secundum ordinem Melchisedec:
11. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
11. De quo nobis multus sermo et difficilis explicatu, quandoquidem tardi facti estis auribus.
7. Who in the days, etc. As the form and beauty of Christ is especially disfigured by the cross, while men do not consider the end for which he humbled himself, the Apostle again teaches us what he had before briefly referred to, that his wonderful goodness shines forth especially in this respect, that he for our good subjected himself to our infirmities. It hence appears that our faith is thus confirmed, and that his honor is not diminished for having borne our evils.
He points out two causes why it behooved Christ to suffer, the proximate and the ultimate. The proximate was, that he might learn obedience; and the ultimate, that he might be thus consecrated a priest for our salutation.
The days of his flesh no doubt mean his life in this world. It hence follows, that the word flesh does not signify what is material, but a condition, according to what is said in 1 Corinthians 15:50, |Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.| Rave then do those fanatical men who dream that Christ is now divested of his flesh, because it is here intimated that he has outlived the days of his flesh for it is one thing to be a real man, though endued with a blessed immortality; it is another thing to be liable to those human sorrows and infirmities, which Christ sustained as long as he was in this world, but has now laid aside, having been received into heaven.
Let us now look into the subject. Christ who was a Son, who sought relief from the Father and was heard, yet suffered death, that thus he might be taught to obey. There is in every word a singular importance. By days of the flesh he intimates that the time of our miseries is limited, which brings no small alleviation. And doubtless hard were our condition, and by no means tolerable, if no end of suffering were set before us. The three things which follow bring us also no small consolations; Christ was a Son, whom his own dignity exempted from the common lot of men, and yet he subjected himself to that lot for our sakes: who now of us mortals can dare refuse the same condition? Another argument may be added, -- though we may be pressed down by adversity, yet we are not excluded from the number of God's children, since we see him going before us who was by nature his only Son; for that we are counted his children is owing only to the gift of adoption by which he admits us into a union with him, who alone lays claim to this honor in his own right.
When he had offered up prayers, etc. The second thing he mentions respecting Christ is, that he, as it became him, sought a remedy that he might be delivered from evils; and he said this that no one might think that Christ had an iron heart which felt nothing; for we ought always to consider why a thing is said. Had Christ been touched by no sorrow, no consolation could arise to us from his sufferings; but when we hear that he also endured the bitterest agonies of mind, the likeness becomes then evident to us. Christ, he says, did not undergo death and other evils because he disregarded them or was pressed down by no feeling of distress, but he prayed with tears, by which he testified the extreme anguish of his soul. Then by tears and strong crying the Apostle meant to express the intensity of his grief, for it is usual to show it by outward symptoms; nor do I doubt but that he refers to that prayer which the Evangelists mention, |Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,| (Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42;) and also to another, |My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?| (Matthew 27:46.) For in the second instance mention is made by the evangelists of strong crying; and in the first it is not possible to believe that his eyes were dry, since drops of blood, through excessive grief, flowed from his body. It is indeed certain that he was reduced to great straits; and being overwhelmed with real sorrows, he earnestly prayed his Father to bring him help.
And what application is to be made of this? Even this, that whenever our evils press upon us and overwhelm us, we may call to mind the Son of God who labored under the same; and since he has gone before us there is no reason for us to faint. We are at the same time reminded that deliverance from evils can be found from no other but from God alone, and what better guidance can we have as to prayer than the example of Christ? He betook himself immediately to the Father. And thus the Apostle indicates what ought to be done by us when he says that he offered prayers to him who was able to deliver him from death; for by these words he intimates that he rightly prayed, because he fled to God the only Deliverer. His tears and crying recommend to us ardor and earnestness in prayer, for we ought not to pray to God formally, but with ardent desires.
And was heard, etc. Some render the following words, |on account of his reverence| or fears but I wholly differ from them. In the first place he puts the word alone eulatheias without the possessive |his|; and then there is the preposition apo |from,| not huper |on account of,| or any other signifying a cause or a reason. As, then, eulatheia means for the most part fear or anxiety, I doubt not but that the Apostle means that Christ was heard from that which he feared, so that he was not overwhelmed by his evils or swallowed up by death. For in this contest the Son of God had to engage, not because he was tried by unbelief, the source of all our fears, but because he sustained as a man in our flesh the judgment of God, the terror of which could not have been overcome without an arduous effort. Chrysostom interprets it of Christ's dignity, which the Father in a manner reverenced; but this cannot be admitted. Others render it |piety.| But the explanation I have given is much more suitable, and requires no long arguments in its favor.
Now he added this third particular, lest we should think that Christ's prayers were rejected, because he was not immediately delivered from his evils; for at no time was God's mercy and aid wanting to him. And hence we may conclude that God often hears our prayers, even when that is in no way made evident. For though it belongs not to us to prescribe to him as it were a fixed rule, nor does it become him to grant whatsoever requests we may conceive in our minds or express with our tongues, yet he shows that he grants our prayers in everything necessary for our salvation. So when we seem apparently to be repulsed, we obtain far more than if he fully granted our requests.
But how was Christ heard from what he feared, as he underwent the death which he dreaded? To this I reply, that we must consider what it was that he feared; why was it that he dreaded death except that he saw in it the curse of God, and that he had to wrestle with the guilt of all iniquities, and also with hell itself? Hence was his trepidation and anxiety; for extremely terrible is God's judgment. He then obtained what he prayed for, when he came forth a conqueror from the pains of death, when he was sustained by the saving hand of the Father, when after a short conflict he gained a glorious victory over Satan, sin, and hell. Thus it often happens that we ask this or that, but not for a right end; yet God, not granting what we ask, at the same time finds out himself a way to succor us.
8. Yet learned he obedience, etc. The proximate end of Christ's sufferings was thus to habituate himself to obedience; not that he was driven to this by force, or that he had need of being thus exercised, as the case is with oxen or horses when their ferocity is to be tamed, for he was abundantly willing to render to his Father the obedience which he owed. But this was done from a regard to our benefit, that he might exhibit to us an instance and an example of subjection even to death itself. It may at the same time be truly said that Christ by his death learned fully what it was to obey God, since he was then led in a special manner to deny himself; for renouncing his own will, he so far gave himself up to his Father that of his own accord and willingly he underwent that death which he greatly dreaded. The meaning then is that Christ was by his sufferings taught how far God ought to be submitted to and obeyed.
It is then but right that we also should by his example be taught and prepared by various sorrows, and at length by death itself, to render obedience to God; nay, much more necessary is this in our case, for we have a disposition contumacious and ungovernable until the Lord subdues us by such exercises to bear his yoke. This benefit, which arises from the cross, ought to allay its bitterness in our hearts; for what can be more desirable than to be made obedient to God? But this cannot be effected but by the cross, for in prosperity we exult as with loose reins; nay, in most cases, when the yoke is shaken off, the wantonness of the flesh breaks forth into excesses. But when restraint is put on our will, when we seek to please God, in this act only does our obedience show itself; nay, it is an illustrious proof of perfect obedience when we choose the death to which God may call us, though we dread it, rather than the life which we naturally desire.
9. And being made perfect, or sanctified, etc. Here is the ultimate or the remoter end, as they call it, why it was necessary for Christ to suffer: it was that he might thus become initiated into his priesthood, as though the Apostle had said that the enduring of the cross and death were to Christ a solemn kind of consecration, by which he intimates that all his sufferings had a regard to our salvation. It hence follows, that they are so far from being prejudicial to his dignity that they are on the contrary his glory; for if salvation be highly esteemed by us, how honorably ought we to think of its cause or author? For he speaks not here of Christ only as an example, but he ascends higher, even that he by his obedience has blotted out our transgressions. He became then the cause of salvation, because he obtained righteousness for us before God, having removed the disobedience of Adam by an act of an opposite kind, even obedience.
Sanctified suits the passage better than |made perfect.| The Greek word teleiotheis means both; but as he speaks here of the priesthood, he fitly and suitably mentions sanctification. And so Christ himself speaks in another place, |For their sakes I sanctify myself.| (John 17:19.) It hence appears that this is to be properly applied to his human nature, in which he performed the office of a priest, and in which he also suffered.
To all them that obey him. If then we desire that Christ's obedience should be profitable to us, we must imitate him; for the Apostle means that its benefit shall come to none but to those who obey. But by saying this he recommends faith to us; for he becomes not ours, nor his blessings, except as far as we receive them and him by faith. He seems at the same time to have adopted a universal term, all, for this end, that he might show that no one is precluded from salvation who is but teachable and becomes obedient to the Gospel of Christ.
10. Called of God, or named by God, etc. As it was necessary that he should pursue more at large the comparison between Christ and Melchisedec, on which he had briefly touched, and that the mind of the Jews should be stirred up to greater attention, he so passes to a digression that he still retails his argument.
11. He therefore makes a preface by saying that he had many things to say, but that they were to prepare themselves lest these things should be said in vain. He reminds them that they were hard or difficult things; not indeed to repel them, but to stimulate them to greater attention. For as things that are easily understood render us slothful, so we become more keenly bent on hearing when anything obscure is set before us. He however states that the cause of the difficulty was not in the subject but in themselves. And indeed the Lord speaks to us so clearly and without any obscurity, that his word is rightly called our light; but its brightness become dim through our darkness. This happens partly through our dullness and partly through our sloth; for though we are very dull to understand the truth of God, yet there is to be added to this vice the depravity of our affections, for we apply our minds to vanity rather than to God's truth. We are also continually impeded either by our perverseness, or by the cares of the world, or by the lusts of our flesh. Of whom does not refer to Christ, but to Melchisedec; yet he is not referred to as a private man, but as the type of Christ, and in a manner personating him.