Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
The very book in the Bible that says Christ “learned obedience” through suffering, and that he was “made perfect” through suffering, also says that he was “without sin.” “In every respect [Christ] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
This is the consistent teaching of the Bible. Christ was sinless. Although he was the divine Son of God, he was really human, with all our temptations and appetites and physical weaknesses. There was hunger (Matthew 21:18) and anger and grief (Mark 3:5) and pain (Matthew 17:12). But his heart was perfectly in love with God, and he acted consistently with that love: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
Therefore, when the Bible says that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered,” it doesn’t mean that he learned to stop disobeying. It means that with each new trial he learned in practice—and in pain—what it means to obey. When it says that he was “made perfect through suffering,” it doesn’t mean that he was gradually getting rid of defects. It means that he was gradually fulfilling the perfect righteousness that he had to have in order to save us.
That’s what he said at his baptism. He didn’t need to be baptized because he was a sinner. Rather, he explained to John the Baptist, “Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
The point is this: If the Son of God had gone from incarnation to the cross without a life of temptation and pain to test his righteousness and his love, he would not be a suitable Savior for fallen man. His suffering not only absorbed the wrath of God. It also fulfilled his true humanity and made him able to call us brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17).
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.