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Jesus stated that we should not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul.

Matthew 10:28 New International Version

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

However, the author of Hebrews mentioned that in the days of His flesh, Jesus offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.

Hebrews 5:7 New International Version

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission

Faced with these seemingly contradictory pieces of information, the following questions arise:

  • Did Jesus, while instructing not to fear those who kill the body, himself fear the death he advised not to fear? OR
  • Did Jesus express fear that both his body and soul might perish in hell?

2 Answers 2

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Hebrews 5:7 refers to Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, which is found in Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus appeared very emotional in facing his death. However, the message that the author of Hebrews wanted to convey is in Hebrews 5:8, where the author wrote, "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered". This statement is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospel's account of Jesus' prayer, "Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42)

In Hebrews 5:7, the author does not imply that Jesus was fear. Cries and tears are emotion, not weakness. Jesus prayed to God not for saving, but to assure that the will of God is fulfilled. From the whole context, the author emphasizes that Jesus understands people's weakness and is therefore able to empathize with them.

Hebrew 4:14-5:4 NIV

4-14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

5:1 Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. 3 This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

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This seems like a useful opportunity to quote a source that has never been quoted on this site before -- though the statement wasn't given in a theological context, it is remarkably relevant:

Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway (from John Wayne, source)

Jesus was capable of feeling the pains and temptations that come with having a mortal body (e.g. Matt. 4:2-3, Luke 22:44). He did not want to experience suffering (Matt. 26:39), but He let His spiritual nature win out over His physical nature.

He was subjected to the temptations of fear, pain, fatigue, and more, but He did not succumb; He courageously completed His mission.

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