Greater: A Series on the Letter of Hebrews
Week 2: Greater, but Human
Carolyn reads Hebrews 2:5-18.
We are in our second week of a series on the NT book of Hebrews called, Greater. Hebrews was written by an unknown author to the 1st Century Jewish Christian Church, to both 1st and 2nd generation believers. Among them were folks who had begun to doubt some of the basic claims of the faith—namely Jesus Christ is in fact the Son of God who existed before creation, that he was greater than all of creation, that he really did atone for OUR sins, and that he is going to return for his Bride, the Church. Those are some mighty big claims to begin losing faith in! In fact, if we lose confidence in ANY of those beliefs, we might as well not call ourselves Christians!
And yet, sadly in the church today, there are many who go through religious practices without truly HEARING what God is saying to us through Scripture. Equally devastating is that others hear God’s Word but have chosen either to ignore the Truth or to walk away from it when it suits them. And THAT’S why the writer of Hebrews is addressing the church—then and now—with the truth.
When we last talked about Hebrews we talked about the fact that God has always communicated with His people. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke with Abraham and Moses. Through prophets and through the Law of Moses, God spoke to the entire nation of Israel, a people he formed through Abraham, restoring his presence with his people.
But in these last days—which we are still a part—God has spoken through his Son, who is the exact representation of God and the radiance of God’s glory. Jesus is greater than the angels, even though he was made a little lower than the angels by becoming human and walking the earth. The message spoken by angels (which refers to the Word through the Law and Prophets) points to the salvation through Jesus Christ. God also testified to this salvation through signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Today we will look at four reasons that the author gives that Jesus’s supremacy is not impaired because of His humanity.
Jesus’s humanity enabled Him to regain humanity’s lost dominion. The section of scripture Carolyn read opens with a quote from Psalm 8, which begins, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
King David considers the majesty of the Creator God, who made humans to be a little lower than the angels. Yet angels to do not have dominion over God’s creation like man does. Remember in the creation story (Genesis 1:26), God chose to share His authority with man when he said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
But when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, enmity grew between creation and man. The land was cursed because of sin. We don’t exercise dominion over creation. Can we control fish or birds? Heck, we can hardly control ourselves! The writer of Hebrews acknowledges this when he says, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.”
“But we do see Jesus,” he says. Jesus is God’s answer to man’s problem. Jesus became man so that he might suffer and die for man’s sins and restore the dominion that was lost because of sin. Jesus exercised that lost dominion:
Over the fish when he had Peter retrieve the temple tax from the mouth of a big mouth bass (okay, that’s what “I” imagined the fish to be!)
Over the birds when he prophesied that the rooster would crow just after Peter denied his Lord the third time.
Over the wild beasts when he lived with the wild beasts while Satan tempted him in the wilderness.
Over domesticated beasts when he road in to Jerusalem on a donkey after knowing when and where it would be tied up before its use.
Today, everything is under the feet of Jesus. Listen to how puts it in his marvelous prayer for the church at Ephesus:
18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:20-23
Through his atoning work on the cross and his bodily resurrection, Jesus regained the glory and honor. And we now share kingly dominion. One day, when he establishes his kingdom, we will reign with him in glory and honor.
If He had not become man, Jesus could not have tasted death for every one of us. While it is true that angels cannot die, it is also true that angels cannot save lost sinners and restore man’s lost dominion.
Jesus’s humanity also enabled him to bring many sons and daughters to glory. Hear this: “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” That word, author, in Greek is “archagos” which means originator, author, founder.
We’re not talking about the author of a novel, though there is the creativity and courage needed to forge something new in the written word where there was nothing. Instead, it has more of the idea of a pioneer…the first in a long line of procession. Think of an explorer with machete in hand slicing his way through virgin rainforest, stepping where no man has stepped before. We did this in landing on the moon back on July 20, 1969.
We were pioneers in space exploration.
By comparison, Jesus is GREATER in being the pioneer and perfecter of faith. And in so doing, Jesus has brought many sons and daughters to glory. But he had to become human to do this.
Jesus’s humanity enabled Him to disarm Satan and deliver us from death. Verses 14-16 say this: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity SO THAT by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.”
Jesus did not come to save angels. He came to save the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. That’s why he had to put skin on. Only then could He physically die, like us. Only then could He defeat Satan. But if that’s true, then why is it that Satan is alive and well? Why do we continue to experience the effects of the enemy all around us?
While the work of Christ did not kill Satan, Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection from the grave renders the works of the enemy powerless in the life of every follower of Jesus Christ. Satan does not have the power of physical death; that final authority rests in the hands of Almighty God. Satan can only do what is permitted by God.
Sin itself was pioneered by Satan himself and Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. So, in that sense, Satan exercises power in the realm of spiritual death because of sin. But WE who trust in Christ Jesus have once and for all been delivered from Satan’s authority and from the terrible fear of death. Jesus is Victor! And, because He lives, we have victory over sin and death as well! Hallelujah!
4. Lastly, Jesus’s humanity enables Him to be a sympathetic High Priest to His people. Listen: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Angels, being pure spirits who have never suffered, cannot identify with us in our weaknesses and needs. But Jesus, being human, CAN! He knows what it is like to be born from a woman, to live as a baby dependent upon others for life and safety. He had to be taught how to be an obedient child. He went through adolescence and into adulthood. He knew what it was like to experience hunger, tiredness, thirst. He knew the pain of rejection and false accusation. He knew physical pain like we have never known.
In a couple of weeks, we are going to spend a great deal of time talking about the role of priests, especially the high priest in Jewish sacrificial system. Very quickly and simply, the role of the priest was to represent the people to God. He would offer sacrifices brought by individuals—rams, lambs, goats, bulls, etc.—as an atonement for their sins. The blood of an animal would be offered rather than the blood of the sinner.
The priest was human, just like them. They also had to offer sacrifices for their own sins. He could identify with the sins of his people. In fact, many of the OT prophets cast judgment on the priests for leading the nation into deeper sin.
But Jesus, who knew no sin, became “like” the high priests of old in that he was tempted just like all of us. He suffered even more than the ones for whom he suffered. Because of this, our Savior can identify with those He came to save. He was sympathetic for His people. He was merciful to us who deserve death and faithful to God the Father who sent Him.
Now, what happens when we who have been saved are tempted to sin? Jesus stands ready to help us! In verse 18 where it says Jesus is able to help (the KJV word is succor), it literally, to “run to the cry (as of a child)…to come to the rescue.” Isn’t is comforting and assuring that our King Jesus will also run to the cry of his children when we fact trials and temptations? He is our Great Rescuer!
He was tempted on this earth, but no temptation conquered him. Because he defeated every enemy, He is able to give us grace that we need to overcome temptation. Later in chapter 4, the writer puts it this way: 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. 4:16 NIV
Because of Jesus’s humanity, he is able to (a) regain our lost dominion; (b) bring many sons and daughters to glory; (c) render inoperative the work of Satan; and (d) be a sympathetic High Priest to his people.
So, what? Remember that question? So, why is all this significant to know and believe? Friends, we live in a culture of disbelief. Most Americans may claim a belief in a higher power, but they have no understanding of their need for salvation. Most folks (maybe even some in this room)—while they believe in the historic Jesus—do not embrace the saving work of Jesus. They see him as a good man…someone who can perform miracles and preach a good sermon. He lived a good life and maybe even died on a cross because others didn’t like him. But that’s about it.
What we know about the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ matters. In fact, it’s a matter of eternal life and death! What is it you believe? Did Jesus become human and identify with your temptation and suffering? Did He overcome the effects of sin (which is eternal separation from God) on your behalf? And if so, are living like He did?
Are you coming to the throne of grace to help you in your time of need? Or are you coming asking for forgiveness of sins you should have never committed had you heeded the call of God through His Word? Our time of need are times of temptation from the enemy, persecution by others because we defend the faith of Jesus Christ, and suffering at the hands of the enemy because of physical, emotional, psychological, emotional, or spiritual pain. “Cast your cares on Him for he cares for you.”
Jesus was made lower than the angels SO THAT he could be exalted above all things and offer his sons and daughters a place of dominion and glory in the kingdom to come! AMEN!