Meditations in Hebrews 2: 18. Perfect through Suffering
Heb 2:10 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.
There is a unity or a natural flow in these verses and we do ourselves a disservice if we do not see them together as we focus on one. We have just observed in the previous meditation, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone,” (v.9) and we said that through his work, the Son has achieved a glory that is greater than any other except his Father, a glory that comes through having died as the Saviour of mankind. Perhaps we should also note in passing the reference to “taste death” which we may take to mean not that died like more ordinary people, but his rising from the dead meant his experience of death was a short, temporary thing, just a taste so to speak.
Again before we pass on, we should note the words, “by the grace of God.” Jesus’ ‘suffering death’ was the outworking of the plan of the Godhead before the foundation of the world. The word ‘grace’ usually means the attitude of God that is good towards mankind which results in His resources being available to mankind. God’s attitude or outlook from the outset, knowing that Sin would enter the world, was to provide a way back and that way back involved Him taking a human body and living through it and experiencing death on a Cross. It was only by the resources of heaven that Jesus could suffer not only the pain but the indignation of mankind turning on the very Son of God.
But now this introduces a new thought in the mind of the writer, that Jesus is different from the angels because of his relationship with mankind. In verse 9 he has just touched on Jesus’ work as Redeemer of mankind when he says, “he might taste death for everyone”. This word ‘everyone’ is going to act as a key to open up the following thoughts. “In bringing many sons to glory” (v.10a) speaks of the many who respond to the Gospel and share in the wonder of God’s glory in their lives and on into eternity.
Now we come to the big verse with its difficulties: “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.” (v.10) The heart of the verse is God Himself, “for whom and through whom everything exists,” seen as the Lord over all and who, as the Father, had agreed with His Son on the way to bring that salvation to sinful mankind, a way involving the Son giving his life. The ‘suffering’ that is referred to in this verse not only includes the pain and anguish of physically being crucified, but also the emotional pain of being rejected or abandoned by the world and his very followers, as well as the pain of being separated from his Father in heaven. So, yes, Jesus suffered, but what is this about being made perfect through it?
In another context, I have suggested that ‘perfect’ means ‘complete’ or ‘cannot be improved upon’. Now imagine the Godhead, before they create the world, discussing the means to bring salvation to a sinful mankind, and they have a checklist with tick-boxes of things that must happen: the Son leaves heaven and is born on earth in human form – tick. The Son lives out his life on earth for thirty years before starting a three-year ministry to reveal the love of the Father to this people – tick. The Son allows himself to be arrested, falsely tried and then crucified – tick. The Son dies – tick. The Son is raised from the dead and reveals himself to his followers – tick. The Son ascends back to heaven and sits at his Father’s right hand – tick. The Son rules beside his Father – tick.
We’ll stop it there but you get the idea. ‘The Plan’ involves all of those things. If any one is missed, the plan is incomplete, but no step is missed and so the plan is complete and the Son has perfectly fulfilled the will of the Father. As you gaze upon the Son in heaven, he is complete, he is perfect, in no way has he fallen short of fulfilling the will of the Godhead laid out all that time back before Creation. When you look at him you could not say there is anything about him to complain about, there is no shortcoming, there is nothing lacking, nothing to be added. He is indeed, perfect! Why? Because every box was ticked!
We said earlier that Jesus is different from the angels because of his relationship with mankind and we have just seen how that came about, but the writer wants to emphasise this relationship; he has identified how it came about but he wants to emphasise it using more quotes from the Old Testament. Thus he continues with, first of all, a general statement: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (v.11) Jesus is and was holy (utterly different, the crucial characteristic of God) and he makes all his followers holy by putting his HOLY Spirit within them.
There is, therefore, a tremendous unity between the Son and his followers, they are now part of his family (brothers and sisters). So to press home the point, “He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” (v.12 quoting Psa 22:22) and then again, “And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (v.13 quoting Isa 8:17,18) The emphasis of these two quotes is on the plurality of what he has achieved by his death – MANY brothers, many children for God.
Remember the purpose of all this: no angel or group of angels even, could say anything like this, no angels had given their lives to save mankind, no angel had a following as a consequence, no angel could say that all these ‘children of God’ existed because of them. No, it’s all to do with the Son! Hallelujah!