Meditations in Hebrews 2: 19. Identifying with us
Heb 2:14,15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
I started the previous study noting that there is a natural ongoing flow in the writer’s thoughts. At the very start of the book he had painted this amazingly compact picture of who Jesus was and what he did, then showed us that he was doing this to show us how much greater than angels the Son was. At the beginning of chapter 2 he nudged us to be careful to hold on to all this so that we would not drift away in our faith and, to continue to provide fuel for us, if you like, he then took us down the path of thinking about Jesus’ humanity and how he had come to save us human beings. I noted at one point that Jesus is different from the angels because of his relationship with mankind. He came and died and suffered for us and what the writer is going on to do is open up this idea of Jesus identifying with us. He has already started doing that by speaking of us who are believers as his family, his brothers and his children, all language of intimacy of relationship, which is what this is all about.
But then he says something that perhaps we don’t often think about: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity.” (v.14a) Imagine the Godhead, before the foundation of the world, reflecting on the fact that giving humanity free will would mean the introduction of Sin into the perfect world. How to deal with that Sin, how to deal with their guilt which naturally justice would demand should be punished? That is the big question. He, God, would have to take that punishment Himself because no individual could do it on their own and multitudes of individuals would not be able to do it either; no, it had to be God Himself. But if it was to have effect He couldn’t do something out in eternity, it had to be here in time-space history, He had to come and be one with us.
And thus the person of Jesus Christ comes onto the world stage in the form of a tiny baby who, like most tiny babies, grew up into adulthood. He experienced what we experience – including pain and including death. His coming in human form was not just to take our punishment, it was also to identify with us, and to confront the two biggest enemies we have – death and Satan: “he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (v.14b,15)
Death is the great unknown and all sorts of legends and ideas have grown up throughout history about what happens. Yet we have this survival instinct that doesn’t want to die and we fear what might follow. And there in the background is Satan, inciting these humans that God has created, inciting them to sin so that the end outcome WILL be death as it has been ever since the first two sinned in the Garden of Eden. And so Jesus came and identified with us, showing us that he went through all we go through, including death, and then came back to show us that he has a place for us the other side of death, and thus our fears can be removed.
And then he pushes the point a little more: “For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.” (v.16) The Son didn’t come down to the earth to help out the angels, but us human beings, those who would come to him by faith, just like Abraham had done. So he’s called us his family, his brothers, his children, and we are that as we receive what he’s done for us. But the writer wants to enlarge the analogy to put it into the context of the Old Testament so the Jewish believers could have greater understanding. In the Old Testament, there was a person, a figure, whose role was to be there for the people, the high priest: “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.” (v.17) When Jesus came in human form he did it so that he could act like the high priest of old, and step in and make atonement for the people. Now he is going to go on to explain that Jesus was both high priest AND the offering but for now, as this is just the opening mention of the role of the high priest, he leaves it at this, for his emphasis for the moment is how Jesus was identifying with his people.
The high priest was a slightly awesome figure whose role was to stand between the people and God and make offerings for them but at the heart of it, he was still very much a human being and that is what the writer focuses on at this moment: “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (v.18) Yes, the high priest was a frail human being just like we are and so Jesus, if he was to fully take that role, had to become fully human like we are, and that involves being part of the spiritual warfare that goes on, on earth; being tempted and resisting the temptation, that is a very human thing.
So as we come to the end of the chapter, let’s remind ourselves what we have seen:
- Jesus who came accredited by the Father by signs and wonders,
- Jesus made a true human being,
- Yet, Jesus who overcame and now sits at the Father’s right hand ruling,
- Jesus who tasted death on our behalf to take our punishment,
- Jesus who identifies with us and calls us family, brothers, his children,
- Jesus who had to take human form to bring that about
- Jesus who thus identifies in this way with us
- Jesus who takes the role of a very human high priest
- Jesus who experienced everything we experience
- And all this to show another way he is so different from the angels.
- He is Saviour of the human world!