Hebrews 2:5-18

Jimmy JoHebrews, SermonsLeave a Comment

Read the passage here.

Our passage today is Hebrews 2:5-18.  However, we could probably just as well (possibly even, “should”) consider this from 2:1.  However, we included vv. 1-4 in the closing to the last passage we looked at last time. 

If you recall, the concern of the author of the Hebrews is to demonstrate the sufficiency and superiority of Christ.  That is, he wants to assert and affirm that the salvation accomplished in Christ is sufficient – it is complete, and nothing else is needed or can be added.  And he wants to demonstrate the superiority of Christ.  That is, he wants to assert and affirm that there is no one and nothing greater than Christ, and therefore, no greater salvation. 

In the passage that we looked at last time, the author wanted to demonstrate that Jesus is greater than the angels.  And while we won’t review that entire argument, the final point that the author makes is that angels are servants, whereas Jesus is sovereign.  And that brings us to the beginning of chapter 2, where the author says: 

2:1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2: 1-4

So in a nutshell, the claim is that we (or the forefathers) paid attention to the message delivered by the angels (and were right to do so); but how much more should we pay attention to the message delivered through Jesus, the message that is revealed through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. 

Now at this point, it’s worth noting something that we touched on last time.  That is, there seems to be a repetition of pattern throughout the letter where we get a passage like 2:1-4 – basically a theological assertion – which is then followed by a series of proofs, especially using scripture.  Of course there are plenty of people who study this sort of thing and have better explanations – I simply point out for you what I observe so that you can consider it for yourselves. 

So I simply want to say that, though last time we included 2:1-4 with the section of chapter 1, vv. 2:1-4 are probably properly included with our passage today. 

So by way of summary, what we see in our passage today is an extension of the conversation from the previous conversation that Jesus is superior to angels because angels are created as servants to humankind.  Human beings are made in the image of God, but that image is tarnished because of sin.  But in Jesus, we see the perfect human – one without blemish and without sin.  And because Jesus is the perfect human – sharing in humanity with us – He is able to be the perfect substitute for us.  Therefore (and this is assumed, not stated), Jesus work, Jesus’ revelation of God’s purposes, and Jesus’ stature is greater than that of the angels.  Because Jesus accomplishes what angels simply cannot do.

So let’s unpack that a little bit more.  To begin with, let’s take a look at vv. 5-9.

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a littlelower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honor
    and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.  But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2: 5-9

Firstly, we should recognize that the quotation here is from the well-known Psalm 8.  And as you probably also know, the general thrust of the psalm has to do with thanksgiving and wonder at God’s love and care for human beings.  So our author’s point here seems clearly to build on that idea:  Human beings are especially loved by God; or, they are especially appointed by God to a special (or at least particular) place in creation.  This may be related to what we mentioned before about the image of God (possibly) having more to do with our role in creation than some sort of quality that human beings possess.  Regardless, we see that Jesus, the Son of God, was also made human – “…made lower than the angels for a little while…”  And here, the author is borrowing the language of the psalmist.  But this metaphor shouldn’t undermine the author’s point that humans are served by angels. 

We also see in these verses that the author is already establishing his main point:  That Jesus’ humanity is necessary for his sacrifice for all humanity, by which He is ultimately glorified (that is, made greater). 

Looking at the next several verses, vv. 10-13, we read: 

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.  12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Hebrews 2: 10-13

In v. 10, we see that he continues the point that he made in v. 9 – that through Jesus’ death (His suffering), the redemption of humankind is made possible.  However, what he emphasizes here is that Jesus shares in our humanity.  “Both the one who makes people holy (that is, Jesus) and those who are made holy (that is, us – we sinners) are of the same family (that is, humankind).” 

Now what’s interesting about these verses is how the author to the Hebrews makes use of these various scriptural references.  The first (v.12) is from Psalm 22, and it’s a psalm that begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It’s a psalm of David which makes me think of how David was the anointed one, the chosen one of God and yet was (for a long time) rejected by His people (i.e. he was on the run from Saul).  The stanzas which begin with our verses here, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters…” acknowledge God’s faithfulness in the midst (or perhaps through?) suffering.

The two quotes in v. 13 are from Isaiah 8.  Isaiah 8 seems to have to do, in short, with the calling of Isaiah in the midst of a faithless people.  The “him” in “I will trust in him,” then, is God.  And so the “Here am I, and the children God has given me,” is almost (though probably not quite) resigned.  Or at least, the emphasis is on the faithfulness of God in the midst of a faithless people. 

All of this, it seems to me, highlights Jesus as the one who stands alone as faithful, as sinless, holy in the midst of a sea of sinfulness.  Nevertheless, Jesus identifies as one of those, as one of us.  Though we are sinful, He is sinless.  Though we are faithless, He is faithful.  And yet, He stands with us as one of us.  And yet, He gives his life for us. 

And that brings us to the final several verses of this passage.  Verses 14-18 say:

14 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—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human 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. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:14-18

And the thrust of these verses is straightforward.  Jesus shares in our humanity in order to give his life in place of ours.  Or to put it another way, Jesus could only take our place if he became like one of us.  Therefore, he became like us in order to pay the price for sin that we should have paid. 

So again, we should remember that what the author of the Hebrews is concerned with is demonstrating the superiority of Jesus, the sufficiency of Jesus.  In this particular section, which began at chapter 1, he is concerned with demonstrating the superiority of Jesus to the angels.  And while the need to do so (why is he bringing up angels at all?) is lost to us in the context, what we learn from our verses in chapter 1 is that Jesus, unlike the angels, has a special relationship with God – that is, as the Son.  In the closing verses of chapter 1, we also are reminded that the angels are meant to “serve those who will inherit salvation,” that is, human beings. 

And in our passage today, we learn that inasmuch as angels are meant to serve human beings, Jesus is the pre-eminent human being – one without sin, without blemish.  And it is this which enables Jesus to be the perfect, only sufficient, sacrifice for the sins of all human beings.

Therefore, we might infer, Jesus is not only higher than the angels, the angels who are meant to serve those who will inherit salvation.  Jesus is the very means of salvation; He is the one alone who can and will redeem all of creation. 

As we close, I want to reflect a little on some thoughts that arise for me out of the theology of this passage.  Specifically, the passage speaks about the humanity of Jesus; the humanity that he shares with all of us; the humanity that makes his death sufficient to pay for our sins. 

And this is a point of theology which, if we are any kind of Christian, we will agree with wholeheartedly.  We may not be able to explain it; we may not even really understand it.  But a basic tenet of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human.  In our passage today, the author of the Hebrews tells us (at least part of) why this is important. 

Firstly, as we have already touched on, Jesus’ humanity was necessary for him to be a substitution for us.  Though we won’t go into this in detail, I think it makes sense intuitively.  That is, as it’s the sin of human beings that is the problem, and the punishment for that sin is death, then Jesus Christ must be human in order to die for us

Secondly, the author tells us that the humanity of Jesus means that he was tempted, just as we are.  And “18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  This seems to suggest that Jesus is able to relate to us, and not just by sentiment, but in actual fact, because He too experienced human-ness as we experience. 

But in reflecting on this, it also occurred to me that Jesus’ humanity – that Jesus was truly and fully human – means that Jesus truly died.  I know this seems obvious, but I wonder whether we truly get this.  I wonder how much we truly appreciate this. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Easter.  And we had a Good Friday service and an Easter Sunday service.  And without getting too deeply into it, in my experience, Christians seem to have a tendency to spend a lot more time and energy in Easter Sunday than we do in Good Friday.  And that may simply because Easter Sunday is so much more pleasant, more uplifting, and in that sense more enjoyable than Good Friday.  We’d rather think about the resurrection than Jesus’ death. 

But I worry that it goes deeper than that.  I wonder if we may even downplay Jesus’ death, even trivialize it, because we know the story.  We know that Jesus rose – therefore, His death doesn’t really matter, we may think.  Jesus resurrected, we might even say, and therefore His death doesn’t really matter.  There may be tendency to skate over it because we know it’s not the end of the story. 

And what we try to do with Good Friday, what I want to encourage us to remember today, is that we cannot skip over Jesus’ death in order to get to our life.  What I’m trying to emphasize is that Jesus didn’t just die as a layover to resurrection.  Simply, because Jesus was truly and fully human, His death was truly and fully death.  He truly and fully gave up His life for us.  Our sins truly and fully hung Him on the cross. 

Now the author of the Hebrews, and all of the New Testament writers, truly understand this.  But I don’t want to end on such a morose – but crucially important – note.  For the author of the Hebrews, the point is that Jesus is greater.  The point is that Jesus is the truest, fullest revelation of God, and God’s intentions for us.  So the death of Christ, while certainly pointing to the fullness of His humanity, is also the very means by which He is glorified.  Hebrews 2:9 says: 

 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 2:9

This too is something that the New Testament writers knew very well.  That in His death for us, Jesus is glorified.  He demonstrates Himself superior; the work He completes is sufficient for all of our sins; and Jesus Christ fulfills the plans and purposes of the Father.  For our sakes and for His glory. 

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