Saved by Your Big Brother
Text: Hebrews 2:5-18
Main Point: Christ rescues us by become like us and accomplishing all God requires of us.
Outline: 3 Biblical Conclusions about humanity.
(1) People were created with dignity and purpose. (2:5-8a)
(2) Because of sin, we are not what we should be. (2:8b)
(3) Jesus rescues and restores people by fulfilling God’s plan. (2:9-18)
There is nearly universal agreement that humanity is not where it should be. Whether we look back and wish it was like it was in the good old days or we look ahead with pollyanna optimism to an ideal, a Utopia of humanity, nearly all would agree that what we have right now is not what we want.
The more controversial questions are what is wrong? And, how do we get there? Or, to put it another way, everyone wants salvation, the question is from what and to what.
Christianity does not dodge this question. In fact, it is at the heart of what we are all about. The Bible maintains that the problem is sin and the answer is Jesus. To put it another way, we are all trying to get back to the Garden of Eden. But only Jesus can bring the restoration that is truly needed.
Throughout the first chapter, the writer of Hebrews has has labored to do what he does throughout the entire 13 chapters, namely, to show us that Jesus is better. He is supreme to everyone and everything thing. This supremacy demands worship and allegiance.
In particular, the first chapter highlighted that Jesus is better than the angels. Why make this point? It is because, as chapter 2:2-3 remind us, the giving of the Old Covenant was attended by the angels. In contrast, Jesus brings a new and better covenant. Rightly named, “The New Covenant.” It is this covenant that supersedes and renders obsolete the Old. We don’t commute to work in a horse and buggy and we don’t mow our lawns with a sickle. Something better has come along. Don’t go back to something inferior.
As he continues to pound the nail of Christ’s supremacy, he makes the point that the salvation that Jesus brings is not for angels but man. In showing Jesus’ supremacy to angels he highlights how God saves man.
1) People were created with dignity and purpose. (2:5-8a)
Trivia question: Who has a brighter future, man or angels? When we first think about this we say, “Well, people are pretty common and ordinary. I see them everywhere. Angels are invisible, at least I haven’t seen any before. They have special powers and special information. People are relatively weak in comparison.” The answer then, would have to be angels. Right?…Well, look at verse 5 of Hebrews 2:
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.” (Hebrews 2:5)
He is setting up the contrast here between angels and man. The design of God in creation was very specific. Let’s walk through the passage:
6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:5)
This is not saying that he did not know where it was but simply drawing attention to the truth of Scripture from the 8th Psalm. Here we see the dignity and purpose of humanity.
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. (Hebrews 2:5)
God’s design was for humanity to rule over his creation. Humanity is the crowing jewel of creation by virtue of the fact that we bear the image of God. We reflect the character of God. There was nothing outside of his control in creation. This is the point. The Psalmist is marveling at God’s creative design.
This is instructive for us when there is great confusion about the relationship of people to the created world. We are not one with trees and pets are not equal to us. I say this with not ill aimed at dogs or redwoods, it is just the facts. This is how God made it. We should show great honor to other people because they are created in the image of God. This is how God made it.
Here in verse 8 the writer to Hebrews has the door cracked a bit into the dark room of humanity in a fallen world. A curious beam shines in and makes our teary, sun-starved eyes squint. It says, “not yet.” There is hope for us after all.
2) Because of sin, we are not what we should be. (2:8b)
It is very important to understand the Bible in terms of two important figures. They are Adam and Jesus. Adam, of course was the first man. He was created and enjoyed all that God gave him and his wife, Eve. They were promised eternal life if they obeyed God, if they disobeyed their were promised death.
The importance of Adam for us is that he was the representative of all of humanity. He is our great-great-great grandfather. Theologians call him our federal representative. He stands at the head of humanity as our representative. If Adam does well so would we. If Adam failed then so would we.
Of course we know that Adam failed. He sinned and was separated from God. His relationship changed. Adam abrogated his responsibility to rule over creation when he decided to worship the creation rather than the Creator. Because of sin, we (humanity) are not what we should be.
Look again at Hebrews 2:8. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
The Psalmist was saying, “This is a very high calling for a very insignificant being.” —What is man….? The author of Hebrews, on the other hand was saying, “This is the ruler? They have absolutely no dominion or control over creation.” At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Biblical Christianity has an answer for why things are the way they are. The answer is not that something happened to us but that we did something. The answer is sin. All people bear the image of God and so therefore carry the unique dignity of an image-bearer. However, the image is also marred because of our sin. And we live in a fallen or broken world, again because of our sin. People may not like the answer, but it is the answer nonetheless.
But, let’s remember that it is not the final answer.
Did you notice that important, little phrase in verse 8? look again, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. This is a very important phrase. One commentator observed, “Hebrews teaches that we live in the overlap of two ages, the present age and the age to come.” (O’Brien, p.98) We live in the last days (1:2), look ahead to the city to come (13:14) and in fact, the context of this passage (2:5) has the background of the world or age to come. There is a bit of a tension between what we experience and know now and what we will experience in the future kingdom of Christ.
There is a theme of family that is repeated throughout this passage. Look at verse 10: sons, verse 11 brothers, verse 12 brothers, verse 13 children, verse 14 children, verse 17 brothers. What is the writer saying? He is saying that what Jesus is doing here in is for the sake of his family. More specifically, verse 13, quoting Isaiah 8:13, “the children God has given me.”
Now I said that Jesus did this to gain solidarity with his brothers. What does this mean? It means that there is a one-ness, a union, a partnership, a bond with his brothers. In other words there is a particular and special relationship and union here.
In fact the term that the English Standard Version translated “That is why” is a connecting term based on a condition. It can also be translated “therefore” like in Titus 1:13. So what is he saying? v.11 again-He is saying that Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers because they have one source. What is the one source? I believe it is in reference to God. There is solidarity or union between Jesus the Son and you the Christian because of your common origin in God. Your salvation, identity as a son, your union with Christ—everything! is a result of God’s plan.
Look further at verse 13, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” He is quoting the 8th chapter of Isaiah here to reinforce this solidarity. Notice, God has given the children to Christ. When did this happen? It is what Christians have long called the Covenant of Redemption. This is when, before time and creation, The Father made a covenant or an agreement with the Son. The Father has chosen some from among his creation and Jesus would become a man to come and rescue them from their sin, free them from captivity, and restore them to God’s family. (Eph. 1, John 17).
I remember being in Basic Training in the Air Force. As many of you know the enlisted Airman share the same training center as the Pararescue. As we were out marching and running about we would often hear these guys running and chanting as they carried a float over their heads. Often times it was some tune about crossing enemy lines, rescuing captive Americans and then leading them home. These guys were rescuers. They are a unique breed of people trained to do an important task.
The word we have here in verse 10 has that type of special forces connotation to it. Notice Jesus is called the “founder” of our salvation. The word could be translated “leader” “founder” “author” or “pioneer.” It has the idea of one who is out in front carrying the benefits of what he is doing to all who follow him. In fact, it is a lot like Moses leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. He was the pioneer of the Exodus. But Jesus is so much more. He is the author of life (as Acts 3 says) and he is the Lord and Savior (Acts 5:31).
Why did Jesus do it? To gain solidarity with his brothers. Jesus as the rescuer comes into the land where his people have been held captive by the enemy. The prisoners need to be rescued. In order to do it Jesus must become a man, come defeat the tyrant and lead the captives free.
This is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, because God has given them to him. It is the greatest honor, privilege, passion, and enduing joy to glorify his Father by means of rescuing his brothers.
Now, Jesus is not ashamed to call you his family, are you ashamed to call him family?
It was extremely difficult for the original audience by comparison to our situation.
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Hebrews 10:32–34 (ESV)
Listen, this union with Christ, this solidarity, it has got to get into your bones to be the very marrow of your being. You have got to see Jesus as supreme to everyone and everything so that you will be able to faithfully follow Christ.
Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
2 Timothy 1:12 “which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
A few years ago a family member was looking at a 15 year sentence in the State Penitentiary. They had gotten heavily involved in drugs and the life that attends it, now it was time to go away for a number of years. In the courtroom they sat while awaiting the sentence and looked over at the entire family sitting on the other side. After the judge handed down the 15 year sentence we visited with her. She told us in tears, “None of my friends were here. Only you my family.” She got it: family runs deep. We are not ashamed of you; we love you. Even more with Jesus, he knows our record, he knows our crimes. He knows everything about you, and yet, he still is not ashamed to call you his family. He will never forsake you because you are his family. There is an eternal solidarity there. Don’t you forget it.
4. What does this means for us? This solidarity brings incomparable blessing (v.10-18)
We have talked a bit about this already but I want you to notice on more thing here. In talking about the personal aspect of this solidarity we have not spoken of the corporate. But look at verse 12:
“I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Hebrews 2:12 (ESV)
The writer to Hebrews takes the 22nd Psalm and applies the words to Christ (Isn’t it interesting that it puts these words right in Jesus’ mouth?). This of course looks ahead to the final gathering of all these children that God has given him. All of his people for who Jesus has fully accomplished all that God has required of them, all of them will be gathered together before the Lamb who was slain and what will happen? Jesus will preach and lead his people in singing. What a picture dear friends. Jesus Christ is the prince of preachers; he will declare the Word of God to us. Furthermore, Jesus Christ is the Psalmist of Israel, the true worship leader in the church; he will lead us in song. O’ that will be glorious.
You say, “I can’t wait till that day.” Neither can I. But let me also say, you don’t have to wait. When the church gathers today Jesus Christ gathers with her. Through the Spirit of Christ he is here with us even now. And as the Word of God is faithfully preached then Christ is both declaring and being declared! When we sing, our hearts are being united by the Spirit of God, filled with joy and delight in Christ. O’ he is very much leading the worship of the redeemed.
Let this identity sink in. Let us hear his word and sing with joy.
Look at verse 10: For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory… This glory means that we, all that Christ has purchased with be fully formed into the image of Christ and the created order will in fact be restored. We are just awaiting the end (Phil. 3:21).
This sanctification is the setting apart from sin to holiness. This is what the work of Christ has done. He is actively working to, by the Holy Spirit, to make you more holy. This is why we strive and work toward holiness (Heb. 12.14).
There is also liberation. Liberation from what? Look at verse. 14-15:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery Hebrews 2:14–15 (ESV)
The greatest fear facing all of us is death. However we as people try to suppress it the fear remains. It needs to be removed. Ultimately this fear comes down to a realization that we cannot control our own destinies. This is unnerving. So, what does Jesus do? He takes away the fear of death by destroying the one who has power over death, that is the devil. Through the cross of Christ Jesus kicks in the teeth of the devil. He plunders the strong man. He rescues those who are in bondage. How does he doe this? Look at v.9: by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (this everyone here should be understood as all of his brothers, the offspring of Abraham, rather than everyone who ever lived).
This is fundamental need for a sinful humanity. Jesus, as the High Priest, offers the sacrifice to bring purification before God (v.17). Propitiation means to make God favorable. It is to take away guilt and fully satisfy wrath. He makes us acceptable before God by being rejected.
Remember what the symbol of the curse of God is? Thorns, thistles, weeds, etc. The thorns serve to remind us of our lack of submission to God and our rebellion against God. When Jesus was hung upon the cross he was bearing our curse. He was taking upon himself the full consequence of God’s curse. What decorated his forehead? It was a crown of thorns. There upon Calvary we see Jesus bearing the full consequence of our sin. As he is doing this he is making purification for us. Every ounce of guilt, shame, fear, separation, wrath, death, and judgment, are emptied, guzzled by Jesus Christ!!
Finally, he consoles us. This is what it means when we read of the high priestly work of Christ. He intercedes for us before God, he continues to plead his own blood and righteousness before God.
Notice in v. 18 he can come to our aid. He has been tempted fully. This means that he can sympathize with and help those who are being tempted.
Also in verse 16 we read that he gives help not to angels but to the offspring of Abraham. This is shorthand for the children that God has given him (or the elect). This term “help” means, in it’s most simple sense “to seize” or “arrest” or “lay ahold of.” It is used to refer to the arrest of Paul (Acts 21:33), the seizing of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:19). It is also translated in chapter 8:9 as taking by the hand. This describes how God actively, sovereignly, and redemptively acted to take his people out of slavery. Similar language is used in Is. 43. What is the point. Here is the point: you and I were lost in our sin and rebellion but God, in his love and grace, arrested us, seized us and took us by the hand. In love, now this same God is walking with us, telling us not to fear, and he is leading us home to the kingdom. I don’t know how much the translation “help” helps us, but nonetheless, his loving consolation encourages our hearts; God is for us in Christ.
Ultimately, every sin is an attempt, in a corrupt way, to get back to Eden.
• We lost honor so we try to gain and keep honor from people.
• We lost power so we manipulate and seek to control things. When we can’t then we get anxious looking ahead and bitter looking back.
• We lost approval from God so we run to bolster our standing before God and man. When people don’t approve of us, then we are undone.
• We lost comfort so we tirelessly work to make ourselves comfortable.
The writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus, the second Adam, has rescued us by doing everything that God requires of us. He brings us back. He restores us.
• You now have honor. You are accepted in God’s family. Christ is not ashamed to call you his brother.
• You now can rest in God’s power. God is in full control and he is good; he loves you and accepts you therefore you can rest in his power. You are liberated from fear, bitterness, and anxiety. Rest in him.
• You now have approval at the highest court in creation. Because of Christ you are accepted before God. You need not live in fear or grovel at the feet of others for their approval. You are approved and accepted.
• You are comforted. You are loved and accepted, even comforted by Jesus.