Man, I’m telling you what…Tuesday morning was such a blessing. After reading and studying and contemplating Hebrews 2, if you are not ready to literally walk on water (or at least willing to try), then you missed something. At 6:30am, the little bottom-floor meeting room was abuzz with greetings, ripe with the smell of coffee in the air, and smiles all around. The reality is that if you put together 8-10 on-fire Christians in the same room, one should expect Christ’s Holy Spirit to be present! It started off with prayer and quickly took on an old-school flavor. A man I will call M was so full of the Spirit, that he in essence preached a mini-sermon…this is quite the feat anytime before 10am, let alone 6:30am…props my man. M was focused on Christ being 100% God and 100% human, and imploring us (rather exhorting us) to keep God close every minute of every day. M’s main point was we should not separate and segment our lives, leaving God to Sunday mornings and an occasional Bible study, but rather let Him saturate every part of our lives. “Whatever you do, do to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Then another was moved by the fact that we can never say to Jesus, “You just don’t understand what I am going through.” If you can handle the truth, Jesus can sympathize AND empathize; take that one to the bank. Look, I don’t know what it is like to fast for 40 days and take a full-frontal attack from Satan, but I bet that fallen angel hung around all day over our Savior’s shoulder, mocking Him, laughing at Him, whispering perversities in His righteous ears, showing him images from the depths of hell, presenting accusatory evidence to the atrocities of man, and asking Him why He thinks humans are even worth it. We will never know what anguish and mental suffering that entailed, but what we can take away from it is this: Christ knows your pain, your loss, your loneliness, your betrayal, your hopelessness, your poverty, your fear, your temptations, and all that it is to be human. The only difference is that He knew no sin!
It is impossible to read Hebrews 2 without falling in love with Christ. The writer takes you to the highest of highs when he says that the stability of the universe is held by His word, and then takes you to the lowest of lows when he brings us to the Messiah “tasting death for everyone”.
So buckle your seatbelts, here we go.
1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
Eye witnesses + Prophecy fulfillment + Christ’s words + His disciples’ testimonies + Signs and Wonders + Miracles + the Holy Spirit bearing witness = YOUR TESTIMONY. Hold on to your testimony, don’t drift away, all the proof you could ever want or need has been given to you, so please don’t be pulled away by the fear of suffering, the fear of persecution, and the lure to fit your Lord into your old ways. Stand fast my brothers and sisters, because if you think laws spoken by angels were true, the Word spoken by and through Jesus is ‘more’ true! That is the way I would say these words today…sorry, it just came out.
One noticeable historical fact emerges in verse 3; the author gives proof that he personally did not hear Jesus bear witness of Himself. The author tells us that the gospel was proclaimed to him by “those who heard Him” (in person).
These early believers were privy to a plethora of proofs; the gifts of the Holy Spirit are recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11:
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
I find it interesting how the author assumes so much! Think about it: these people knew of what he spoke, as a Christian baptized in the Holy Spirit, all of the above gifts mentioned in a letter to the Corinthians were common. What would the church look like today if we embraced the gifts of the Spirit like they did during the Roman Empire? People believed in the message because it was touchable, feel-able, approachable, and undeniable. How many souls could be saved if we brought the gospel not only in word but also in power? That’s how Paul rolled; he said so in the first letter to the Thessalonians: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5); and again in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
If you take the time, you will find that Jesus’ ministry was all about word and power. The two are inextricably linked in His ministry, in Paul’s ministry, in Peter’s ministry, in James’ ministry, and in God’s whole story in fact! God said, “Let there be light”…BOOOOM! A word with power. So it is with us today or at least it should be.
People don’t really crave wealth, power, and control; they really crave something deeper, a completeness of sorts, of something that was lost along the way. That void is spiritual in nature, and many have settled for a cheap, temporary substitute! So when we preach about health and wealth, the blessed life, 10 Ways Jesus Can Help Your Business, or anything else besides the true Christ-defined kingdom life, we miss the mark. We miss out on the Power of the gospel when we entertain or lean on words independent of love (1 Corinthians 13). Words are absolutely meaningless without the power behind them and in them. Like a seed is useless when the inside is dead…why sow a husk of a shell? If there is nothing in it, why waste your time? Words without power are necessarily and definitively un-Godly and un-Biblical. Jesus Himself stated that we will give an account of every word that comes out of our mouths (Matthew 12:36). Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!
You see, the power comes from being with God in prayer, in fellowship, in partnership, and abiding in grace. So if we don’t have power, it is because we don’t know God or we have walked away from Him. The ancient Church knew power because they knew God. They may not all have seen Christ in person, but the person of the Holy Spirit was irrefutable evidence of God’s testimony and assurance. And we today have forgotten that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and poised and most importantly, knowable. But He must be invited on our personal journey every day; we must learn to lean on Him all day, every day. For only He knows how to please the Father, only He can impart spiritual discernment and wisdom, He alone is able to cause a Christian to walk in victory, and He alone can manifest Christ to us. This is the way the Son and the Father set the new covenent up to operate (John 14:16-17 and 26). If we really, really desire to know about Christ and His nature, then we have to know the Holy Spirit. His presence always makes us look to Christ because adoration is the fruit of love. And we know “that the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5). So from this platform of power, having been with God, our words become immeasurably powerful because they can and will touch lives with the same measure as we ourselves have been touched. That’s just how the kingdom works.
5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7 You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.
oooOOOoooh…eschatology! This is not the time or place to “go there”, but suffice it to say, angels won’t be running the show in the future earthly kingdom…we will. Sweet! By the way, the Psalm the writer is quoting is Psalm 8. Stop reading right now or at least make a note of it for later and (re)read Psalm 8…better yet, you can click here. Who hasn’t been in David’s shoes before? Who hasn’t wandered out into the night sky and contemplated how big and mysterious and awesome the night sky is and how puny, little, and insignificant we are?! (Please note: I have a recent offering that you might like concerning this exact subject called “When God Speaks” and an oldie but goodie called, “The Theology of Trust“) If you notice in the Psalm, verses 3 and 4 are priceless: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that you are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” Do you think, knowing what we now know, the Psalmist would be more struck by God’s creative fingers, or would it leave him less in awe? What would David think of black holes, supernovae, distant galaxies, and an ever-expanding universe? The Book of Psalms would be much lengthier!
The author wants to be clear that what he is speaking of is yet to come. You have permission to go rabbit hunting, but for time considerations, I do not.
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” 13 And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”
Do you realize what probably just slipped right by? After all the work the writer of Hebrews has done to lift Christ up as God, as the power that upholds, as the agent of creation, and describing Him as the Son to the Father, after all of that praise and glorious exposition, he finally identifies the Man simply as Jesus. The writer uses His simple, earthly name and that is not only astounding but quite touching. He could have called Him Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords, the Name above all names, Emmanuel, Christ, King of the Jews, Savior, Rabbi, Teacher, or even the One….but no, just “Jesus” which is equivalent to a common name in first century Palestine of “Joshua”. Priceless my friends…just priceless.
But the words that follow give depth and life to the using of our Lord’s earthly name; for now we visit the suffering, the pain, the tasting of death, and the perfecting of Him in humanness through tasting all the evil there is to swallow on this side of eternity. To be a perfect atonement for sin, our Lord had to taste the whole of the human condition so that as High Priest, He would know of what we suffer and what we struggle with. Our captain of salvation was made perfect (more accurate word is “complete”) through suffering. He knew more than anyone else that we shared the same Father. And He calls us His brothers and sisters. No distinction is made or qualification demanded other than One is sanctifying and the others (you and me) are in the process of sanctification. Same Dad…same destiny! Amen.
By the way, I have to take this moment and say, “Thank you Jesus for Your willingness to do this for us.”
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
We have touched on Christ taking on flesh and blood for many theological reasons, but there is one more reason. That reason is strange and mysterious, hard to comprehend, but marvelous nonetheless. He came to enter into death, to move through death, to conquer death, and to stake a claim for the ultimate destruction of Satan now that death is rendered powerless! I touched on this in class a bit, and it is worth contemplating if only for a minute. This verse is saying that all humans (past, present, future) are/were/will be under the slavery of the fear of death. It is standard equipment, comes with the territory, but doesn’t have to be that way any longer. Jesus got an up close and personal taste of this slavery when He witnessed and heard the broken hearts on His way to see Lazarus. The Apostle John tells us His “spirit groaned within Him”, and the shortest verse in the Bible with the deepest of implications is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” He deeply loved and cared for His earthly relatives and friends; when He saw their hearts break, His did as well. Nobody really completely understood Christ’s mission in the earth before His resurrection, so I’m sure when He confronted Martha, He wanted to show her the width and depth of His mission, but alas, she would not have understood. Death is so ingrained into us that it takes the passion of Christ to remove it from us.
Are you scared of death? Do you know that death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55)? Do you know that death has been swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:4)? Do you know that you know that you know that to be apart from the body is to be now present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8)? The slavery to the fear of death is over my friends! The devil can kiss our sanctified, glorified, fortified, and identified collective backsides; in fact, Jesus knows us by name. He knows YOU by name. So when the fear of death comes knocking, just stamp it with the blood of Christ, “RETURN TO SENDER”.