Today is National Big Word Sermon Day. We’re going to talk about some big words, so you may need access to Dictionary.com.
We are going through a sermon series on a book in the NT called “Hebrews.” The name “Hebrews” likely comes from the recipients of the book, who were probably Christians from Jewish ancestry. So they were “Hebrew” Christians.
And we typically call Hebrews a “letter” or “epistle,” but it actually reads more like a sermon. A sermon of exhortation.
One word that describes this sermon called Hebrews is the word, “BETTER.” Specifically, Jesus Christ is better. Better than angels. Better than Moses and the Promised Land of rest and the priesthood of Israel and more. And therefore the New Covenant—the New Testament—is better than the Old Covenant.
Our passage today in Chapter 2 doesn’t use the word “better,” but we will certainly see that theme indirectly.
I’m excited about this passage because we will be exposed to some beautiful and life-changing truths. The deeper we grasp what is written here, the deeper and richer our lives will be.
We’re going to focus on vs. 5-18 this morning, but let’s start in vs. 1 to get the context.
Hebrews 2:1–4 (CSB)
1 For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.
2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment,
3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to his will.
Hebrews 2:5–18 (CSB)
5 For he has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about.
6 But someone somewhere has testified: What is man that you remember him, or the son of man that you care for him?
7 You made him lower than the angels for a short time; you crowned him with glory and honor
8 and subjected everything under his feet. For in subjecting everything to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him.
9 But we do see Jesus—made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace he might taste death for everyone—crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.
10 For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God—for whom and through whom all things exist—should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,
12 saying: I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; I will sing hymns to you in the congregation.
13 Again, I will trust in him. And again, Here I am with the children God gave me.
14 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—
15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.
16 For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring.
17 Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.
18 For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.
Evidently, the recipients of this letter/sermon had an inappropriate view of angels. They may have been worshiping angels. Placing them ahead of Jesus Christ.
The author here is saying….with an emphatic voice, “No, JESUS is better!” So we must pay attention to the gospel. Don’t neglect this great salvation that comes only from Jesus Christ.
In our text today beginning in vs. 5, we should note there is not one command. We are not told in this section to DO anything. But we are told some deep and rich things that we must believe.
Let’s begin walking through this.
The world has not been subjected to angels. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
But first, vs. 7 says, “He was made lower than the angels for a short time.” That means that Jesus Christ became a man for 33 years in a position that was lower in stature than angels. But just for a few years.
Our first big word is,
This means that the divine took on the human. The glorious became the inglorious. The immortal took on mortality. Jesus as Deity actually became a man. Not merely the divine residing for a short time in a human body, but actually taking on human nature….though not relinquishing his divinity.
So we hold both deity and humanity in the same hand. This is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. Like the word, “Trinity” that Pastor Matt talked about last week, this word “Incarnation” is hard to explain and grasp, because we have nothing in our human experience to compare it to. And no analogies seem to fit.
But the Incarnation is a core doctrine of Christianity. And actually it’s a theme that undergirds this chapter and the entire Book of Hebrews.
So the Incarnation is more than a nice piece of knowledge to store somewhere in the back of our brain.
We should marvel at the mystery of the God taking on human nature. We read chapter 1 two weeks ago. The Son is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of the Father’s nature. He is the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth.
So we should marvel at the Incarnation, for without the real, human blood that he shed, and without and him as Mediator/High priest, Christianity is just a made-up story that makes us feel good for a time, but offers nothing beyond this life.
So now let’s get back to vs. 5: “God did not subject the world to angels.” What does that mean? It means that angels are not in charge of this world. Rather, the Son of Man (vs. 6) is in charge of this world. Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, as he told us in his last words on earth in Matthew 28:18. Hebrews says the same thing: Vs. 7 and 8, God the Father placed all things under the rulership of his Son, Jesus.
This brings up our second big word:
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was coronated. He was crowned King of kings and Lord of lords.
Vs. 8 tells us, “we do not yet see everything subjected to him.” Some call this, “Now, but not yet.”
He is King, yet the kingdom of God has not yet been consummated. There is still defiance against the King. But he’s coming soon. Still, even now the entire world and even the spirit world is subject to him. Everything and everyone, except God the Father, is under his authority.
And most importantly, we need to know and believe that Jesus Christ is MY king. YOUR king. My ruler. My boss. My authority. Whatever he says, I must listen to. Whatever he tells me, I must obey.
“He has been crowned with glory and honor and everything is subjected to him.”
This is why Hebrews keeps telling us that Jesus is BETTER. The Incarnation and his Coronation establish his supremacy and his glory.
Jesus “tasted death for everyone.”
If you are familiar even slightly with Christianity, you’ve heard much made of Jesus’ death. We might even wonder, “What’s the big deal about that? I mean, everyone dies. So what?”
Fair question. At least two things make Jesus’ death much different than our death.
- The Incarnation makes it different. That the Eternal Son of God became a man in a mortal, broken, temporal body is mind-blowing.
- Second, he came and died for a reason.
For us mere mortals, our deaths are for a reason, and that reason is our own sin. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” What our sin earns…the wage for our sin…is death. Certainly physical death. But there is a deeper sort of death. A spiritual death that separates us from God, from REAL life. Jesus’ death was very different. His death was not for HIS OWN sin, but for ours. This is the Good News.
So the next Big Word for the morning is,
Jesus “tasted death for everyone.” He substituted himself for us. Last Fall in our series on the Book of Exodus, we talked about this. Though we all deserve judgment for our sins, God is merciful and he has provided an escape, if we will trust in him. It comes from Moses’ words:
Leviticus 17:11 CSB For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement.
You may want to memorize this verse, for it helps explain the gospel. God has mercifully provided a substitute for us. Not an animal like a lamb or bull that Israel had. Rather, he has provided his Son, the Lamb of God, to take away our sins.
This is why Jesus is better.
We’re beginning to see why the Incarnation is such a critical doctrine. And we will see this in almost every chapter of Hebrews.
Now in vs. 10, the author says something that may confuse us if we know other Scriptures on this topic.
It says, “God made the pioneer of our salvation perfect through suffering.”
Did Jesus have to be “made” perfect? Is this saying he was a sinner who needed to be perfected?
That’s a fair question.
But the answer is clear. In Hebrews 4:15, the author knows Jesus is without sin.
What he’s addressing here is Jesus’ role as our Savior. The word “perfect” also means “complete.” For Jesus to bring his role as Savior to completion, he needed to suffer.
He needed to suffer for several reasons.
- To experience the pain of temptation. Jesus in his humanity actually endured temptations. He did NOT sin, but he faced the agony that temptations bring.
We understand this agony: We want to do what is right, but temptations to do wrong can be so strong, so alluring. And in a way, it is torture to resist.
It’s much easier, and even pleasurable—at least for a moment—to give in to temptation and sin.
When the Holy Son of God to experienced temptation, he suffered. He endured 33 years of constant temptation, though he never succumbed.
So now, Jesus can sympathize with us when we are tempted. We will read more of this in vs. 18 and in chapters 3 and 4.
So Jesus suffered by experiencing temptation in his human body.
- He also suffered, most obviously, by his death.
His death on the cross was certainly physical agony. Pain beyond what most people have ever encountered. But even worse was the spiritual suffering…being forsaken by his enemies, his friends, and especially God the Father. Jesus cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
That lonely cry, surely the loneliest cry ever uttered on earth, was when the Father turned his face away from his precious, holy, beloved Son…when the Father placed my sins, your sins, on the Son’s back and judged him for it.
In all this suffering, God the Father made the Son the perfect and complete Savior that we need. There is no other way for us to be rescued from the judgment of sin.
The next big words are
SANCTIFICATION and ADOPTION
To sanctify means simply, “to be made holy.” Consecrated. Set apart for holy purposes. So in vs. 11, “the one who sanctifies” i.e., the one who sanctifies us, who purifies us and makes us holy and set apart for God, is Jesus. More on sanctification in Chapters 9 and 10.
And just as remarkably, those who believe in the Son can now call God our Father. The gospel of Christ is better than the covenant given to Israel through Moses because we are ADOPTED by God as his children. This makes us God’s sons and daughters. And it makes us Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
It’s hard to imagine a more intimate relationship with God Almighty. Through the “Better” work of the Son in his death, we now become family members of this Holy, Creator God.
Any time we wonder what our value is, or if our lives matter, or we feel alone or insignificant, remember this: God through his Son has adopted you. You are his son. His daughter. And look at vs. 11: “Jesus is not ashamed to call you his brother. His sister.”
The opposite of shame is honor. Jesus honors you by calling you his family. The glorious King who rules over heaven and earth….the Creator and Sustainer of all things…the Incarnate God…glories that you are his brother and sister. This is life changing!!
The next two words are DESTRUCTION and FREEDOM
The work of Christ when he died and rose from the dead destroyed the devil’s power over death.
The author did not mean that Satan ceased to exist or to be active. Rather the word “destroy” indicates he no longer has the power of death over those whom Christ redeems.
And then FREEDOM is the word for us who believe in the Son who rose from the dead. When we believe in Christ, his death is our death. And his resurrected life is our resurrected life. So though we will still die physically, we will never die spiritually and eternally. Death does not have the final word any longer for those who are in Christ. It’s called eternal life for a reason: it’s real life in the presence of the glorious God forever and ever and ever and ever. Always and ever…beauty and wonder and peace and joy and holiness.
I recognize we can still worry about dying. I certainly have, at times. But such fear is enslaving. And it is needless. Life through the Son is ours. The prison doors of death are now open. Our duty is to walk out of the prison cell of fear and into the freedom that is now ours.
Vs. 17 is a good summary of this passage today.
“Jesus was made like his brothers and sisters in every way” [He was made like us…fully human. The INCARNATION.]. “…so that… he could become a merciful and faithful high priest…to make atonement for our sins.”
Vs. 17 introduces us for the first time in Hebrews to the title, “HIGH PRIEST.” This is a major theme in this book, and it appears in every chapter from chapter 2 to 10.
We will get into this more in the coming weeks, but let me say simply that a high priest is a MEDIATOR. In our sinful state, we cannot approach a holy God. We need a mediator. Someone holy to represent us and speak to God on our behalf. The Son of God, Jesus, is our eternal MEDIATOR. “A merciful and faithful high priest.” Merciful. Compassionate. How sweet that is. Faithful. Trustworthy. Our Mediator speaks to God the Father on our behalf as he offers his own blood as a substitute. His life for our life.
Now with that Mediator-ship comes the best big word of all.
Vs. 17 in this translation lists this as “makes atonement,” but I like the word propitiation better. It’s not a word we use anywhere else, but it’s a beautiful one.
It means to appease or pacify someone’s anger. In this case, God is angry at sin. He has wrath. So how does this anger get satisfied? God himself takes action.
He sent his own Son to die in our place. He poured his wrath out on his own innocent, holy, beloved Son. And so the Son’s death appeased the Father’s wrath. Now, through faith in the Son, we are forgiven. We are at peace with God.
This is the gospel. And it is possible only because of the love of God and the Incarnation of the Son. The Son died in our place as the Lamb. The Son was appointed high priest, our Mediator, to speak to the Father on our behalf. The Son was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to be our eternal Mediator.
I love what chapter 7 says:
Hebrews 7:25 CSB Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.
This is why, throughout this sermon of Hebrews, the preacher keeps saying, “Hold on to Jesus. Don’t neglect him. Don’t ignore him. He is your hope, your only hope.”
I love a story in the gospels. Jesus had spoken of some difficult things that some people did not like. So they left him. They stopped following Jesus. So Jesus sees this as a teachable moment for his closest followers.
John 6:67–69 CSB Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?”
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter said, “Where else can we go? No one has life like you do. You are the Holy One from heaven itself.”
Peter helps us answer the question from Hebrews 2, “Where do we go from here?” What difference can the truths from this chapter make in our lives?
And we must answer that question. The Lord’s Scriptures are never intended merely to entertain, though there certainly are fascinating and entertaining passages. His Word is never intended to merely give us facts like a history book, though it is historical from cover to cover. God intends his Word to change our thinking. To soften our hearts. To give clear direction. To save our souls. To show us how to live.
So I love Peter’s words in John 6. Such a simple faith. Yet rich. Peter had been with Jesus, observing miracles, hearing authoritative teaching, seeing genuine love. What was his conclusion? There is nowhere else to go. No one offers life….real life….like Jesus. No one backs up what he says like Jesus.
So when we step back and evaluate Hebrews 1 and 2, what do we have about Jesus?
- He is the radiance of the glory of God.
- He is the Creator of all things.
- The Sustainer of life.
- The Purifier of sins.
- God Incarnate
- He’s the Coronated King
- The Substitution for the death we deserved.
- The High Priest, our Mediator, to defend us before a holy God enthroned in heaven.
- He calls us his brothers. His sisters. His very own family.
Like Peter, we can conclude….we must conclude….there is nowhere else to go. Jesus has the words of life.
So Hebrews speaks to us.
- If we are stubbornly defying Jesus, we are warned of the coming judgment. He is Lord of heaven and earth. Reject him at your peril.
- If we have believed in Jesus, but find ourselves overcome with worry about our future—the future of our country, the future of our finances and jobs and exams, our children’s spiritual well-being—instead of being overcome with worry, we must remember: All things in heaven and on earth are subject to him. Everything will bow to him someday. Everyone will declare him King of kings. We can calm our hearts. The King is here.
Psalm 46:10 says it so well:
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Stop your striving and your worrying. You have a faithful and merciful high priest whose name is Jesus.
- If we are walking with Jesus, yet we find ourselves weary in both body and soul…and we wonder if we have strength to go on…Jesus invites us to come to him.
Matthew 11:28–29 CSB Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Oh my, what an invitation. Find rest and strength in the Incarnate God who has endured much temptation and knows your need.
- If we wonder if we have any value…we feel worthless…we remember the gospel in this chapter. That God Almighty has adopted you because he loves you.
And his Son is honored to call you brother. And sister. Yes, you! A member of the family of God by the great love and rich mercy of Christ.
- If tomorrow we find temptation strong, and we simply want to give in to sin. We feel resistant to Jesus even though we love him.
This chapter says, “Hold on. Yield to the Coronated King. He is your Lord.” Like a 5-year old tomorrow morning who simply wants to defy Mom’s wishes. You look at him and you say, “Dude, your mom loves you. Yield to her. You won’t win here. She simply wants to bring you good.” So it is with us towards our heavenly Father.
Hebrews exalts Jesus Christ. And it calls us to pay attention to him. To remember his love. Power. Authority. To remember the sin-cleansing work of his death. To glory in the high priest who is seated in heaven defending you and loving you.