“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 Couldn’t there have been another way? Did God really have to send His son . . . down here? Over the past month, we have been piecing together a theological understanding of who Jesus is. And up to this point the writer of Hebrews has drawn this powerful picture of Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah - through whom the world was created.
He was called the Son of God, the firstborn who was the very nature of God, and now sits at the right hand of God and rules over his kingdom with righteousness and waits for his enemies to become his footstool.
That is the Jesus I am comfortable with. A powerful Jesus – more powerful than angels - that can crush his enemies and use them as a footstool – this is the stuff great movies are made out of. Jesus is like terminator . . . and I can buy into that. And as a preacher, I can sell that kind of Jesus.
But then we turn the page - the writer of Hebrews slams on the breaks and instead of proclaiming Jesus’ divinity he now focuses on Jesus’ humanity
Read Hebrews 2:10-15
Just a couple of verses ago, Jesus was enthroned in heaven waiting to crush his enemies and use them as a footstool - But now, the Jesus we are talking about is human and I get a bit uncomfortable imagining the “King of kings and Lords of Lords” as truly one of us . . .
- Dependant on his father and mother
- His diaper being changed and his nose wiped
- Having to learn how to walk and to speak words
- Crying as he falls down and scrapes his knee
- Children playing with him on the street and having a best friend.
- It’s hard to imagine a Jesus that had pimples on his face during adolescence
- his hair messed up when he rolled out of bed
- And having bad breath.
- It’s awkward to think that perhaps the girl down the street had a crush on him or vice-versa
- I can’t fathom a Jesus that had body flaws –
- With bony knees or bowed legs.
- A head too big for his body or feet that he constantly tripped over
- It’s hard to comprehend that for thirty years he felt everything that you and I have ever felt.
- He felt weak, He grew weary. He was afraid of failure, He got colds, he blew his nose, he burped and had body odor.
- His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired, his head ached and he even cried as an adult.To think of Jesus like this seems . . . well, irreverent. And Yet, God said it was fitting . . . and that’s hard to understand.But if we don’t embrace both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus than we will never understand the extent to which God went to win our redemption.
There is a phrase in verse 1 that I want us to focus on tonight,
“The author of our salvation was to made perfect through suffering”
This is the foundation of the author’s argument that Jesus had to become fully human. Let’s break this phrase apart to help us understand the importance of the incarnation of Jesus
The first word is “author”The Greek word is archegon which can also be translated “trailblazer” or “guide” but more accurately it is translated as “champion”. By using this word, the author of Hebrews is using imagery of a divine hero – for example Hercules was called “champion” or archegos.
And he is saying that the God – the divine one who lives “up there”- the one who is the creator and sustainer of life and who is greater than the angels has now come “down here” to be our divine champion, our trailblazer or guide.But what is so surprising is the form our divine champion took. He didn’t come as royalty that had everything he needed to make his job easy. Instead, he came as a servant who experienced everything that his people would experience.
Verse 14 tells us that, “He became flesh and blood and He shared in our humanity.”And this is important because by sharing in our humanity, he is able to fully relate to people. By sharing in our humanity, He now has the right to call us brothers and sisters and by becoming flesh and blood, He could reach every darkened corner of human existence – not as an outsider but as one who is transforming from within.
As one who shares in our humanity, He has the right to say . . . “been there, done that . . . let’s keep moving forward”When I was 6-7 years old, I was finally big enough to ride my first upside down ride. I had had my eye on this ride for the last couple of years but this year was to be the big year that I could experience this thrill ride. But when my time came, I was a bit reluctant to actually get in line. The screams coming from the riders in previous years sounded like screams of excitement but for some reason, this year, at this moment, the screams sounded more like screams of terror than screams of joy and I wasn’t sure that I could go through with it.
But with the prodding of my older sister, who I was pretty sure had hung the moon; I got in line.As the line began to move and I found myself closer to the monster, I began to panic. My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, I was beginning feel a bit sick to my stomach and I was pretty sure that if I got on the ride . . . . I would die!Finally it was our turn to get on and I moved slowly to the opened cage door and I froze. I couldn’t do it. My sister began to push me forward and bribe me with candy and cleaning my room for a week but it just wasn’t happening. There was no way that I was going to put myself in harms way.
I could tell that the people all around me were getting agitated with me and the ride operator was about ready to pass me up but then something happened that changed my perception of the situation.
My sister, got in the ride first and she looked at me with her arms open and said, Come on Sam, it’s gonna be OK – we can do this together. And with that simply move, of her getting on the ride first and beckoning me to follow her, I knew it was going to be ok. It was still going to be scary, the ride was going to be bumpy but I knew that I could get through it because my sister was willing to experience it herself.
Jesus has been there and he has done that and he is telling us it’s going to be ok.
So, we have this image of one who is fully divine and now has taken on the form of flesh and blood in order to be our champion. He took on the limitation of humanity in order to free us from our limitations, and nowhere are our limitations more clearly recognized than in the face of death. Death being the consequence of our sin.
Woody Allen summed up our uneasiness with death when he said “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” No matter how confident we may be over human ability, our limitation concerning death is undeniable and our meeting with it inevitable.
Even as Christians many of us still experience apprehension over death.
- We fear the loss of control
- We fear incompleteness and failure
- We fear separation from our loved ones
- We fear what we are unfamiliar with
And if someone does get sick . . . as Christians our prayer tends to be “God heal this person”.
We have embraced the words of the poet Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night” but because Jesus shared in our humanity and put on the form of flesh and blood we have been given the deliverance from the slavery to this fear.
Because Christian hope is based on the fact that because of the Christ’s suffering of death, we know one who has gone before us. We have a champion who has blazed a trail and conquered death.
And if you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and offers to us forgiveness for our sins to which the punishment is death, then we are freed from enslavement to the fear of death because
- Jesus gives us confidence and stability as we face the sense of losing control
- Our sense of incompleteness and failure is counterbalanced with hope of an eternal future – a future bought by Jesus’ sacrificial death.
- Our fear of separation is turned inside out because in the heavenly kingdom we will enjoy relationships with those from whom we have been separted by death
- And as followers of Christ, we have already surrendered mastery of our lives, realizing that control of our destinies was an illusion all along.
Because of the incarnation of Jesus we can proclaim the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15
“Where, oh death, is your victory? Where, oh death, is your sting?” But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
There is one more word I want us to look at in this opening phrase; “perfect”
The text says “It was fitting that God . . . should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering”.
Now, to say that something will become perfect might seem to suggest that it was imperfect before. But in Jewish literature the idea of perfection has to do with fully completing the course, making it to the end of God’s plan.
And this is important to understand because what the author is telling us is that Jesus Christ becoming fully human and suffering unto death was never plan B. It has always been God’s plan to bring us back into relationship with Him.And we needed a divine champion to accomplish this because the relationship between God and man had been so broken through sin that only one who is both fully divine and fully human could bridge this gap that separated us.
Although it is difficult to understand, it was necessary that Jesus became fully human because we needed a champion who could accomplish for us something we can not do for ourselves.
I leave you with this beautiful poem written by a high school student entitled “The Cost”:
So this was the cost
the price you had to pay for me
to be with me
to save me
to redeem me
You laid down here for me
Hung here for me
Died here for me
You laid down here for me
As they laughed at you
And said who’s hitting you
You laid down here for me
As they nailed you
You laid here as nails cut you, pierced you, raped you
You laid down here for me
You hung here for me as they mocked you
Jew King, here’s your crown so come down and be king
You hung here for me as your breath wouldn’t come
And the blood wouldn’t stop
and nails or no nails you still are God
and could have come down
and made the pain stop and made the laughs stop
but you hung here for me
You died here for me
As you said
it is finished
And now there is nothing left,
But the horror of this place
And I want to turn away, to walk away, to run away
To just forget without regret
All the horror of this place
Of the blood on your face
And the pain of the nails and the hole in your side
But I can’t turn away cause I need to be saved
And if this is what it takes for me to know you
To be with you
to find you
if this is what it takes for you to save me
Then I can’t look away
Cause I need you to save
this soul that cries out for you,
dies for you,
reaches for you
If this is what it takes then I all I can say is
Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!
Cause I need to be saved
I can’t pay the cost