After cautioning the Hebrews not to drift away from Christ, the writer of Hebrews now resumes his argument that Jesus is greater than any other. He has already shown that Jesus is a superior messenger over all of the Old Testament prophets who came before Him. Furthermore, using several scripture references he has proven that Jesus is higher than and exalted far above the angels. Jesus is the divine Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, and a co-equal member of the holy Trinity.
The Bible repeatedly and undoubtedly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. Because God is spirit, some cynics have reasoned that Jesus was never a physical human being, but rather just a convincing ghost. These heretics state that while He appeared to be a person (even fooling those closest to Him), in actuality He was an immaterial spirit. Others have suggested that Jesus never had a human mind, soul, or will. They concede that He may have been partially human, but insist that He was always more God than man. These and other similar teachings present a false picture of who Jesus really is.
Besides being God, Jesus was also a man. The dual nature of Christ is an important bedrock of Christianity. This doctrine is formally known as the “hypostatic union”. It teaches that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. These two natures are distinct yet inseparable. They are not mixed with or diluted by each other. Instead they both co-exist wholly and eternally within one united Person, the God-man Jesus Christ.
In the second part of chapter 2, the writer of Hebrews turns his attention to the humanity of Christ. He not only asserts the Lord’s personhood, but also teaches why it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to become a man. In today’s message we will discover why it is essential that Jesus be a human being. The sermon is titled, “A Better Man”.
I. EARTH SUBJECT TO MAN (verses 5-8)
In accordance with His perfect will, God has subjected the earth to man. This is made clear by the instructions that He gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The LORD told Adam to rule over the earth while cultivating and keeping it in good condition. God gave man dominion over His creation and tasked them with the responsibility of providing care for it. But despite man’s god-given authority over the earth, nature continuously resists and rebels. Creation is not yet under full and complete submission to mankind, as proven by those weeds that just keep popping up in the yard…
The fallen earth will never fully resign itself to man’s control until the curse against it has been lifted. When that time finally arrives, “the world to come” will fall under total and peaceful submission to mankind. All things will be subject to his rule as the caretaker of God’s creation. This role has not been given to the angels, but rather is reserved exclusively for humanity. This provides some insight into the possible activities of those who will spend eternity in/on the New Heavens and New Earth..
To reinforce his position, the writer references Psalm 8:4-6. In this ancient psalm, David is awed by God’s unconditional and unwarranted love and concern for mankind. In amazement he recognizes that while man is and will be “lower than the angels for a little while”, one day he will be elevated to a greater position than they. Whatsmore, David marvels that God would entrust frail humanity with custodianship of the earth.
II. JESUS BECAME A MAN (verses 9-13)
Though still and always fully God, Jesus voluntarily chose to come to this earth as a man. He humbled Himself by temporarily becoming “lower than the angels” in His humanity. This reduced status, though short-lived, is convincing evidence that Jesus was, in fact, a man. After fulfilling His mission, Jesus ascended back into Heaven, was “crowned with glory and honor”, and resumed His original position over the angels. While redeemed humanity will someday be elevated over the angels, as the divine Son of God Jesus will always and forever be highly exalted over both mankind and the angels.
It is only “fitting” that Jesus should suffer for the sins of man as a man. Interestingly, during His earthly ministry Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. In this sense, both the Savior and those being saved come from the same Father. This explains why Jesus was “not ashamed to call” His disciples “brethren”. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary as a human being. This is what is meant by the incarnation of Christ.
Again the author of Hebrews cites a few scriptures to make his case. While the words of Psalm 22 were originally composed by David, they were repeated and amplified by Jesus (see verse 1 especially). From this perspective, it is Jesus speaking to His “brethren” in Psalm 22:22 thereby asserting His humanity. Furthermore, in Isaiah 8:17-18 the prophet likens the Son of God to the children of God showing them to be of the same Father.
III. DEATH CONQUERED FOR MAN (verses 14-18)
Because Jesus “partook of the same” nature as other men, He became an acceptable substitute for them. By sharing in the same “flesh and blood”, the Lord successfully defeated the devil and rendered him “powerless”. Through His resurrection Jesus conquered death and made eternal life available to all. The fear of death had always shackled people in chains and held them in slavery, but the Son of Man has made the freedom of mankind possible.
This salvation is not available “to angels”. The Bible indicates that angels have been created as either good or evil. They do not possess faith in Christ like human beings do. The great ransom that Jesus paid at Calvary was and is expressly for “the descendant of Abraham”. While these descendant Hebrews were the primary recipients of this letter, more broadly this phrase refers to all people who share in the faith of Abraham - both Jew and Gentile alike. The apostle Paul elaborates on this truth in his letter to the Romans (chapters 4 & 5).
Jesus “had to be” a man in order to rightly appease God’s wrath as the propitiation for humanity’s sin. Jesus is our “merciful and faithful” High Priest, both the Offeror and the Offering. Introduced here, this concept will be developed much more thoroughly in the coming chapters. Because Jesus subjected Himself to the same temptations an struggles as faced by all other people, He understands our plight and is able to “come to the aid of those who are tempted”. Jesus cannot be the Savior of men with being a man Himself.
Several years ago, while I was working as a financial advisor, I planned an outdoor sales function at the local park. Knowing that it would be hot that afternoon, I thought it might be wise to set up a canopy for shade. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have one. Rather than buying a canopy, I asked a friend if I could borrow theirs. After a long and rather unsuccessful day at the park, I folded up the canopy to leave. Somehow, as I did so, the frame bent and then broke. When I later returned it to my friend, they were understandably upset.
I offered to pay them the full price of the canopy, plus a little extra since I’d broken it, but they didn’t want money. It was not their responsibility to go to the store, to search for and find another canopy, to purchase it, and then bring it home. Instead they wanted me to give them another canopy - exactly like the first one - as the proper restitution for that which I had ruined. So I shopped until I found it, bought it, and took it to my friend. Once they received it, their anger subsided (somewhat) and they were finally satisfied. To this day, I still have that broken canopy and it serves as a vivid reminder of this painful experience.
A canopy for a canopy… a man for a man. The only appropriate and acceptable reparations for the sins of man must have been made by a sinless man, namely Jesus Christ. To deny the humanity of Jesus erodes the very foundation of Christianity. He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man simultaneously.
What a joy to know that Jesus can identify with our human condition! He has been there, and has walked in our shoes. He knows what it means to hurt, to hunger, to thirst, and to grieve. As such, we can trust Him with all of our doubts and fears. He understands us, better than we even understand ourselves. He is truly “a better Man”.