4: Our Humble High Priest (Heb 2) (2)

Hebrews - SRI Devotion  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Hebrews understood humans were made in the image of God, but wrestled with the Christian claim that God became human. But a crucified messiah? This was inconceivable. Today we discover the significance of both the life & death of our Humble High Priest.

Last week we were reminded that, despite the power and mystery concerning the creatures we call ANGELS, Jesus is BETTER.
Angels are God’s messengers and servants, but Jesus is God’s Messiah and Savior.
Angels worship Jesus because angels were created by Jesus!
And we concluded by being reminded that every knee of every human and every angel will bow before the Lord Jesus.
Hebrews 2:1
For this reason, we must pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.
The writer of Hebrews has a legitimate concern for his audience - a concern that those who claim to follow Jesus might drift away from the truth, as a boat once anchored to the sea floor drifts away from firm foundation it was once secured to OR as the vessel drifts off the course that would otherwise bring them home.
What IS that firm foundational truth they should not drift away from?
Simply put, that Jesus is God the Son, who put on skin to become our sinless sacrifice & Our Humble High Priest. While many Jews wrestled with the Christian claim that God became human, the idea of a crucified messiah was inconceivable! Yet this is the foundational truth of the Gospel.
Holding to this position invited ridicule and persecution by Jewish family members, former friends, and Gentile neighbors. So early Christians, in danger of drifting away from what they had heard from the apostles of Jesus, used visible symbols to remind them of the Gospel truths.
Church historian Henry Chadwick notes how the early church used sea symbols to remind them of these truths.
The most famous symbol was a 5 letter Greek term for FISH - ichthus - that Christians used as a coded acronym for...
Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior.
The first letter was an iota = I - the first letter of Jesus in Greek (Iēsous)
The 2nd letter was chi - looks like an X - the 1st letters of Christos (Christ) [side note: Xmas - the “x” is short for “Christ”)
The 3rd letter was theta = Θ - the 1st letters of Theou (God’s)
The 4th letter was upsilon = looks like a Y - the 1st letter for Son (Yios)
The 5th letter was sigma = Σ - the 1st letter for Savior (Sōtēr)
Hence, = ichthusJesus Christ God’s Son Savior.
Further, the ANCHOR became a powerful symbol to the early church that it was found in paintings and in the design of Christians’ coffins, showing that Christians found great comfort knowing they were anchored by Christ, our great and HUMBLE HIGH PRIEST, and not adrift for eternity.
And so the author pleads with THEM to, “pay attention all the more to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away.
That’s not a danger for any of US today…IS IT?
How many people do YOU know who once claimed to follow Jesus who have now drifted away?
Why do people drift away?
Some of us are bombarded by skeptics who question the claims of the Scriptures. It amazes me how quick people are to question Biblical claims while rarely questioning the critics’ claims.
Some of us drift when we are lured away by seductive sin. Is it any wonder that we don't sense the presence and power of Jesus when we continue to live for the things that Jesus died to pay for?
Sometimes we drift away not because of blatant sin, but because we are tempted to remove Jesus from the throne of our hearts and replace Him with someone or something in His place: our spouses, our children, and material possessions.
While the 1st century recipients of this letter faced some of the same struggles, these Hebrew Christians also faced opposition and persecution from those who wanted them to walk away from Jesus and return to their past beliefs and behaviors - to go back to the types and shadows of the Old Covenant
To go back to sacrificing animals for their sin RATHER THAN recognize that Jesus is the only & ultimate satisfying sacrifice, offered once and for all time.
To go back to relying on the imperfect priests who played the part of mediator between God and people, RATHER THAN recognizing Jesus as perfect High Priest.
And to go back & look for a future messiah RATHER THAN recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah and King who reigns forever & ever.
The author then challenges his Hebrew audience to stay anchored by comparing the significance of the Old Covenant message with the superiority of the New Covenant message.
As mentioned last week, the Jewish people believed that God had given His Old Covenant commands to Moses through angels. We see this mentioned in Acts 7:38 as Stephen speaks, saying:
Acts 7:38
He [Moses] is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us.
This is a BIG DEAL - that God spoke to His people through His prophet (Moses) by His angel. Most Jewish people didn’t take this lightly; and so the author of Hebrews writes:
Hebrews 2:2–3a
For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
God’s Old Covenant commands were expected to be obeyed, and when they weren’t, disobedience received a just punishment.
God commanded capital punishment for those who disobeyed or blasphemed His Name (Lev 24:14-16; Num 15:32-36). Capital punishment was the legal judgment for murder (Gen 9:5–6; Num 35:16–21), adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:24), rape (Deut 22:25-27), incest (Lev. 20:11–14), bestiality (Ex 22:19), homosexual activity (Lev 18:22; 20:13), and perjury (Zech 5:4).
Sometimes God bypassed the judicial system and brought judgement through powerful plagues, like poisonous snakes (Num 21:4–6). The writer of Hebrews leads the audience to this implied conclusion: If God punished those who disobeyed His commands given to Moses through angels, then how will God react if we disobey what He has spoken by the Lord Jesus?
God offers us a great salvation - mercy, love, forgiveness, & restoration. But if we neglect God’s offer, how can we expect to escape God’s judgment?
Hebrews 2:3b-4
This salvation had its beginning when it was spoken of by the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. 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.
What’s the author’s point? God has given evidence that salvation is found through the Lord Jesus alone.
The words and works of Jesus proved that Jesus was Lord over all. He taught with an authority unlike any other. And then there are the hundreds of miracles Jesus performed - healing the sick, casting out demons, opening blind eyes & deaf ears, causing the lame to walk, and raising the dead - just to name a few.
Further, Jesus enabled His apostles to perform signs and wonders and various miracles which backed up what they taught about Jesus.
Beyond the apostles, God empowered the other followers of Jesus to carry out His work by the gifts from the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-12; Rom 12:6-8 and 1 Cor 12:4-11).
Hebrews 2:5–8a
For He has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about. But someone somewhere has testified [I love that…”I’m not really sure who the Biblical author or address is”]: What is man that You remember him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him lower than the angels for a short time; You crowned him with glory and honor and subjected everything under his feet. [from Ps 8:4-6]
This comes from Ps 8:4-6 and is speaking about the human beings in general, saying that:
Mankind is made a little lower than angels for a short time, but not for all time, as we will one day judge angels (1 Cor 6:3).
God has crowned human beings glory and honor - created people in His image - and subjected everything under his feet - God gave human beings dominion over the earth and its creatures (Gen 1:28-30).
But then the author takes this passage speaking about humans in general and applies it to Jesus.
Hebrews 2:8b–9 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.
But we do see Jesusmade lower than the angels for a short time so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyonecrowned with glory and honor because He suffered death.
As we have mentioned and appreciated many times, Jesus - the One whom angels worshiped in heaven - came to earth as a human, and was made lower than the angels for a short time.
While the Scriptures teach that mankind is made the image of God, now we see the reverse of that in Jesus, as God is made the image of mankind.
While many Jewish people expected and appreciated a human Messiah (Mt 2:4-6), most of them couldn’t swallow the concept of a crucified Messiah. The idea of the Messiah being humiliated on a Roman cross was a stumbling block for them (1 Cor 1:23), as they had been taught the Messiah would never die (Jn 12:34).
How did they miss all the passages that point to Jesus’ sacrificial death?
Just as we have done many times before, their leaders tended to highlight the passages they LIKED while dismissing what they found DIFFICULT.
Yet it was ONLY by the death of Jesus that we could be given eternal life.
Hebrews 2:10
For in bringing many sons and daughters to glory [that’s us - turn to someone and say “what up brotha/sista!”], it was entirely appropriate that God—for whom and through whom all things exist—should make the Pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Make the Pioneer…perfect? Jesus was NOT imperfect before this. Perfect” carries the idea of completeness or wholeness, that Jesus has now fully and completely accomplished the mission.*
Further, despite facing temptation & persecution as a human being, Jesus proved to be perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:11-13 For the One who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified [you & me] all have one Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying: I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters; I will sing hymns to you in the congregation. [Ps 22:22 - the 1000 year old prophecy about Jesus being crucified] Again, I will trust in Him [Is 12:2]. And again, Here I am with the children God gave Me. [Is 8:18]
Jesus is not ashamed to call those He has made holy - FAMILY!
Do you have a “cousin Eddie” in your family - someone who is part of your family…but you aren’t very quick to acknowledge them?
Jesus doesn’t look at us and think, “You’re all a bunch of screw-ups! I’m worthy and you aren’t!” Instead he says, “You are my family!”
Think about the implication of what this means in context. The Hebrew audience is in danger of drifting away from the from the good news. But the author reminds them that Jesus has made sanctified (set apart) them and made them HOLY, by suffering on their behalf. And He is not ashamed to call them His family. Neither should THEY…should WE…be ashamed of Him!
And now this gets REALLY GOOD - or as I used to say when I had trouble saying my Rs - now this gets “Weally Good!”
Hebrews 2:14–15
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— and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.
Jesus lived in flesh and blood just like us. Fully human, yet fully God - Jesus fulfilled the law - that is: Jesus lived a perfect life, never lusting, never stealing, never gossiping, never using dirty language, always loving God & loving people, speaking the truth, and then through His death, destroying the powerful hold of the devil, and freeing us from the fear of death.
Kent Hughes speaks of the fear this 1st century Hebrew audience faced, saying:
No one had yet been martyred for his or her faith, but the fear of death had its icy fingers around many trembling hearts...Such fear was immobilizing—like a deadly cobra’s stare upon its prey—and some in the church were experiencing the paralysis of bondage through their fear of death.
But the resurrection of Jesus proved that DEATH was just a bump in the road. His death & resurrection gave us eternal life! The One who rose from the dead will raise US from the dead! If we must give our lives for Jesus and close our eyes to this side of eternity, WHO will we see when we open our eyes on the other side of eternity?
Hebrews 2:16
For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring.
There is no mention of forgiveness being offered to angels who disobeyed long ago (now known as demons). Jesus didn’t die to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring - people who would follow in his footsteps to BELIEVE GOD and OBEY GOD.
Hebrews 2:17-18
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. For since He himself has suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.
Jesus is a merciful high priest because He has experienced life in human skin, suffered when tempted.
Jesus knew what it was like to be hungry and tired.
Jesus knew what it was like to laugh, and love and be betrayed.
Jesus knew what it like to face persecution & temptation.
And He did all this, to offer MERCY to you and me!
And Jesus proved to be the faithful high priest precisely because He didn’t give in to temptation and made atonement - payment - for the sins of the people.
This is our Humble High Priest - the One who lowered Himself to our position, lived a human life - PERFECTLY - and He offered His sinless life to pay for our sinful lives, and now He is able to help those who are tempted - that’s us!
As a newly-married 21 year old, my high school football coach asked me and several other former players to come coach for his freshman and JV teams. Several of us did. We KNEW what our coach wanted because we had been through the program. Even though we were young men, our high school players trusted us because they knew that WE KNEW what it was like to go through this program. We had worked hard too.
We had lifted, run, sweat, suffered through practices, and watched film. We had lots of success in our career and WANTED to help them experience success too.
When they were discouraged, we could encourage.
When they were being lazy or arrogant, we were willing…desiring…longing…to correct that.
And when they needed help, they knew who to ask - guys who had been through the same struggles.
Jesus KNOWS what it’s like to live the human life. He knows the frustrations and temptations.
And He is our HUMBLE HIGH PRIEST, the One who says, “Come to me you who are weak and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)
Where does this find YOU today?
Are you GRATEFUL? You know that Jesus is Better, and you are seeking to honor our HUMBLE HIGH PRIEST. Have you told others about Him lately?
Are you STRUGGLING? Are you in the process of DRIFTING AWAY, of removing Jesus from the throne of your heart and replacing Him with something/someone else? Are you listening to the skeptics and abandoning the authority of the Scriptures? Are you being lured away by seductive sin? If so, TURN BACK NOW!
Or maybe you’re CONSIDERING the claims of Jesus, examining the evidence to see if the claims of Jesus are legit and whether He is worthy of your life.
If you need help, myself, Austin, Wade, Don, or Allison - are willing and wanting to talk with you.
PRAY - God what do you want me to do with what I heard today?
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