What would you say has been the greatest Scandal the world has ever known? It is hard to know where to begin our thinking when figuring out such a question. Suppose we were to limit the scope of the question to the last twelve months. In that case, we might point to the lack of integrity of some of our public leaders, the six weeks in office for one Prime Minister and the ripple effects that we are still feeling our lack of functional government, or perhaps simply the wrong decisions of one man that have affected millions of lives in an unnecessary and immoral war in Ukraine. Where would you even begin? Maybe if we were to go back even further, we might think of Watergate, the abdication of a King in pursuit of love, and many more. Scandal is part of our daily lives, it is what sells papers, and it may even be something we might enjoy to escape the misery of our everyday lives. So what would you say is the greatest scandal the world has ever known?
What if I said to you that it was not something of humankind, not something which has been done by an individual’s hand, nor something that even has adverse effects? What if I told you that the biggest scandal was what you heard last week:
” But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
What is the biggest Scandal the world has ever experienced? Simple – the incarnation and everything that has flowed from it. St Irenaeus writes “For the glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God.” Last week, you were introduced to the greatest scandal the world has known – that the God who made the universe would take on the flesh of that which he made so that which he made might know Him – not by effect or striving but by incarnation and death: “He suffered death so that by the Grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Those verses introduce us to the greatest scandal the world has ever known, and now our eight verses help us to see three unfolding implications for those who benefit from the incarnation and death of Jesus by faith:
- By his Relationship We Become Children of God (10-13)
- By His Wounds we have been fed (14-15)
- By His Prayers we Have Representation (16-18)
1. Christ, Our Brother (2:10-13)
“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” – Hebrews 2:10-13 NIV
“Their heart is not really in it,” “She just does not have the same heart for it anymore….” “He broke her heart!” – How often have we heard those turns of phrases used about someone? The inference is that they have lost their passion or never found it for the task ahead of them. The heart in the commalityof our speech is that place from which everything seems to flow: desire, fear, love, despair, and hate. It is from the human heart that everything flows. Hence it is the heart behind someone or something we often try to figure out, even if we realise it.
Discerning the Heart
The “heart” as the centre of our emotional being is not new in imagery. The Jewish people believed that specific organs functioned as the centre for different aspects of our being, living and thinking. The Jewish people thought the heart was the centre of our emotional, spiritual, and pondering life. Hence, the scriptures are full of references to the human spirit and discerning it. For all of our advancements in technology, philosophy and life, there is one mystery that has remained unsecured and will remain undiscovered: the heat that motivates those in the normality of our lives. Yet, while we might find ourselves perplexed and pondering the heart behind actions and decisions that affect our lives, there is one heart that will never be a mystery to us: the heart of God. One commentator writes of these verses: “behind the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus is the heart of a Father who longs to bring many sons to glory.”1 Thus, the flow of the passage in the desire to bring many Sons and Daughters to Glory, it was only fitting that God – who is in complete control and sovereign over all things – would make this possible through the suffering of the author/pioneer (NIV/NLT). The suffering of Jesus makes clear the heart of God to bring sinners to him through faith that we might be called children of God, and in this setting, Jesus is made perfect in suffering.
Delighting in the Heart of God
What is the heart of God? For Sinners! He was in complete control over all things, there was nothing outside of his scope, and he had no reason to do anything and no need to do anything, yet, he chose to do something for us so that we could become children of God. Christ, our Lord, enabled us to become like brothers and sisters to him through the cross scandal. Jesus, our Lord, was perfect for the task of making us children of God:
”His being made “perfect through suffering” has reference to his being made a perfect pioneer of salvation. The idea is that he was perfectly equipped to do the job. His perfection was rooted in the Incarnation. Man was created in the image of God, the imago Dei, but when Christ came he took on the imago homini—he became man. Mike Mason beautifully states this significance: “In Jesus the centerpiece of the human race, the wild tangent of all the frayed and decrepit flesh of this fallen old world touches perfectly the circle of eternity.””2
Yet more beautifully, the passage goes on to show us one of the great fruits of his perfection because he who is Holy (Jesus) and those who are made Holy (those who trust in him) are of the same family. It was by the suffering of Jesus on the Cross – the reason for the incarnation – that faith would make way for sinners to become saints and rebels to become children. By his perfection, we could know Jesus not just as Lord or trust in him as Saviour; we could delight in knowing him as akin to a brother. Hence the author of hebrews shows us another glimpse of the Joy that comes from our triune God’s heart towards us: “Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” JB Philips captures it as he translates these verses:
“For the one who makes men holy and the men who are made holy share a common humanity. So that he is not ashamed to call them his brothers, for he says: ‘I will declare your name to my brethren; amid the congregation I will sing praise to you.3
It was by the atoning death that Jesus became the authour and perfecter of our salvation; by his suffering, he made way for us to come and know God. This is the Scandal of the Incarnation that God so loved us that he sent his Son into the world not to condemn us but to save us. Thus, we must ponder the question that is asked of each of us from this first outworking of the incarnation the benefits of the image? Are we those who have been made Holy by his suffering through faith, those who he delighted in calling his siblings or are we still driving towards God by our effort or chasing after other idols?
Implications of the Incarnation
The writer of the Hebrews quotes from two Scriptures to help us understand the implication of the incarnation. Firstly, Psalm 22:22 allows us to understand his point. The exciting thing about that Psalm is that it turns from a plea for help to the declaration of trust In God, precisely one where the righteous express joy, thanks and praise for God’s attention to their prayers. The Psalm helps us to understand the solidarity between Jesus and the people of God in two ways:
- The Establishment of the Kingdom Family, where the dwelling of the Holy Spirit unites people. Not by any merit of our striving, family history or bloodline but through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Then notice the phrasing “in the assembly.” The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus says this: I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters and in the assembly….” – It is an emphasis on Jesus’ location, that he dwelt lower than the angles among humanity. It is the incarnation (of which Psalm 22 is helpful in understanding).
Then the writer brings our eyes to Isaiah 8:17-18, which is presented to help us further understand Jesus and his relationship with God and his dwelling with us. The Prophet initially speaks that declaration of Trust in the face of the Assyrian invasion: when God’s people were faced with seeming destruction, the prophet of God declared his Trust in the will and way of God. Now, it is quoted in the context of Jesus expressing trust in the choice and way of God to bring the people of God into his presence. Jesus trusted the Father fully – to the point of obedience in death because, by his observation, we might live. Then, the second Quote (v13b) shows us the dwelling of God among his people, “Here am I”, and the assumed familial relationship between the one declaring trust and all the other Children.
A Close Friend & Delightful Saviour
Jesus is not far from saviour; he is one who, in his redemptive works, draws near to those who draw near to him. Jesus is only our brother if we have grasped his heart and given our heart to him because it is by this movement of repentance (turning) and faith that we know him as brother and begin to grab the next outworking of his passion that we see in the following verses: Christ, our Saviour.
2 Christ, Our Redeemer (2:14-15)
” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” – Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV
Have you ever stopped to think about the audacity of the Gospel Story, the ludicrousy of the Incarnation and how Christians claim that God saves? If you were to sit down and write a course of history, a narrative about redemption and the God of the universe, at no point would it look anything like the Biblical accounts of God’s revelation and working of Redemption? God does not conform to our expectations or ways; he never has and never will.
The Pinnacle Incarnation
Thus, time and time again, we must pause and remind ourselves of how great this Gospel was because of how unlike anything or any way of the world it is. The incarnation is the epi-centre of the upside-down, inside-out and world-shattering way of the God and work of God in the world. To Claim that God is active in the life of his creation out of love is audacious enough, but to claim that he took upon himself the flesh of that which he was created is upsetting to every other notion of faith and religion.
Why Christ Bore Our Flesh? To Redeem us!
Yet, it is essential to who we are as Christians; and crucial to how we worship and know God. The incarnation was always part of the plan of redemption! Hence the gospel inference and implication of verses 14 & 15. Because the children have flesh and blood, Jesus shares fully in our humanity. He became like us in every way, not just ethically, spiritually, or philosophically but physically. Why? Because to redeem us, he had to become like us. Our redemption is not just some abstract spiritual event or reality; it is tangible and will be literal on the day Christ comes again. Thus, to save us, he became as us so that all who turn to him in faith may dwell with him entirely. He became like us so that by his living we might have an example of life and his dying we might have life to the full: “only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” (NLT)
3 Christ, Our Advocate (2:16-18)
“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he can help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:16-18 NIV
Our Priestly Advocate
What is an advocate? One who publicly declares the benefit of a certain policy or cause – yes. Yet, more so, one who will speak on behalf of another. To be an advocate is to stand and act for those who cannot. When we speak to certain political issues, we act as advocates because often, those we speak for literally have no voice. What might make the best advocate? Well, one who can relate to the experience or cause for which they are advocating. It is an experience which leads to understanding; hence the root of the word compassion is to share in the suffering. Passion being suffering/hardship and Com joining in. DL Moody captures this heart of Jesus so beautifully when he wrote:
” No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet, Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” DL Moody
The incarnation reminds us that we Worship a God who has experienced every inch of our life. Hence, the beautiful final outworking of the image in this passage, for it is not angels that Jesus came to help but Abrahams’s descendants, i.e. the children of God, those who are heirs of Abraham by faith. Hence, the writer to the Hebrews goes on to say it was for this reason he became like us – being fully human in every way (except for sin v15) – because then, as our great high priest, he could understand as he advocated for us, in the presence of God.
Delighting in Trusting Jesus Fully
It is via the incarnation we can trust the Son of God as saviour because he knows the fullness of the human experience. His dwelling among us was necessary for the mission of redemption because through his shared experience, we might trust him in his work as a faithful and merciful high priest. This theme of Jesus, the great High Preist, is more fully explored from now until Hebrews 10:35, but its introduction here is to show us the help that the Son of God provides to his brothers and sisters. They are heirs of Abraham by faith.
The Faithful Priest
As Christians, we know we do not need a human advocate between God and us, as some might believe because we already have one who stands in the Gap between the father and us in the fullness of His humanity and Divinity; he has proven himself faithful. He is worthy and qualified to approach a holy God as a priest in the order of Melkizedech because he is Holy. Jesus is the exact representation that God foretold when the Levitical priest abused their office and power when he said: And I will raise for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. (1 Sam 2:35)
The Merifcul Priest
Then as Christians, we know that our Advocate can be trusted in his heart and mercy because we do not have to guess about his nature or motivation. He is only exemplary and knows all that has been our existence. He can be merciful towards us because he has experienced temptation and suffering as a human being and sympathises with us in our weakness. Thus, we have the beautiful duality of the nature of Christ’s ministry and priestly advocacy in that he is faithful to God in service and merciful towards us in representation. He is so gracious to us that he is the propitiation for our sins. He takes upon himself that which we could not bear our sin so that we could enter into the courts we dare not seek without him – the throne room of heaven. Thus, where the old priests performed the sacrifice as a sign of the redemption to come: Jesus, the Great high priest, became the Sacrifice which would remove the stain of sin from all who turn to him in faith. By his dying, he destroyed our death, and in his rising, he resorted our life – there is no more excellent definition of mercy and compassion than.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 , but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6–11 ESV)
Conclusion: Christ, Our All In All
Jesus is more than enough; the question we must consider is: is he our All in All? There is so much beauty and truth compacted into these few short verses for us to dwell on in terms of our eternity and today. Thus, as we conclude, there are some points to consider and how they might apply to our lives and living for Jesus.
We Are Family
“We, Are, Family! Can’t you see?” So goes the song, and so it is all of us who are in Christ. We are family not of blood but of faith; thus, this passage calls us to consider the familia implication of this gospel reality. If Christ is our example and our brother in this family, then how he treats us must model how we treat one another because of what he has done for us. Our love of each other as a family is a witness to our experience of the love of Christ in our lives. Thus, we must ask ourselves what the implications are for us and the churches we belong to in this Kingdom-Family reality. How might this gospel reality of being family affect we speak, serve, love, and live with one another:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
A Full Redemption
When God does something, it is never half-hearted. One of the things I love about this passage is the clear picture it presents in terms of the fullness of our Redemption. This was not just something abstract or Spiritual: it was and will be tangible and physical. Grace redeems all of us because God sees us as good; our spirit, personhood, and physical body – Christ’s saving work covers it all. Thus, the fullness of our redemption affects how we see ourselves as embodied people; it affects how we treat our bodies and those around us as real physical people.
Further, this full redemption is part of a more comprehensive redeeming work when God shall come and remove the curse of sin from all creation – he will redeem all that he made – we are called now to join in that work to save the developed world around us. God created the world and us, and said it is good. As it was then, so it shall be again.
How Do We Relate to the World?
We have a faithful and merciful advocate who stands with us and for us before God the father. What makes Christ such an authentic and compassionate advocate? Because he has lived the fullness of human life. He relates to our experiences and is thus an advocate for us in the presence of God. The challenge for us to consider is how we might use our experiences to further the work of the Kingdom. How might our shared experiences help us relate, understand and reach the world around us as we advocate for the voiceless and oppressed and the world the beauty of the Gospel in how we live and love one another?
“ The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.” – Stott
A Beautiful Scandal
What is the greatest scandal the world has ever known? God incarnate who walked among us, knew the fullness of our experience, then died on the cross to pay the debt of our sin and rose again so that we might rise with him. It is an excellent Scandal, but it is a beautiful one. There is only one way by which we can know the fullness of life with God and the beauty of sins forgiven. It looks like Scandal to the world, folly to the wise. It may be a scandalous road, but it’s a beautiful one; the question is, have we accepted God’s call to walk it with him by Grace with the Guidance of the Holy Spirit?
- Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 2:10–13. ↩
- R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 65–66. ↩
- https://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CP19Hebrews.htm ↩