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Jesus, Our Brother— Made Perfect Through Sufferings

Written by | December, 2014
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Post Categories Series,Studies in Hebrews

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.’ And again: ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again: ‘Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.’ Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
(Hebrews 2:10-18)

A previous study of this epistle showed  how Jesus, exalted above the angels, is worshiped by them. Now we come to the amazing truth that Jesus was “made a little lower than the angels” (2:9). This fact confronts us with the holy mystery of the Savior’s dual nature—God and man in one person—and with that, the eternally crucial “why?” of  that duality.

We remind that the holy writer’s desire was to increase the faith of the Jewish Christians in Jesus as the “better” Savior (7:22, 8:6) over against false teachers who were trying to persuade them to return to the laws and beliefs of the Old Testament covenant. The false teaching Judaizers argued, for example, that “You’re being persecuted for your new faith, aren’t you? That’s God’s judgment for forsaking your former way
of life!”

How devious Satan is! Throughout the Gospels the Savior teaches that persecution comes with the territory of the “better” salvation He won for us. In one place He says, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12).

As the holy writer puts it here, Jesus, our flesh and blood Brother, came to win salvation for us at great cost to Himself: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings….”

This explains God’s purpose in making Christ taste death—it was fitting for Jesus to be made perfect by suffering in order to bring many sons to glory. What does that mean? Wasn’t Jesus already perfect? Indeed He was, according to His divine nature. Yet according to His human nature, if Jesus was going to be the perfect (in the sense of “complete”) “captain of [our] salvation,” the God-ordained way was that He would have to experience suffering and death.

Ponder it, dear friends—the sinners’ Savior had to be not only a Prophet and a King but also a sacrificial High Priest! “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

The role of Jesus as High Priest is a recurring theme in Hebrews. The first time the term appears is in this text. The High Priest served “in things pertaining to God,” bringing God’s Word to the people, sacrificing and interceding for them. And the High Priest’s ultimate function was to “make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

The words  make propitiation mean “to make atonement for.” These words suggest that something had happened to incur God’s wrath. These words suggest that something is SIN. Sin demands an atoning. Without an atoning or purging of sin, God cannot grant forgiveness, for “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Ah, but sin is supposedly no big deal, for we’re all sinners, right? Yet it remains forever true that “whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). And “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).

All the animal blood-shedding sacrifices by Old Testament high priests pointed ahead to the one great High Priest. Yes, the purging which sinners so desperately need was accomplished by the Great High Priest of our confession (Hebrews 3:1)—by Jesus, the Lamb of God—of whom we read, “When He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:3). Other Scripture passages likewise speak of Christ as the “propitiation” for sin—and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world (see 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:24-26).

Regarding the three Old Testament passages quoted within this group of verses, we’re told that they all “emphasize the Son’s solidarity with the men for whom He performs His priestly service” (Concordia Bible with Notes, 1971, p. 437).

All this is really more than human language can tell—the surpassing glory of the so-great salvation (Hebrews 2:3) which is ours in Christ Jesus!

Fellow possessors of the “better” salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, come what may—persecution, tribulation, distress of one kind or another—let us praise our gracious God. He has provided Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, who took on Him the “seed of Abraham” so that He could shed His innocent blood as the ransom-payment for sin “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Jesus, our Elder Brother, the perfect, the complete, Savior! “…Such a High Priest was [indeed] fitting for us…” (Hebrews 7:26), for through Him we have been reclaimed from Satan to God for time and eternity.

Jesus, all our ransom paid,
All Thy Father’s will obeyed,
By Thy sufferings perfect made:
Hear us, holy Jesus.

Brighten all our heavenward way
With an ever holier ray
Till we pass to perfect day: Hear us, holy Jesus. 

(TLH #185:1,3)

Hallelujah and Amen!