Another question may have presented itself to the writer of Hebrews’ audience. If Jesus is superior to angels, why would He have had to brought low, to take on human flesh, to suffer and die? To, in essence, be humbled—or humiliated, really—by the loss of His heavenly position?
Against the backdrop of God’s ineffable transcendence, God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and absolute sovereignty over the entire universe, the gospel story does not make sense.
Yet, it is nonetheless true.
It Is Fitting
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.Hebrews 2:10 (NRSV)
It is a strange saying, at first read, that the pioneer of salvation must be made perfect through suffering.
Perfect? Jesus was already without flaw!
- Jesus was fathered by God! The angel said to [Mary], “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
- Jesus grew up favored by God! Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. (Luke 2:52)
- Jesus perfectly resisted temptation! The devil left Jesus when it became clear Jesus not only lived by the sacred scriptures, but would no longer permit Satan to test him, saying, Do not put the Lord your God to the test. (Luke 4:1-13)
The Greek word for “made perfect” is τελειόω | Teleioo, meaning to bring to an end, finish, accomplish, fulfil and even more so, in this case, to bring to maturity or completeness, to complete, perfect. For Jesus was conceived within Mary in a miraculous way but grew within her in a very human way, beginning as a tiny single-celled zygote,
then developing into a still tiny blastocyst, with the rudiments for skin and a nervous system, his digestive and respiratory systems, and his muscle and skeletal systems.
So miniscule and fragile.
The Lord experienced every bit of what it means to be conceived, to grow inside His mother, to experience the travail of birth, the first sharp intake of breath, the warm comfort of nursing . . . Jesus experienced the whole of human life, and was brought to maturity, to completeness as He lived life.
This suffering identified Jesus and humankind as brothers. Suffering is the common lot of all people in a fallen world
The particular sufferings that Jesus endured are the very ones that prepared Him for the goal for which He had been born. He accomplished the purpose of His coming when He suffered death for every person. For it was—and had always been—God’s purpose to bring many sons and daughters to glory, and this was the only way to restore humanity and all creation.
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted himApostle Paul, Philippians 2:6-11 (NRSV)
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Just as Jesus journeyed through death and into the resurrection, so must all creation. Human beings, and eventually the earth and heavens, all must pass through the portal that was opened by the first man and woman in Genesis 3.
Brothers and Sisters With Christ
For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”Hebrews 2:11-13 (NRSV)
A scholar and theologian, the writer of Hebrews carefully cited scripture for each of his doctrinal statements.
- Jesus calls us brothers and sisters as was prophetically indicated in Psalm 22:22, as the suffering Messiah cried out in triumph.
- The writer turned to Isaiah, preeminent prophet on the Messiah, quoting first from Isaiah 8:17 to show Messiah—on behalf of all humanity—exemplifying perfect dependence in God.
- The writer then turned to Isaiah 8:18 to show the Father’s children given to the Son as the Son’s brothers and sisters.
We know this was one of the central themes of the apostles’ teaching, that believers are made one as brothers and sisters in a new family. They had taken their cue from Jesus Himself.
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him.
Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”Jesus, Matthew 12:46-50 (NRSV)
A quick search through the apostles’ letters reveals how often they addressed each other, and other believers as sisters and brothers—over a hundred times!—and as elders (fathers and mothers). Paul wrote,
Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia.Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NRSV)
Jesus was the pioneer, the first one to plunge through the grave’s depths and come out victorious. His suffering paved the way, as within Him were all those who have and will come to glory by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
In a mysterious way,
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.Apostle Paul, Colossians 2:11-2 (NRSV)
Jesus crushed the head of the serpent, destroying the devil who holds the power of death . . .
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,Hebrews 2:14 (NRSV)
. . . and destroying death itself.
and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.Hebrews 2:15 (NRSV)
This does not mean the devil is sovereign over life and death. Scripture does teach, however, that in opposition to the kingdom of light where God rules, there is a kingdom of darkness where Satan rules and where humankind is both deceived by and enslaved to Satan, to sin, and to death. It was Satan’s activity that introduced sin in the first place and death followed, the penalty of sin. As Jesus said of him,
He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.Jesus, John 8:44 (NRSV)
Satan is the accuser, slandering all people, pointing out all their faults, frailties, and flaws to God, then demanding God render the penalty of death.
But Jesus broke Satan’s power, and he did this by fully satisfying the claims of God’s grief and outrage over sin’s corruption of all God loves.
Satan may still accuse to this day, but he is already a defeated foe with limited time to work his evil. Jesus is victor, and the date of His return to make His rightful claim on the cosmos has been established since before time began.