08 January 2007
They had already taken some hard hits. Ever since coming to Christ, life had not gotten better, but far worse. Their Christianity had not been a worldly advantage. Rather, it set them up for persecution and the loss of property and privilege, and now could possibly even cost them their lives.
They had already paid a price for their initial commitment to Christ. As the writer recalls in 10:32–34:
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
The Scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). This is true for every believing adult, teenager, and child.
This description of their earlier sufferings fits well into the picture of the hardships that came to Jewish Christians under Claudius in A.D. 49. Suetonius’ Life of the Deified Claudius records that “There were riots in the Jewish quarter at the instigation of Chrestus. As a result, Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome” (25.4). “Chrestus,” historians believe, is a reference to Christ, and the riots and expulsion occurred when Jewish Christians were banished from the synagogue by the Jewish establishment.
Now, as the author of Hebrews writes, fifteen years have gone by since the Claudian persecution, and a new persecution looms. The historian Tacitus records that Nero made the Christians scapegoats to remove suspicion from himself (Annals of Rome 15:44):
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
These believers were facing circumstances that was scaring them to death:
Responded by closing up, scattering, not attending church because others in the church would accuse them, some arrested and imprisoned.
The tiny home-church was asking some hard questions: Did God know what was going on? If so, how could this be happening to them? Did he care? Only God could protect them, but where was he? Why did he not answer? Why the silence of God?
But help did come from heaven. Let’s go see it. Walk with me from Jerusalem—a busy city, the center of commerce, home of the temple, the focus of all the worship of God’s people, the place of government, the largest city, the place of Mount Zion, the recipient of many promises of God—into Bethlehem to the manger to see the infant Jesus, weak, frail, vulnerable.
“We are begging for help. And you send us a baby?”
“But, he’ll grow!”
“Yes, but he is a man. We gave men plenty enough! What we need is a divine intervention. Lord, split the heavens and come down!”
“No. Your help is here in human form. God works wonders in a body.”
From a human point of view, it would seem foolish for God to become Man.
Doesn’t make sense. Doesn’t seem right.
What did this mean for the believers who were under persecution.
And what does it mean for us who face face less challenging difficulties. We can find comfort for our troubles, especially if this is the medicine strong enough to help people face impending death in most horrible ways.
Not Nero, no child torn to pieces, wife/husband murdered, no lost house, privileges, lives. But if the medicine was strong enough for the original readers, it can be good medicine for you—whatever you are dealing with, not as grand, but just as real, health, wife, job security, bills, relationships, troubles of soul
Medicine that covered their need is the same cure for your ails.
By becoming Human He Regained Our Lost Authority (vv. 5–9).
The quotation here is from Psalm 8:4–6—read that entire psalm carefully.
When God created the first man and woman, He gave them dominion over His Creation (Gen. 1:26–31). But we have a serious problem here, for it is obvious that man today is not exercising dominion over creation. Man was meant to have dominion over everything but he has not. He is a creature who is frustrated by his circumstances, defeated by his temptations, controlled by his own weakness. He who should be free is bound; he who should be a king is a slave.
As G. K. Chesterton said, whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain—man is not what he was meant to be.
“But we see Jesus!” (Heb. 2:9) When our Lord was here on earth, He exercised that lost dominion. He had dominion over the fish, over the fowl, and over the wild beasts, and the domesticated beasts. As the last Adam, Jesus Christ regained man’s lost dominion.
One day we shall reign with Him in glory and honor. Jesus Christ did all of this for us—for lost sinners—because of “the grace of God” (Heb. 2:9). If He had not become man, He could not have died and tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).
By Becoming Human He Leads His Children to Glory (vv. 10–13).
Christ is not only the Last Adam, but He is also the Captain of salvation. That word Captain literally means “pioneer—one who opens the way for others to follow.”
Christ gave up His glory to become man. He regained His glory when He arose and ascended to heaven. Now He shares that glory with all who trust Him for salvation. He is bringing many sons and daughters to glory!
In His Humanity He disarmed Satan and destroy the power of death (vv. 14–16).
Christ had to have a human body in order to die and thus defeat Satan.
1. Christ destroys the author of death, the devil. Satan’s power has been broken and one day will be completely removed.
2. Christ destroys the fear of death. Christ’s death and resurrection set us free from the fear of death because death has been defeated.
Every person must die, but death is not the end; instead, it is the doorway to a new life. We have assurance that we will be resurrected from the dead. All who dread death should trust Christ to bring victory. Remember that Christ will not fail you. Live without fear. Trust the Savior.
His humanity enables Him to be a sympathetic High Priest to His people (vv. 17–18).
Being pure spirits who have never suffered, the angels cannot identify with us in our weaknesses and needs. But Jesus can! While He was here on earth, Jesus was “made like unto His brethren” in that He experienced the sinless infirmities of human nature.
Jesus Christ is both merciful and faithful: He is merciful toward people and faithful toward God. He can never fail in His priestly ministries. He made the necessary sacrifice for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God. He did not need to make a sacrifice for Himself, because He is sinless.
Lewis Bayly, Practice of Piety: Directing a Christian How to Walk That He May Please God. Amplified by the Author (London: Printed for Philip Chetwind, 1619), pp. 452–459.
Soule. Lord, why, wouldest Thou be taken, when Thou mightest have escaped Thine enemies?
Christ. That thy spiritual enemies should not take thee, and cast thee into the prison of utter darkness.
Soule. Lord, wherefore wouldest Thou be bound?
Christ. That I might loose the cordes of thine iniquities.
Soule. Lord, wherefore wouldest Thou be lift up upon a Crosse?
Christ. That I might lift thee up with Me to heaven.
Soule. Lord, wherefore were Thy hands and feet nayled to the Crosse?
Christ. To enlarge they hands to doe the works of righteousness and to set thy feete at libertie, to walke in the wayes of peace.
Soule. Lord, why wouldest Thou have Thine arms nayled abroad?
Christ. That I might embrace thee more lovingly, My sweet soule.
Soule. Lord, wherefore was Thy side opened with a speare?
Christ. That thou mightest have a way to come near to My heart.
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
C. S. Lewis memorably portrayed the growing Christian’s experience of an ever-enlarging Christ in his Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy, caught up in her spiritual quest, saw the lion Aslan—Christ—shining white and huge in the moonlight. In a burst of emotion Lucy rushed to him, burying her face in the rich silkiness of his mane, whereupon the great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half-sitting and half-lying between his front paws. He bent forward and touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath was all around her. She gazed up into the large, wise face.
“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
His largeness overcomes your trouble; in His humanness, He secured your victory.