Thursday, April 17, 2014
In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 2:10-15
The Greek word for "perfect" here means "complete" or "brought to completion". Jesus was morally perfect as a human, but his purpose as our rescuer was "brought to completion" through his suffering.
The author now illustrates how Jesus, although fully God, can also call humans his "brothers". Both Jesus and those rescued and set apart by him have the same source (or literally "are all from one").
Verse 12 is taken from Psalm 22:22. Jesus quoted verse 1 of this Psalm on the cross. (Matthew 27:47, Mark 15:34) This Psalm is worth study on its own, as numerous elements of it came to life and literally played out in the crucifixion of Jesus. (For just one example, compare Psalm 22:8 with Matthew 27:43.)
The very first Christians treated Psalm 22 as Messianic, which comes as little surprise. It is enormously improbable that Jesus could have orchestrated the events of his suffering and death to so closely parallel this Psalm, or that his quoting of a Psalm on the cross that just happened to parallel his recent and current experience so extensively was pure chance or coincidence. This Psalm alone is good reason for the skeptic not to be quickly dismissive of the claims of Jesus.
Applying these quoted words to Jesus highlights the fact that Jesus, who is fully human, told his fellow Israelites ("brothers") about Yahweh's "name". In ancient Hebrew culture, names were often intended to represent the entire character of a person. One of Jesus' primary functions in his bodily ministry on earth was to reveal the character of Yahweh to humanity.
These are two quotations from Isaiah 8:17-18. The original context was not necessarily viewed as pertaining to The Messiah, although numerous New Testament writers quote from this chapter of Isaiah with an application to Jesus. (Matt 21:44; Luke 2:34; Rom 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8) The reason for quoting verse 17 in particular here isn't clear. But by applying this verse to Jesus, the author of Hebrews informs us that Jesus was a fellow human, who also had to make the choice to trust Yahweh on a moment-by-moment basis.
Isaiah chapter 8:18 was spoken by Isaiah, referring to his children, to whom he had been instructed to give specific, symbolic names in order to serve Yahweh's purposes. The author of Hebrews applies these same words in a new context, that of Jesus and those who put their trust in him (his "children").
The author specifically identifies Jesus' humanity as being a crucial component in his sacrificial death. He "partook of the same things" (flesh and blood) "that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death". This being the case, it's important to not discard the idea that Jesus was and is fully human. He has experienced our limitations and physical shortcomings. When we feel like God is so big and cosmic that he can't possibly understand what we're feeling and going through, we can remember that he can, because Jesus lived this life with all of its pain.
In fact I'd argue that Jesus has experienced and knows a lot more about pain, both emotional and physical, than any of us do. Naturally because of his suffering just before and at the cross. But he also loved more deeply than any of us, and experienced the constant rejection of that love. He went without food and comfort for an extended period, during which he was repeatedly tempted by Satan himself. And for many other reasons we may not be aware of, he was called a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"(Isaiah 53:3).
Somehow, the key component of his humanity allowed him to stand in our place and provide rescue from the greatest fear: The fear of death, and what lies beyond it.
Since early childhood I've struggled with a great fear of the unknown. My wife calls me "paranoid boy" because I tend to dream up imaginative and terrible scenarios that could POSSIBLY happen, but are honestly unlikely. (In my mind I'm just trying to emotionally prepare myself for what terrible things might happen. As if thoughts like this can really prepare me.)
But eternity is so huge an unknown that even my rabidly active imagination can't fill it up. In addition, Yahweh, the God of the universe, is an insanely huge variable. At least in specifics. We know that being in his presence results in pleasure that never gets old and never ends. (Psalm 16:11) But the specifics of what that life will be like are not revealed in scripture. And sometimes it feels like "forever" is a long time to commit to without having the specifics laid out in advance. (Not sure how you would "lay out" specifics for an eternal period of time, but don't bother me with logic! Can't you see I'm FEELING here?)
What this really all boils down to is a lack of trust in Yahweh on my part. I desire specifics so I can retain the illusion of being in control of my life. But refusing to trust Yahweh and desiring control of my own life are nearly at the foundational definition of sin. And if Jesus is who he says he is, and did what the Bible says he did, then sin is not something that will plague me in eternity. I will not be a slave to it anymore, and will be truly free to dive backward into the arms of Yahweh.
Jesus is our brother. He knows our pain and he has earned credibility and our trust by his willingness to live the worst kind of life.
He is also the one and only God, and so not only does he love us as a brother, but he is able to back up that love with the power to rescue us, both now and forever.
He died so that we can live in perfect freedom from sin and fear for all eternity. But he also died so that we can increasingly live free from sin and fear right now.
He's not just a nice idea or an old story. He's alive. In fact he's still human. Somewhere out there in space or one of the higher dimensions, is Jesus... in a body... doing stuff! It's a reality I'm reminded of whenever I see a comic book panel or a movie scene of Superman floating in space and looking down at the earth from orbit.
Jesus took on humanity and he continues to be human in addition to his fullness as God. He continues to be our brother and come alongside us through The Holy Spirit. He's worth trusting. And I'm just beginning to see that the more we trust him the more we'll see that what he offers is real and tangible as well.