Chad Kincer teaches on Hebrews 2:10-18.
Series: The Cradle and the Cross
Why is Jesus’ humanity so significant to us? Why does it matter Jesus came to us as one of us?
A few years ago while in seminary a professor asked us, “Did Jesus ever have a stomach virus?” For some this question doesn’t seem odd at all; the answer is perfectly straightforward to you. Of course Jesus had a stomach virus, the Bible says He assumed the human nature in every way, except He never sinned.
Others hear the question differently. You’re well acquainted with what comes with the stomach virus, the fever, the chills and the not-so-glorious moments. The stomach virus isn’t just uncomfortable it’s undignified. To think of Jesus in this way seems a bit disrespectful or blasphemous.
This is a one-dimensional view of Jesus. Some of us see Him as an invisible friend hidden in the recesses of our heart. He mysteriously guides us through difficult moments in life; He’s there to bless you. Others of us see Him as so majestic and powerful that it’s difficult to hold the concept of His nearness. Jesus vomiting, being feverish, teething as baby or stumbling over himself as he learned to walk is weird to us. Thinking too much of the humanity of Jesus distracts us from the dignity of the One we worship.
However, the fact the Son of God humbled Himself to come to us, as one of us, is the reason we can have hope this Christmas. Through the humanity of Jesus, we’re given a window into the way God relates and cares for us.
Cradle of Humility
Jesus came to us in His humanity, born into a cradle of humility.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers. Hebrews 2:10-11 (ESV)
Though Jesus was born in our likeness, He was also like no other. He was the One for whom and by whom all things exist, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. In Hebrews 1, we learn He’s the exact imprint of God’s nature. By the word of His power He upholds the universe. There’s never a time when He was created. Instead, He’s the One who’s created all things.
Even though He was eternally glorious in every way and fully God, in order for Him to be effective in saving us, it was fitting, right, appropriate and even necessary for Him to be made like us. He had to join us.
I’m a father of two little girls. It’s easy for me to come home after a hard day of work and just sit on the couch to unwind for a bit. It’s easy for me to sit there and father my girls from afar. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the couch, but when I make the move from the couch to the floor, closing the gap between us, there’s something in their countenance that lifts and their smile broadens. A wild shift happens when daddy lays down his rights and joins his daughters on the floor.
That is exactly what Christ has done. By joining us, He has closed the gap. God is not some far off deity out there beyond us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He has every right to reign and rule over us from on high, but He laid down His rights, emptying Himself, to join us on the floor.
He came to us at ground zero to make Himself known to us as one of us.
He humbled Himself to be with us in the same origin, to share in the same source, which means to join us in our humanity. He joins us to such the extent, “this is why He’s not ashamed to call us brothers” (vs.11).
Jesus is not ashamed to call us brother or sister. This is part of the joy of Christmas. Jesus is not up in heaven somewhere angry, stomping around wondering when you’re going to live your life the right way. He’s not wondering when you’re going to figure out how to stir up your own affections for Him or start obeying Him.
He didn’t wait for you to find a way to get to Him, which could never happen. He came to us. He humbled Himself to a cradle and to life in order to show us His great love for us and His deep desire to make us His own; even His brother.
This is an unmatched humility. Think of the great lengths for which Christ has gone to make us His own. The Psalms tell us that as the King of Heaven wrapped Himself in light, stretching out the heavens like a tent for Him, He humbled Himself to be swaddled in cloth. Psalm 104 tells us He has been forever clothed in splendor and majesty, yet He humbled Himself to be born under the stars and clouds of night.
He is the Giver of Life, yet He humbled Himself to be sustained and given life through a virgin’s womb.
He is the one to whom all creation looks to for its food and sustenance, yet He humbled Himself to every process of human development, even to the dependence of trusting Mary and Joseph to feed Him when He couldn’t feed Himself.
He is the One who has eternally existed in glory with unending riches, yet He humbled Himself to a meager home of a carpenter in the back woods town of Nazareth.
Does God love us? What does He think of us?
At least we can acknowledge the great lengths to which Christ has gone to make us His own, humbling Himself to a wooden cradle, in a stable for animals, to pursue, love, and save you; to bring many other sons to glory.
Cradle of Suffering
In Hebrews 2:10-18, the suffering of Jesus is mentioned four different times.
The birth of Jesus was intentional and purposeful. It meant suffering.
Typically, when we have a vision of the manger scene, we see angels singing, three kings bringing their gifts, exotic animals lying all around, shepherds joining the angels in song. This nativity scene is right and true, but we also have to see that the whole life of Jesus was caught up in being the substitute and deliverer from the very beginning.
In every stage of the life of Jesus, from infancy to death, He was bearing the full weight of humanity and the mission of His Father. Scripture shows us that He was aware this.
In Luke 2, Mary and Joseph accidentally leave Jesus, about twelve years old at the time, behind in Jerusalem as they head home to Nazareth after the Passover. They had lost the Son of God. They return to look for Him, finally finding Him in the temple, hanging out with the teachers of the day. He was amazing them all with His understanding.
48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” Luke 2:48-49 (ESV)
Other translations say, “I must be about my Father’s business.” From an early age, Jesus had a sense of who He was and was called to do. All through out His life, He was familiar with the human suffering that comes with the human experience in a broken world.
By His birth He knows the stress of a newborn baby as they gasp for their first breath. He knows the strains of what it’s like to grow up in a house with financial burden. His dad was a hard working carpenter from a rural town. It was in that setting He learned His first lessons of trusting God with everything.
In John 4 we see Jesus became intimately aware of the difficulty of having a bodily existence in a fallen world. He knows what it’s like to have a body that gets worn out to the point of exhaustion. He knows what its like to be tired and have nothing left.
Later in life He came to know the grief of losing a close friend, Lazarus. He knows the frustration of being in constant conflict with people around Him; even being misunderstood, having no one who really got Him and what He was all about. He also knew what it was like to have the loneliness of one of your close friends betray and reject you. Isaiah 53 prophesies about Jesus saying He would be the Man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.
Jesus was made like us in every way. He experienced real suffering, temptation, grief and despair in the same ways we do. He did all of this in order to give us help.
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18 (ESV)
For those of you experiencing real grief, pain, depression and despair, understand that the birth of Jesus and His humanity means God has not left you. He has not forgotten you. He’s been faithful with all of His promises. He sent us His son.
Jesus grieves your loss with you. He’s not a tyrant in the sky telling you to get over it already. He grieves with you just like He did with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. He also stands to give us help and strengthen us. He gives us His Spirit to live inside of us. That Spirit reminds us that there’s coming a day when it won’t be like this anymore; no more cancer, miscarriages, pain, sorrow, or death. He also gives us the support of His people. He saves us into a family, giving us brothers and sisters. We don’t walk alone.
There are others who are grappling with a guilty conscience, wondering if there is forgiveness for you. The high priestly work of Jesus means every sin of yours, no matter how dark, has been wiped away and erased. We don’t have to wonder if God loves and forgives us. We don’t have to work our way back into His good graces. Jesus has given us every good grace from the Father. He has lavished a love on us that calls us sons and daughters of God. Receive His rest and grace by faith. It is finished.
It doesn’t end here though.
Cradle of Exaltation
How could all of this end up in exaltation?
In God’s Kingdom, the way up is the way down. The way up to right relationship with God is the way down through repentance and confession of sin. That paradigm has never been truer than in the life of Jesus.
He was born to a cradle of humility that eventually led to His suffering, but it didn’t end there. There was a cradle of exaltation, because His birth was a sign to the enemy that his time was short and his defeat was coming
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15 (ESV)
Jesus destroyed the power of the devil. He suffering was in victory as a conquering king.
Though Jesus was born in meekness, He wasn’t weak. Those cries from the Bethlehem stable weren’t just our Savior gasping for His first breath of life down here on earth; they were also cries of battle signaling to Satan that his time was short. The true King had come and he was about to be conquered.
Satan remembered the promise God gave in Genesis 3, that there would be a day He would send a Messiah. Though Satan would seek to strike His heel, Jesus would one day crush his head.
Humility and suffering, for those who believe, always give way to exaltation.
That is how it was for Jesus too. It didn’t end in death. He has been exalted to the highest place, given the name above every name, Jesus. Every knee shall bow on heaven and earth, and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus is Lord.
The gospel is the story of Jesus becoming our story. The life of Jesus becomes our life. No pain you walk through, no suffering you endure, no difficulty you face is empty or without purpose. God is working all these things together for our good. Glory is coming for us.
Approach Christ With Confidence
When we think about the humility, suffering and exaltation of Jesus, it ought to shift some things in us this Christmas season. It ought to move in us in the way we celebrate. The fact Jesus was born means when you gather around the table with relatives and begin to share stories of what happened in their life, you don’t have to prove yourself. You don’t have to always have the one-up story. You don’t have to earn your approval as though your worth is caught up in your family’s opinion of you.
God has already counted your life with infinite worth and value, such that He gave you His son and He now calls you His brother.
When we think about the humanity of Jesus, it ought to shift the way we deal with our bitterness. We don’t have to hang on to the wrongs done to us. Jesus understands the pain of betrayal and being hurt; He helps us give grace and forgiveness just as we’ve been forgiven.
When we think about the exaltation and victory of Jesus, it ought to shift the way we handle the religious debates we have with non-believing relatives. We don’t have to win the argument or have the last word. Jesus isn’t a loser. He doesn’t need you to win an argument to maintain the true meaning of Christmas. Our King is big enough to defend Himself and turn the hearts of sinners whenever He so pleases.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)
Let us then approach Him with confidence this Christmas. Through His cradle and life, we know everything He said about His kingdom is true. Through His humility and suffering, we know He understands us. As the exalted King with all authority in heaven and earth, He invites us to come close.