But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone, Hebrews 2:9 (NKJV).
It seems to me there are two main ailments, if I can call them that, that inflict modern Christianity. On the one hand, we have those who don’t really believe the Bible and so Christianity is all about social issues – justice, fairness, equality. To be sure, social issues are important, but they’re not to be addressed according to the latest opinion polls or those who have the loudest voices or can cause the most damage or be the most violent. On the other hand, there are those who do believe the Bible, but we’ve grown so familiar with, so accustomed to, its message that we don’t really stop to think what it’s saying.
A case in point is the fact that I’ve already received my first Christmas catalog. Christmas will soon be on us and we’ll be inundated with displays of the Nativity, and all the trappings that accompany the modern observance. Little children will put on their bathrobes – do they even still wear such things? – and gather as Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and wise men, around a little doll in what’s supposed to be a manger. Cameras will flash. Parents will smile. Then in a few days, all the decorations will be put away, and life will go on.
I’m not trying to preach against the observance of Christmas, though we’re nowhere told to observe our Lord’s birth. In fact, we don’t even really know the day of the year on which He was born. And His birth, though absolutely necessary, isn’t what saves us.
So what am I trying to do? What does all this have to do with Hebrews…?
The fact that “we see Jesus.”
Up until now, the writer has been showing the superiority of the Lord Jesus over angels, who were very important in the Old Testament. The verse before us is the first time he mentions the name, “Jesus,” although things he has already mentioned refer to our Lord’s earthly life. “Jesus” was the Lord’s human name.
In this verse, we see the two “phases,” if you will, of the Lord’s humanity. He was made “a little lower than the angels,” though far superior to them. This refers to His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. And, as a human being, He has been “crowned with glory and honor.” This refers to His ascension and His present position – as a human being – at the right hand of the Father. Through all this, He was and remains God. He is the God-man.
We concluded our last post with this: “God’s original intent in creation was that man was to be His administrator, as it were, over this new planet and all it contained. However, man rebelled against this idea and decided that he would be the boss. The result is that not only doesn’t man have dominion over this world, he doesn’t even have dominion over himself.” This is why…
…we see Jesus,…made a little lower than the angels….
I’ve always read this verse as “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,…” That is, He was made lower than them, He became human, in order to die for sinners. That’s how the KJV, with which I grew up, has it. However, the NKJV has it as we quoted it at the beginning of the post. This looks beyond that death to the honor and glory the Lord Jesus received because He died for sinners. Cf. Philippians 2:9, 10.
This verse isn’t the first time the writer has mentioned the death of our Lord. In 1:3, he wrote that our Lord, having by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. This certainly indicates more than the fuzzy views of His death most Christians have today, that He did something on the Cross, but we’re not really sure what it was. At the very least, we don’t really stop to think of what was involved in that awful, bloody death.
He “purged our sins.” The word translated “purged” means “to cleanse, purify.” And the writer says that He did this by Himself. In other words, His death on the Cross, His payment for sin, didn’t require the sinner’s “acceptance” of it to make it effective. It only required that God accept it, and this He did, as shown by the resurrection and the Lord’s placement at the right hand of the Father’s throne.
Having said that, I’m afraid that some might take that to mean that I don’t believe that we must believe on the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do believe that – because that is what the Scripture says. My point is that I’m afraid that for far too many people the emphasis is on what THEY do, instead of what the Lord Jesus did. If you ask people about their hope of heaven, their answer will probably have “I” in the first few words.
Now, it is Scripturally true that we believe, and must believe, and are saved by means of that faith, but our “hope” must not be centered on what we do, but on what the Lord did: that death that took care of, took away, our sins. There’s so much more that we could say about this, and probably should, but we must go on.
That He by the grace of God should taste death for everyone. The KJV has it, “for every man.” There is, however, no word for “man” in the original. The verse could translated “for all,” or, “for the whole.” This, of course, brings up the question, “all what”?” “the whole what”?
The writer doesn’t leave us guessing. He himself tells us in the next few verses. V. 10 talks of many sons. V. 11 refers to brethren. V. 13 says, “Here I am and the children whom God has given Me.” So we are justified in saying that Christ “tasted death” for every “son,” every “brother,” every “child,” not indiscriminately or haphazardly, but in accordance with the will and purpose of the Father.
To hear some preachers, one would think that all that happened when our Lord left the glories of heaven, was that the Father hugged Him and wished Him luck. Not so. Not so. The Cross was not “an emergency measure,” as one writer put it. Nor is the plan of redemption “a colossal failure,” as another writer put it. How could a Christian even think such a thing?? As much as we might have questions about it or not understand it, what happened on the Cross was a carefully worked-out way to save sinners. Without this “working out,” there would be no salvation, cf. Romans 9:29, and no hope. There would be only certain condemnation.
Ah, we’ve only skimmed the surface of something which Ephesians 2:7 tells us will take God Himself the ages to come to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Oh, listen, what is your hope of heaven? For there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, Acts 4:12. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…, Acts 16:31.