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Mar 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 29, 2020


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. Hebrews 2:10

Intro: In every news source, the Coronavirus dominates the headlines

Some of us are obsessed with following the most recent statistics
– how many new cases in Europe, the US, in New York
• how many deaths in Orange County as it creeps closer to our street?
– it seems we have to navigate our way between two extremes
• Jesus described both in his end-of-the-world sermons
◦ those like Chicken Little, who believe the sky is falling
people fainting with fear and with foreboding over what is coming (Lk. 21:26)
◦ others like ostriches, with their heads in the sand
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, util the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them away (Mt. 24:37-39)
• I doubt this virus will be the end of the world
◦ however, we are living in a time of global crisis

And now this morning we come to a passage that talks about suffering
– in fact, it is enclosed by references to suffering – verses 10 and 18
• this is a surprise
◦ Hebrews is a revelation of how awesome Jesus is
◦ how does his suffering play into that?
• but this is all part of the mystery–Jesus had to suffer
– last week we learned that Jesus was for awhile was lower than angels
• we are about to learn why that was necessary

Every word in verse 10 is meaningful

If we go straight to the heart of verse 10, God has a goal:
to bring many sons to glory
– sons and daughters (v. 13, “children”)
glory is the atmosphere God’s presence radiates
◦ basically, God’s goal is to bring many people to himself
◦ glory is how we see Jesus as he is now,
crowned with glory and honor (v. 9)
fitting is “appropriate” – Jesus fulfills a specific requirement
– the founder – a leader, originator, or pioneer – Jesus forged a trail
• we follow him into our salvation
• our liberation, our healing, the wholeness of our whole person

Here is a truth the writer will emphasize over and over
– that Jesus’ experience of life was fully human
• he has always been the pioneer of our salvation,
◦ but he was not complete (“perfect”) in that role from the start
◦ as a human, he had to be made complete – mature
• his experience was that of a normal person – as a boy:
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52)
Luke T. Johnson tells us that ancient philosophers believed “the education of the mind, body, and emotions required pain . . . mathein pathein, ‘to learn is to suffer,’ which can also be reversed, as ‘to suffer is to learn.’ . . . The training of the body and mind and will went together in Greco-Roman culture, which used the same term . . . for education, culture, and discipline.”
“Hebrews makes sufferings essential to the process of perfection.”
John Polkinghorne, “Not only is developmental growth recognized as present in the life of Jesus and his followers, but it is the painful process of suffering that is particularly significant.”

In verse 11 we learn why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer

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 2:11

I am not referring to the obvious fact, that Jesus’ death was for our sake
– but why was it important for his sake?
• because he and those he serves have one source–that is, God
• deriving our human existence from God as Jesus did makes us the same
sanctifies – to make holy
he who makes holy and those who are made holy
• remember when we were in Leviticus?
◦ making Israel holy was what the sacrificial ritual was all about
You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy (Le. 19:2)
and, I, the LORD, who makes you holy, am holy (Le. 21:8)

So this is how it works:
– Jesus is the one who makes holy, we are the ones who are made holy
• we both come from God, and God has one goal
• to fulfill that goal, Jesus had to become one of us
Karl Rahner, “We imagine this incarnation as if God were dressing up in costume, so that God remains in essence still God and we cannot be sure whether God is really where we are.”
“God has become human, and that really says something about God.”
– the writer of Hebrews goes on,
That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
• Jesus not only recognizes his relationship with us,
◦ but he embraces us as his siblings

One time in Jesus’ ministry, he was teaching a group of people in a home. His mother and brothers had arrived to “seize him,” because the thought he was “out of his mind” (Mk. 3:20-21). However, they could not get through the crowd to reach Jesus, so they sent him a message, “Your mother and brothers are outside, seeking to see you.” How did Jesus respond? “And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 3:31-35). Jesus did not reject his family, he just redefined family. In his redefinition of family, he includes us.

The writer of Hebrews now returns to quoting scripture in verses 12-13

Only for the writer, it is not like quoting, but more like listening
– in the verses he quotes, the writer hears Jesus’ voice “saying,”
“I will tell of your name to my brothers
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
“Behold, I and the children God has given me” Hebrews 2:12-13

The particular psalm quoted above is significant for two reasons:
– first, Jesus himself quoted from it on the cross
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psa. 22:1)
– second, it is a poem that is full of pain and suffering
• about halfway through, the poet prays for deliverance (vv. 19-21)
◦ after that, the prayer turns upward (vv. 22-31)
◦ it is right here that we find the verse quoted in Hebrews
Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” are his fellow human sufferers
• then, in the Isaiah quote,
◦ when he presents himself to God, he presents us with him
Behold, I and the children God has given me

The sentence that runs through verses 14 and 15 is complex

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, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery Hebrews 2:14-15

The main point here is to:
– explain the opportunity given Jesus by his becoming human
• it begins with the substance of our mortality: flesh and blood
◦ again we are reminded of Leviticus
◦ the sacrifices are all about flesh and blood
arranged on the altar and used for purification and atonement
• so, in becoming human, Jesus partook of the same things
◦ I’m going to say this in rough way: Jesus shares our animal life
◦ flesh and blood is the vulnerable human person
– like us, Jesus could die – only, for Jesus death was more like a weapon
destroy – the Greek word means to make void, to render inoperative
◦ our greatest enemy is the devil; his greatest weapon is death
◦ Jesus took on death to defeat death and the devil
Timothy Johnson, “Jesus does not conquer death by avoiding it or commanding its disappearance, but by experiencing it in the manner of other human beings.”
• the devil may not seem like a real concern to many people
◦ what is a real concern is the fear of death
◦ even if we push it out of our minds,
the ongoing, chronic dread of it stubbornly lodges deep within
• the writer’s description of lifelong slavery is more than poetic
◦ some people are driven by fear of death, so as if to avoid it
◦ others are imprisoned within a small circumference by fear of a death
– do you live free of that crippling fear?

The writer returns one more time to the angels in verses 16-18

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 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. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted Hebrews 2:16-18

Jesus did not die to help angels (who cannot die, Lk. 20:36)
– and now we come to another reason why he was made like us
• to become a high priest
◦ this is the first time this title for him occurs in Hebrews
(there will be much more on this title later on)
merciful to us, and faithful to God
propitiation – once again the Book of Leviticus comes to mind
◦ the Greek word here translates the Hebrew word kipper atonement
(“to cover” — sins were effectively covered and so removed)
◦ see especially, Leviticus 16, the Day of Atonement
– being human, Jesus can feel sympathy with us (4:15)
• but he does more than empathize (v. 18)
• he is able to give us real help

Last year when we talked about repentance and “rewiring” the human brain, we learned about “mirror neurons.” These brain cells trigger different areas in a person’s brain in response to seeing another person performing an action or experiencing a painful event. The motor and sensory areas of the brain that are activated when we watch a person throw a ball or fall off a fence are the same areas activated in the brain of the person who performs the action or receives the injury. You feel what the other person feels, however to a lesser degree. The more your past history of experience resembles the person you watch, the greater your feeling of empathy will be.
William Barclay, “It is often true that a person who is clever and who learns easily cannot understand why someone who is slow finds things so difficult. A person who has never sorrowed cannot understand the pain at the heart of the person into whose life grief has come. A person who has never loved can never understand either the sudden glory or the aching loneliness in the lover’s heart. Before we can have sympathy we must go through the same things as the other person has gone through—and that is precisely what Jesus did.”
◦ when Jesus tells you, “I understand,” he does
◦ when Jesus tells you, “I can help,” he can

Conclusion: We can do better than say that the Coronavirus is

God’s judgment or a heavenly wake-up call
– that is certainly not a creative way to respond
• and this period of history calls for creativity
◦ and it also enhances creativity
◦ as it has been said, necessity is the mother of invention
– life with Jesus is never small and narrow – it is abundant
• yes, he gives consolation and comfort, reassurance and compassion
• but he also gives peace that surpasses understanding and fullness of joy
– we are not without resources
Alan Mitchell, referring to the many positive gifts presented to the readers of Hebrews said, “The catalogue of their spiritual possessions are quite impressive”

Do you see the adventure today?
Is any real adventure without risk?
Times like what we are living through now
do not diminish Christian hope
The darker the times, the brighter our light
Reading the Gospel of John this last week,
I was struck by Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman,
If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (Jn. 4:10)
It struck me that, if only . . .
If only we knew Jesus,
and his deep empathy for us,
and what he is ready to do for us,
if we only knew what we have going for,
we would be excited
as we anticipate living into the next twelve hours
And the next twelve hours after that,
and the next twelve hours after that . . . .


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  1. Ed Northen / Apr 1 2020

    Chuck, thank you for your thoughtful words they are very encouraging and initiate some mind ramblings into ponders that connect God, our human existence, life and purpose. One of them is suffering and how we try to avoid it, yet when we do ,we sacrifice the benefit of suffering. The benefit is nothing materially tangible but suffering is the fertile soil where our souls are transformed. We are likely to have one of two responses to suffering. The first is to escape and live the life of ease and comfort, the second , embrace our suffering to live a life of compassion and lifting up others, even if we do escape the object of our suffering. Jesus being fully human does the latter, he does not use his authority to escape poverty and live the life of ease, which he certainly could have. Instead he uses his power to suffer with and for us. As we go through this time when the kingdom of earth is upset by this pandemic ; may we be comforted that God is present to both comfort and transform us through our suffering and through us the kingdom of God is is again present in the flesh as we become the hands and feet of Jesus to this world. Not bringing a spirit of fear but of power, love an and a sound mind.

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Apr 2 2020

    Oh, Ed, your “ramblings” are deeper and more thought provoking than my best writing.

    As always, thank you for sharing those things that stir within your heart.

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