Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2)
Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6) Man Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12)
Earth Destroyed by Water (Gen. 7; II Pet. 3.6,7) Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3.7)
Jesus Gives Access to Father (Heb. 2.9) We Live With God (II Tim. 2.12; I Jn. 3.1ff; Rom. 8.29)
“The God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ is blessed. Thanks to His incredible mercy, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of death. Because of this, we have an immortal inheritance that has no flaw and cannot wear out. This is guarded in heaven for you who are also guarded by God through faith. This salvation will be revealed to you at the end” (I Pet. 1.3ff).
The writer of Hebrews exhorts that Christ should be faithfully served, not abandoned, because He is a superior messenger to all other heavenly messengers (chapter one). Then, he gives another reason for holding fast to Him in chapter two. His readers were apparently struggling in their faith and gradually slipping back into the religion they had left. They lacked incentive, but the epistle gives reason after reason for why it should be restored.
In chapter two, he refers to Jesus’ humanity. Through it, He perfectly fills the role of High Priest in a way no Levitical priest could do under the old law. He enumerates the reasons why Jesus became flesh, and each reason was for each of us as individuals.
He became flesh to taste death for every man (9). He exercised God’s grace on our behalf. He was willing to make God’s understanding of our frailties empirical (experienced by human senses) by tasting death in a human body.
He became flesh to render the devil powerless (14). Before the cross, where Jesus gave up His physical body in death, the devil had the power over man. All mankind sinned and there were various sin offerings provided by God in the different ages. Yet, they could not “take away” sin (10:4,11). But, when Jesus died and was raised from the dead, He rendered the devil powerless over those who faithfully obey Christ and remain faithful unto death.
He became flesh to deliver the enslaved (15). Knowing no hope of deliverance from the horrible state of sinfulness makes for a miserable experience (Rom. 7:25). Christ came to deliver us from the awful slave master of sin (John 8:34).
He became flesh to become a merciful and faithful High Priest (17). 12 times in Hebrews, Jesus is called the Christian’s High Priest–the High Priest of our confession (3:1), in Heaven (4:14), sympathetic and sinless (4:15), appointed by the Father (5:5), without predecessor or successor (5:10), who went before us (6:20), holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (7:26), seated at the Father’s right hand (8:1), an offering priest (8:3), and offering His own blood (9:11). His service in administering His blood on our behalf is merciful (kind, forgiving, protecting) and faithful (trustworthy and sure).
He became flesh to come to the aid of the tempted (18). He well remembers what it is like to suffer in a human body. Not just that greatest moment of suffering, up on the tree, but the daily discomforts (Mat. 8:20), abandonment (John 6:66), and betrayal (John 18:27; Mark 14:45). Therefore, He can help me right now with my problem. Nothing is too big, too mysterious, or too difficult for Him.
Five reasons from Hebrews two are given for why Jesus became flesh, but all of them are for me (and for you)! What a thrilling though. Let’s serve this wonderful Savior!
Buried in the headlines today is news that the doctor in charge of fighting an outbreak of Ebola in his country has contracted the disease himself. The health minister of Sierre Leone said that Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan has a confirmed case of the deadly virus that has killed over 600 of his fellow-countrymen in 2014. Three of the nurses working alongside Khan recently died trying to treat this disease for which there is no known cure or vaccine. Despite meticulous precautions, Khan could not evade contracting Ebola.
It is an unappealing prospect to consider having a job like Khan’s. Exposing yourself to something utterly deadly (at times, Ebola has as high as a 90% mortality rate) to try and save your fellow-citizens is about as great a risk as a person can assume on this earth. Not surprisingly, Khan has been hailed as a hero for using his expertise as a virologist to combat this frightful killer. Now, his own life hangs in the balance (via news.yahoo.com).
The writer of Hebrews contrasts Jesus with the Levitical priests under the Old Law. They were “sick” with the very sin they were appointed to “treat” among the nation of Israel (Heb. 7:27). The writer says that Jesus had no need to do this for Himself because He was “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners…” (Heb. 7:26). In other words, though thoroughly exposed to the deadly malady of sin, Jesus never succumbed to it. Earlier, the epistle says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (4:16).
Simply put, the One God sent to provide a cure for the deadliest condition ever known was fully exposed to it but did not fall prey to it. He did, however, die because of it. Incredibly, that was God’s intention from eternity. Yet, His ultimate sacrifice makes it possible for us to be cured of this otherwise hopeless and eternally fatal condition! No wonder we praise Jesus as the “Great Physician.”
As part of the personal evangelism class I just taught in Cambodia, I had the students engage in role-playing for a couple of days. It was wonderful and memorable. Some of the students are brand new Christians and have no experience doing personal work. All of them got into it wholeheartedly. Perhaps the most poignant moment came about purely accidentally. We had a table set up, with a teacher, silent partner, and student. The “student” was to come up with the issue or dilemma for the “teacher” to solve. In one particular scenario, the “student” hit the teacher with his true background. He said, “When I was born, I did not even get to see my parents. They died and I am an orphan. If there is a God, why did this happen?” His teacher gently and unassumingly said, “I think I understand. I lost my parents when I was young, too, and I am an orphan.” There followed a beautiful lesson on God’s love and pretty good insights on why there is suffering in this world. But the fact his teacher not only comprehended, but experienced his situation made a huge impact on everyone in the room.
We will suffer in a great many ways throughout our short sojourn on this earth. At times, we may think that not another soul on earth understands. Perhaps, there will come a time when that is actually true. However, we will never encounter a single trial but that someone will always understand. He may not be on earth, but He is ever-present. He is actually omnipresent. The Hebrews writer says of Him, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16). As we bring our biggest, most debilitating issues into His presence, He gently says, “I think I understand.” Praise God!