The book of Hebrews is proclaimed to help Christians who are suffering to not give up. There is a great temptation to give up on God and throw away your hope when times are hard, especially when the difficult is for being a Christian. In Hebrews 2 we see the preacher reminding these Christians that they have the help they need. They are not to give up because they are destined for glory and honor (2:5-9) and because they belong to God’s family (2:10-13). Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers as he brings many sons to glory through his sufferings. Now the preacher wants us to see Jesus in another light so that we will not give up but understand that we have the help we need.
The Son Became Human (2:14)
The preacher of Hebrews wants us to carefully consider what Jesus has done for us. In verse 14 he proclaims that the reason Jesus had to become human was so that he could die. Jesus had to become flesh and blood like us so that he could experienced death. He had to share in our humanity, a critical point that the preacher of Hebrews will make on a number of occasions. But do not stop with this point, as often we can do. There was something Jesus was doing by becoming human and dying the way he did. Notice that Jesus became human and died so that he could break the power of the devil who holds the power of death. The cross accomplishes the purpose of rendering the power of the devil inoperative. Jesus has nullified the work of the devil. In short, death was the prescription for victory and the only way the Son could accomplish this was to become human and die for us. The power of death could only be undone through death. Jesus dying on the cross takes the devil’s power and nullifies it.
The Result (2:15-16)
Now what does this do for us? The preacher expresses how this helps us in verses 15-16. The result of Jesus nullifying the devil’s power is that we are free from the fear of death. Death no longer paralyzes the believer. What is the biggest fear for a human? Without question, death is the greatest fear for humanity. In particular, there is no so much the fear of dying but the effect of dying, that is, knowing what happens after that. This is particularly felt when one of our loved ones die. Why do we hurt so bad and feel such searing loss in our hearts? The answer is that we have a fear of death. Once we are physically dead, there is no escape from spiritual death. The cross takes the greatest fear of humanity and solves the problem. The solution is not that we will no longer physically die but that physical death does not mean certain judgment but certain blessing. Death is no longer slavery but liberation. This is what the apostle Paul proclaimed for hope and endurance as well.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54–58 ESV)
Notice that the point of knowing that the sting of death is removed is that we can endure. We can continue to be faithful to the Lord because the fear of judgment after death is gone. Jesus makes the same point to suffering Christians in the book of Revelation.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17–18 ESV)
You see that Jesus is the trailblazer and pioneer of our faith. He died and lives forever and the same will happen to us because Jesus has the keys of death and Hades. Death does not separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). Death does not intimidate us or frighten us for there will not be punishment with our death (cf. Romans 8:1; 1 John 4:18). Jesus is our champion who has defeated the enemy and has set us free from fear. In verse 16 you see that the point is that this is also the help we need. Jesus became human to help us, not help himself. The word “help” means to take hold of someone with the idea of helping them. The scriptures picture God taking hold of the people of Israel and bringing them by the hand out of Egypt and leading them to the promised land. The picture now is God is taking hold of us by the hand, leading us out of the slavery of death and bringing us to glory. God is taking hold of us through the death of Jesus so that we no longer have to fear death. In particular, we do not have to fear what people can do to us for being a Christian. We can serve the Lord without fear because condemnation is not what awaits us but blessing and glory.
Our Great High Priest (2:17)
Now this brings us to the grand point about how Jesus helps us. If Jesus was going to take hold of us and guide us by the hand, it was fitting for him to become like us in every way. Since a priest had to be part of the group he represented, it was necessary for the Son to assume the humanity of God’s people to be their high priest and do what priests do: represent them in things pertaining to God (2:17). The point is that being the high priest was not merely about offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. This is certainly true and certainly important for the high priest to do. But you need more than that from the high priest. Do you remember that the high priest had to do first before he could serve the people? The high priest had to make offerings for his own sins first and then he would make an offering for the sins of the people. You see that there is a connection between the people and the high priest. So Jesus is to be our high priest but he is perfect, so we do not have this connection. So what will he do so that we can have the high priest we need? Jesus became human. He had to be like us completely. He had to be fully human. He had to be like us in every aspect. Now Jesus can represent us because he experienced things like we experienced. He can stand before God on our behalf.
Now Jesus stands as a merciful and faithful high priest through what he experienced and suffered. He is merciful because he cleanses people of their sins and brings them into God’s presence. He is faithful in his loyalty to God and dependable as the savior of God’s people. Now how does this help us exactly? Why does Jesus becoming human and experiencing what he experienced help us? Look at verse 18.
He Is Able To Help (2:18)
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” The NRSV reads, “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” The Greek word translated “tempted” by the ESV and “tested” in the NRSV means both of those things. We should read both of those ideas when we see what the scripture is teaching us. Jesus suffered when he was tempted and suffered when he was tested making him able to help us who are being tempted and tested. Jesus can fully sympathize with what you are experiencing.
We have a hard time with this just as much as we have a hard time with the idea of Jesus calling us brothers and not being ashamed of us. But we need to allow what the preacher of Hebrews is telling us so that we can have the encouragement to endurance that we need. We have a very high view of Jesus as the Christ, which we ought to have. We must hold Jesus as divine, our eternal Savior and Lord. But we cannot allow our high view of Christ cause us to deny his humanity. In fact, there have been many false teachings in the history of Christianity which often focus on this problem that we have. We struggle with the idea of God truly being a human. So false doctrines like gnosticism and others came along saying that the Son only seemed to be a man. But the writer of Hebrews will not allow this. He is emphatic that the Son became human in every way. We like to argue about how but the writer does not tell us how. He just states this as a fact. He did not seem to be human but was fully human while still God, fully tempted and tested just like us. A doctor is far more understanding if that doctor has also experienced the condition you are coming to that doctor for.
Think about it like this: I cannot sympathize with my wife in childbirth. It is not possible. I can read about it and I can see it. I can have true feelings of sorrow about what she went through. But without the experience, I do not have a true basis to understand. Only another woman who has gone through the pain of childbirth can truly sympathize with another woman who is going through it. We have felt this with having a child with special needs. You can look from the outside and see things and have certain feelings about it that can be helpful. But only those who also experience the same can truly understand. You see we need a high priest who can truly understand. The Son could not see our trouble as humans but not experience them and still be the help we need. In order for him to be our help, the Son became human for us. Jesus can help the tempted and tested because he also was tempted and tested. Jesus experienced life as a child. He experienced life as a teenager. He experienced life as an adult. He suffered loss. He suffered with family. He suffered like every human experiences. He had pain and sicknesses. It is hard for us to get our minds around this. There is one thing that I really like about the Holy Land Experience in Orlando is that they have an actor dressed as Jesus. But the reason I like that is because he is just walking around, talking to people, which is what Jesus was doing every day of his life. He was not a special show that required an appointment. He was a human and he had to walk around like us. He got tired like us, got sweaty like us, ate like us, and seeing that helps us remember how important this is. God came down and was like us. Jesus must really be tested and really be tempted. Otherwise there is no true solidarity or sympathy as our high priest.
Therefore, “He is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:18). Whatever you are struggling with right now, Jesus does understand. Jesus was tempted. Jesus did have trials. Jesus did have pain. Jesus did suffer loss. Jesus did hurt. Jesus experienced life just like you experience life. What is the point? You have the help you need to turn to him. The Son became human so that you would not have to fear death and so that you would not have to fear coming to him as your high priest. Jesus understands why you sinned. Jesus understands the weight of suffering. Jesus understands the power of temptations. Do not give up your faith because you are not serving a God who does not understand. He does understand. Jesus died for you because he truly understands. Jesus is not an angry, intolerant high priest. He is a merciful and faithful high priest. Jesus is there for you when you fail to show you mercy and encourage you to continue to follow him to glory. Jesus is faithful to you to forgive your sins when you do not give up and but strive to follow in his steps. Friends, we have a great salvation (2:3). Do not give up. See you have a Savior who helps you. Get to know him. Pray to the Lord. Confess your sins. Find forgiveness. Seek the Lord. Find the strength you need in him. Jesus knows and understands. He is the help you need.