Hebrews 2:14-18 Rev. Kenneth Frey
Christmas 1 12/30/18
Hebrews 2:14-18 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— 15 and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that He does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. 17 Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.
Your Brother’s got your back
1. He is like us in every way
2. He beat up our enemies
“The darkness into which the light of Christmas shines is above all the darkness of death. The threat of death, which shadows the whole road of our life, is the dark background of the Advent expectation of mankind.” (Paul Tillich) Ancient pictures often saw life as a thread or rope. Death, to the ancients, was cutting that rope. But the truth is that death is one of the strands of that rope of life. It is part of us from the moment of our conception. It colors every aspect of our lives with a grey tint of decay. We have bucket lists because of death. We have wills because of death. We “live life to the fullest” because of death. We are in bondage to death and, to some extent, we live in fear of death, as our text tells us. But Christmas remind us that in this world of fear and death, your Brother’s got your back.
What is a brother? Technically, it is someone who shares the same parents as you. He is someone with whom you live and share the early years of your life. I have a brother who is older than me. Growing up in Leadville, Colorado, he often let me tag along with him. He was happy to share his life with me. Brothers share things.
Jesus is our brother because he shares what we have in common. Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these. The translation leaves out an important word. He shares in these in just the same, exact way. He is just like us. In fact, this was a must. Therefore, He had to be like His brothers in every way. He was obligated to us to be just like us, to share flesh and blood, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He was obligated to be just like us.
He shared not only flesh and blood, but everything else that is part of our existence. He suffered humiliation. He was often disrespected. He was betrayed. He was falsely accused and unjustly condemned. He was so unpopular with people that they chose a murderer instead of him. What humiliation! What suffering! But it didn’t stop there. He also shared our death. Like us, death was woven into the fabric of his life. Death hung over him just like it hangs over us.
We live with illusions all the time. Movies, TV shows and video games constantly present stories and images that are not true. They are not real. Reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life we can forget that these aren’t just stories; this is reality. Jesus really suffered the very same things we suffered, including the fear of death. Watch him in the garden of Gethsemane. Look at his sweat dripping like drops of blood as he faced the pain of the cross. Listen to his prayer as he was about to endure hell for our sins. He faced death. He faced the fear of death. He faced the suffering of hell and he did it because he is our brother.
Your brother’s got your back. He went through it all because his love obligated him to take on everything that we were. Christmas tells us that our God became our brother. He came to share with you what you are and what you experience. Christmas also teaches us that we will never go through worse than him. None of us were born in a manger. None of us were tempted the way he was by Satan. None of us had to face rejection by our heavenly Father. None of us had to carry the load of the world’s sins.
No matter what you are going through right now in your life, Christmas is God’s message to you that he understands. He has shared life with you. He has shared being you. Christmas is his promise to you that he is your brother and your brother has your back.
Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death. When God’s people were enslaved in Egypt, God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh to force him to let the people go. The last plague was the death of the firstborn. God spared his people that plague by the lamb’s blood painted on the door frames. Later, God told Israel that because of this, the firstborn of every family belonged to him.
So that families would not be torn apart, however, he provided the tribe of Levi as replacements for the firstborn of every family. This tribe became replacements for their brothers and became a picture of Jesus who would be our replacement, who would take our place under God’s judgment.
Why? Because we have lost our eternity. We fear death because we have lost our eternity by sinful separation from the Eternal. We have lost our eternity beyond our ability to regain it.
So we have to die. The soul that sins, it shall die, God’s word pronounced. We really have to die. But Jesus’ death is our death. The only argument against death is that death is over. It’s been done. Jesus became our replacement in death. His death has defeated death. He has destroyed death so that it no longer has any effectiveness. Yes, your brother has your back.
He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. The Old Testament High Priest was the “In between” guy. He was in between God and the people. Separated from God by their sins, they needed someone to stand between them and God. The high priest served that function.
Rather than our ascending to Godhood and living perfectly according to God’s standards, Jesus lowered himself to us at Christmas. He did this so he could be the perfect High Priest who sacrificed himself for us. He made propitiation for us. “Propitiation” is a big word that means covering for sins. By his death he covered over our sins. My dog used to always bury his bones in the yard, but he would never remember where they were. It was like, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Jesus’ death did the same thing we our sins. They are covered over and out of God’s mind. Death is no longer necessary because there is no more sin. Your brother has already died for them.
And your brother didn’t stop there. He not only destroyed death, but also the one who held death over us, the devil. One time in grade school a boy much older than me thought it would be fun to pick on a boy smaller than him. He tackled me from behind, held me down and rubbed my face in the snow. I told my brother. The next day, I waited for the bully to show up, but my brother was there with me. The bully never bothered me again. The devil is a bully and a terrorist. He wants to see us suffer. Death is his most powerful weapon. Jesus has destroyed death and so he also has beat up that bully who wants to terrorize us with fear. Your brother has your back.
So we have nothing to fear. For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested. The “Red Badge of Courage” is a book that chronicles the fear of men going into war. Set in the Civil War, it tells the story of Henry Fleming, a young teenager who has fears about his own courage in the face of a real battle. Like Henry Fleming, we want to hope that when faced with death, we will face it with confident faith. But down deep we are afraid, aren’t we? What will we think? What are we going to do when tested? Will we face death with courage?
Since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested. Jesus has been there. He has faced down death. He faced down fear. But more than that, he has conquered death. He has taken Satan’s rifle called death, taken the bullets, called sin and guilt, and replaced them with blanks. Satan will keep shooting us trying to make us afraid, but we have nothing to fear. He is shooting blanks. Death is empty of its power. Your brother has taken the fear out of death. Your brother has your back.
That is why we celebrate Christmas. Into this dark world of death, Jesus was born to be our brother. He came to be just like us, to fight for us and to die for us. He came to conquer death and the fear of death. He came to be our brother, our brother who has our back.