Title: But We See Jesus!
Text: Hebrews 2:1-13
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
This letter was sent to Jewish Christians in Rome during the time of Nero’s persecution, and it has a theme that carries from front to back that screams. ‘Persevere in times of trial! Hold on firmly to what you have in Christ and don’t let go!’ As you might imagine with such a theme, there are several warnings in the letter, and here is the first one.
Like the opening of the first chapter, this one has an opening paragraph that is heavy on content. The content here is a contrast between the Old and New Covenants
|Old Covenant||New Covenant|
|A message spoken by angels||Announced by Jesus Himself|
|It was binding||It was confirmed by its hearers and by God Himself|
|It contained just punishment for every infraction||It includes no escape for ignoring it or even for just drifting away|
Simply stated, these verses are telling us that we must give our relationship with Jesus Christ (New Covenant) the highest possible priority. In fact, this is the thesis for the entire chapter. The author has included a contrast between the Old and New Covenants here, as well as throughout this entire letter: Why?
I think the reason is a simple one, but maybe not as obvious to the modern reader as it would have been when it was written. Remember, it is written to Jewish Christians. Of course they would be interested in this comparison, just on general principle, but there is a deeper reason. Nero persecuted Christians in his day. Remember the story of the great fire in Rome that burned out the center of the city, and resulted in a whole new building program by Nero that seemed to be his way of immortalizing himself as a Roman Emperor? Who did Nero, who probably had quite a bit to do with starting the fire, blame for the fire?
Exactly: Christians! The Christians were the specific target of his persecution, not Jews. Thus, a Jewish Christian might have felt pressure to renounce Christ and just be an innocent Jew again to avoid Nero’s persecution. That, dear reader, is the historical context of this letter. Hold on to what you have in Christ. The author is constantly reminding his readers how much better their lot as Christians is, in spite of Nero… so this theme is oft-repeated.
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (2:1)
We need to pay careful attention to what we have in Christ (what we have heard) lest we drift away. Thus “drift away” would mean going back to the old ways to avoid trouble in this life. He goes on in verse 2 to describe their situation under the Law with its system of rules and punishment for infractions, and then verse 3: how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? refers back to “drift away”. If they would be ignoring their great salvation and returning to the old system, they would find themselves in a world of hurt with God. On the one hand, they turned their backs on salvation, and on the other hand, they’d be returning to the condemnation of the Law; a lose – lose situation. Verse 4 underscores the fact that God Himself has confirmed to them the validity of the New Covenant in various ways. As we continue through the rest of the chapter, our author will build this case even more.
For the time being, I might suggest that each of us consider this warning. OK, we might not have been Jewish, and we might not be living under Nero’s persecution, but are we ever tempted to “drift away?” Are we ever tempted to slack off, get lazy, not care…? What will be running through your mind if this kind of temptation ever comes your way?
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 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 2:5-9 (NKJV)
When I was a teenager, this passage grabbed my imagination and really locked me in as a follower of Jesus; “you have made him a little lower than the angels…” Wow!
At any rate, our author is continuing on from the last chapter, and he is making the case that Jesus is superior to the angels. In verse 5 he mentions that the “world to come” is not in the subjection of the angels, but it is made subject to a man. Then he quotes Psalm 8 which is an amazing journey into God’s purpose. Beginning with the great and wonderful question What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? Obviously, questions such as this have gone through all of our minds, but there is an amazing answer, an answer that blows us away every time we consider it. Yes, God made us “a little lower than the angels” but He also put the world under us in His hierarchy; amazing.
Recall that back in the Garden, God gave Man “dominion” over all of the creatures of the earth; that “dominion” was not given to angels, nor was it given to any “fallen angel” for it was given to the Man. Of course we know that particular man went astray, but there is another Man who would change that. God put all things under Mankind, but we don’t currently see that having entirely come to pass because of what happened later, the Fall…
But we see Jesus!
Jesus, that second Man, who has changed everything, yes, we see Him. Yes, He was made a little lower than the angels, so that He could suffer death for everyone, yes, this Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor, for He has tasted death for all of us. What a glorious sight that is; it is our deliverance. Jesus, remember who He is? He is the One through whom all things were made, way back in the very beginning. In the fullness of time, when God saw that the right time had come, Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, which is to say that He took on the form of a human body, being entirely human and entirely divine, this amazing Jesus came to earth to take away the problem of sin and shame to restore Mankind to the purpose for which God had created Him to fulfill.
Jesus, who is in every way superior to the angels, allowed Himself to be humbled greatly to accomplish the purpose of God, and soon in God’s time, all will be returned to God’s original design. How is it that God even takes notice of Man? Yes, it still blows my mind, but He does, for He has big plans for us.
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
This is another section of text that is breathtaking if you’ll relax and let its full significance settle in. Check out that first paragraph… Yes, it was quite fitting for God to make Jesus perfect through His suffering, but that isn’t the breathtaking part, at least not for me. It is the part about bringing many sons (and daughters) to glory. Jesus attained glory through His suffering; we attain glory through His suffering. Jesus is in glory− we are headed for glory. Wow!
The one “who makes people holy” is obviously a reference to Jesus. We who are His followers are the ones made holy, and another wow moment: Both are in the same family: Welcome to God’s family, we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus! Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Jesus Christ, as He sits on the throne at the right hand of God, ruling heaven and earth is not only King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is also our “big brother.” If you aren’t filled with awe right now, please slow down and read that again.
The Old Testament quotes that follow are placed there to demonstrate that this is something that has been foretold in Scripture, even though people may not have comprehended it at first. Imagine how Jewish Christians in the circumstances of their time would have reacted to this. Being the brother of the Son of God, a God whose name it was unlawful to even say out loud: Amazing!
I hope that it strikes you the same way. So many of us go through our lives filled with guilt, grief and fear, not ever comprehending how precious we are in God’s sight… Brothers, in the family… relations… Not evil, wretched sinners. Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and your acceptance of His grace, all of that is so far away, and God remembers it no more… Brother! Sister! Son! Daughter!