For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(New International Version)
Apparently, angels can sin and have sinned. I don’t profess to know much of anything about God’s relationship with the angels, the sphere of activity and responsibility He has given to them, the boundaries He has set for them, what He will or will not tolerate from them, or how He chooses to deal with them. A few people seem to think they know all about these matters, but I’ve discovered that most of what they think they know is just their own conjecture based on what little bit is actually said about the matter in scripture. But one thing we know for sure from this passage of scripture is that Jesus’ ministry—His incarnation, His righteous life, His sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to glory—was not done in behalf of the angels, but only for human beings. And, in particular, for human beings who are “Abraham’s offspring.”
When the writer of the Book of Hebrews mentions “Abraham’s offspring,” he is speaking of God’s covenant children—both Old Covenant and New Covenant. Thousands of years ago, God made a promise to Abraham, sealed in covenant, telling him, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) and again, “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). Many years later, the Apostle Paul stated, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Galatians 3:7-9, NASB). Paul goes on to state, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-29, NASB). Our baptism is our expression of faith in Christ whereby we are sealed in covenant with Christ. In writing to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul references our baptism as a spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:11-14).
So, not only was forgiveness and the promise of salvation given to the physical descendants of Abraham, but also to the spiritual descendants of Abraham; those who share His faith in God. In fact, even those who lived upon the earth prior to Abraham, and who surrendered their hearts and lives to the will of God, are saved by the sacrificial death of Christ. This is made clear when the Hebrew writer, after giving many Old Testament examples of faith, including people who lived prior to Abraham, stated: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40, NASB). The cross points in both directions: from Calvary all the way back to Eden, and from Calvary all the way forward to the end of time and “the news heavens and new earth in righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). As the Apostle Peter stated, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NASB).
But here is the part of our scripture reading today that I really want to highlight… the continuing ministry of Christ. Not only did Jesus come to this earth to live for us and to die for us but, after His ascension back to “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3), the Bible says, “He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25) and, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
Our passage today states that Jesus has become, “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). The word, “propitiate” means: to appease, to please, to satisfy, to avert wrath, to regain favor, to make peace. Jesus continues to intercede for us. He continually offers up His sacrificial life and death to God the Father as payment for our sins, thus keeping us from the wrath of God. He does this not simply out of a sense of duty or obligation, but out of compassion and an intimate understanding of our plight.
I do not believe Jesus left His place in eternal glory and stepped into our world to live as a human being because He needed to gain a deeper and clearer understanding of humanity and just what it means to have to face trials and temptation as a human being. Because He is our Creator, the very giver and sustainer of our lives, and because He was/is omniscient, all knowing, He understood perfectly well our human plight. However, what is also important is that we, as human being, be able to relate to Him. It is one thing to believe in a great and mighty God responsible for our very being, but it is quite another to have an intimate relationship with someone who we know has walked many a mile in our shoes; someone who not only thoroughly understands us, but someone with whom we can relate. Because He has been “made like His brethren in all things”—Jesus became susceptible to temptation just like we are. And having become susceptible, He has also become relatable. We can relate to Him and trust Him as our “merciful and faithful high priest.”
I find it remarkable that Jesus chooses not to condemn us for not resisting temptation like He did. It seems so human to flaunt our strengths and to condemn weakness in others when we see it. If Jesus chose to think like we do, He might say something like, “What’s the matter with you? I did it, so why can’t you? I was tempted just like you are, but I chose not to sin; so why haven’t you? I judge you, I condemn you, for not being as strong and faithful as I have been!” Wouldn’t it be tragic if Jesus acted like that; if He were to do what we so often do in judging and condemning one another? But that is not His heart. Instead, because he was “tempted in that which He has suffered,” He chooses to “come to the aid of those who are tempted.” Rather than wanting to condemn us, He offers us His understanding—“Hey, I know, I’ve been there, too… let Me help!”
I’m so thankful that, when it comes to His children, Jesus is not in the judging and condemning business. Rather, as our high priest, He is in the “forgiving” business, the “sheltering” business, the “sanctifying” business, the “protecting” business, the “making things right” business. What I mean to say, I guess, is that Jesus is way into damage control. I’m too often a “loose cannon on deck”… seemingly bent of self-destruction; and, if left to my own devises, I would have spiritually killed myself years ago and would stand eternally condemned to this day. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved me, even when I was dead in my transgressions, made me alive together with Christ (by grace I have been saved), and raised me up with Him, and seated me with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7, paraphrased).
Lord Jesus, my sacrifice, my offering for sin, my High Priest… I find comfort in knowing that You have walked the lonely backroads of this earth as every human being must from time to time. You know what it is like to live as a man and to face the trials and temptations of this mortal life. You have borne the stresses and strains of flesh and blood. You have shed tears of heartache and sorrow. You’ve encountered the emptiness of loneliness and loss. You’ve contended with the compulsion of passions in every form. You’ve had to rein in Your pride, Your egotism, Your lusts, Your wants, Your desires. You’ve had to empty Yourself and say “No” to the safety, security, and creature comforts of this world in order to seek and to save that which was lost, and to accomplish the will of Your Heavenly Father.
Lord, You know me. You know each one of us, inside and out, through and through. And You want me to know, us to know, that You know. You know my weaknesses and my strengths. You know my successes and my failures. You know the integrity of my heart, as well as the sin which so easily entangles me and ever contends with that integrity. And while knowing, still, You choose to love. Thank You for that love; a love that keeps You ever before the presence of my Heavenly Father in continual intercession, ever redeeming me from sin and clothing me with Your own righteousness. Oh Lord, I want to honor You, Your sacrifice, Your place as my perpetual High Priest by the decisions that I make and the way that choose to live my life. Please, I ask, oh my High Priest, come to my rescue and help me when I am tempted. Hear me as I confess my sins, my agreement with heaven’s judgment that I am completely lost and undone without You and in continual need of You! Father, I fear Your justice, but rejoice in your compassion. Father, see me not as I am and give to me not as I deserve, but see me standing before You washed in the blood of the Lamb and ascribe to me that standing of righteousness that can only be gained by Your grace through faith in the Holy One You have given to live and die for me and Who now ever stands before You to intervene on my behalf.
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