Here’s a little (not really little) something else that didn’t make it into my sermon on the 26th (see link at bottom of this post). Had I opened this door, I would have become so enthused I might have tacked on another twenty minutes of preaching. So, we can think on it now.
My sermon on the 26th was taken from Heb 2:5-18, Come to Earth to Taste Our Sadness. It was meant as a sort of reflection on the why of the incarnation as it related to the reality of Jesus coming to meet us in the septic tank of our sins. The text actually mounts upon one of the most dramatic statements about our Elder Brother in all the Bible:
Heb. 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
What I want to draw out is the Biblical-Theological connection of this text with Ge 3:15-16:
Gen. 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Gen. 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
There are so many connectors between these two passages. Eve is told she will bear her offspring in pain. We are her offspring. We are the children of flesh and blood. And because of our first parents, we share not only in flesh and blood, but the fallout of the fall. Hence, through fear we were subject to lifelong slavery. All the while, the devil mocking us, knowing how dreadful death is. We know the wearying reality of enslaving sin, of the dread of death. We hear the jeering scorn of the evil one. We get it.
But, here’s what else we get. We get help! Angels don’t need this help. The offspring of Abraham needs this help. So, what is the author of Hebrews getting at in 2:14-18, but the fruition of the first gospel promise or protoeuongelion in Ge 3:15? Christ, the ultimate offspring of Eve (Ge 3:16), came and made good on the promise of Ge 3:15! He destroyed the one who had the power of death, the devil. Keep in mind, Satan’s “power of death” was delegated, so to speak. Remember, the devil is on a leash (Job 2:1-6). The devil is, as Martin Luther once said, “God’s devil.” Indeed, he prowls and roars and seeks to devour (1Pe 5:8), but he does all this with a crushed head, because there is only one true Lion (Rev 5:5).
But, our true Lion and Elder Brother was also a lamb. Just as God taught our first parents in the Garden that blood had to be shed, as he took away their self-righteous fig-leaf togas and covered them with garments of skin (Ge 3:21), so propitiation (Heb 2:17) would require the atoning death of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus. I love commentaries. My dear friend, fellow-elder and Christian apologist, Doug Powell, once called me a “commentary hound.” I take it as a compliment. I especially love commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews. I have a bunch. I am looking at them across from my desk in my study even as I type this post. I love so many of them – O’Brien, Phillips, Ellingworth, Lane, Pink, Owen, Calvin, Gouge, just to name a few. But, one of them has been for so long so precious – Phillip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. My others are, perhaps, more exegetically sophisticated and up to date. Hughes just occupies a warm and special place. I love what he says about the death of Christ, “Death, therefore, and more specifically the death of Christ and death of this king, was necessary for the overthrow of him who had persuaded mankind to abandon life for death” (p. 112).
Now, we are offspring of Abraham (Gal 3:29 – important to our biblical conviction of covenantal infant baptism, but that’s another post for another time). And, as such, we find ourselves covered, not with skins of an animal, but with the robe of righteousness (Isa 61:10).
From this place of privilege and security we receive constant help. He comes – yes to the septic tank moments of our lives, and reminds us who he is, who we are, whose we are, what we are wearing. And he helps us. He helps us with our temptations. I desperately need his help with temptation. I need to know my robe never slips off, even when I fall. And there he is, ready, willing, and able to help because he suffered when tempted, himself. Of course, he suffered in his scourging and crucifixion. That is why we call it his passion (from the Gk word, pascho, “I suffer”). But, does it occur to us that his whole life was, in a sense, one of suffering, one of humiliation on our behalf? The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), teaches us:
Question 37. What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?
Answer: That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.
Yes, our Savior suffered, not only as he hung on the cross, but every time he resisted sin and temptation. Saying no to our sinful desires hurts. It hurts to turn away from such familiar and instant medicating idols. Our Second Adam suffered in Mt 4, as he did what the first Adam could not – defeat the tempter for us. He had to. He could be of no eternal help to us, otherwise. The Rolling Stones once sang of Sympathy for the Devil. Let us sing of sympathy with the sinner. B.F. Westcott gives us the first verse of the song, “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.”
The author of Hebrews gives us the chorus to the song:
Heb. 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.