Born to Die for Us (Heb. 2:14-18) | 12.08.13
I have big dreams for my kids. I have to confess that many times I’ve thought, “What if I heard his name through the Mizzou Arena loudspeakers? What if I heard her song blaring through my car stereo?” In my better moments I’ve pondered my kids in ministry, honoring God, doing far better than I’ve done. Could they be destined for greatness? Sometimes I think about that. But I have to say I’d rather them be ordinary than see stardom and fall from the sky like so many celebrities today. I don’t want him to be the next Dez Bryant. I don’t want her to be the next Lindsay Lohan.
Think about how Mary the mother of Jesus must have felt. An angel comes to her and says she’s going to have this baby as a virgin who would rescue the world. But then she has to watch him die as a common criminal on a cross. Jesus is born for greatness. But then He dies. It all comes to a screeching halt. Why? We’re going to answer that question today as we continue on in this Advent series, “Born for Us.” He was born to die for us.
The Word Became Flesh to Become God’s Lamb
Before we get back to Hebrews, turn to the book of John with me. John the Apostle teaches us that God comes to earth and becomes a man. In chapter 1, verse 14, he says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” There we learn about Christ’s incarnation. What’s that word mean? In English, we use words like “carnivore,” a meat or flesh eater. Incarnation is a word that refers to the eternal Son coming to earth and putting on flesh. He puts on meat. God becomes a man. He is born.
Just before that statement, a forerunner for Jesus is mentioned. He comes on the scene and calls people to repentance. He tells people to get ready for Jesus’s arrival. John the Baptist teaches us that Christ comes to earth to die. Look at John 1:29. What does he cry out when he first gets a glimpse of Christ? “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Here we learn about His atonement. What? In atonement, hear, “at-one-ment.” God and sinners are at odds. But God works to bring them together, to make them one. How? Through the cross! Through His death! God becomes a man. He is born. To die for us. The Word became flesh to become the Lamb of God.
So why did Jesus come to earth? To bring salvation, right? What does the angel tell Joseph before Christ’s birth? In Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” In Luke 19:10 Jesus says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul tells us that “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Back in John, in 3:17, Jesus says He doesn’t come to condemn the world, but “in order that the world might be saved through Him.” He comes to bring salvation. But it’s through His death. The angel tells Mary the ruling part. But she doesn’t get the suffering part until later. His disciples don’t get it either. But Christ teaches it. In Mark 10:45, He says the Son of Man comes to “give His life as a ransom for many.” Salvation comes through His death. It comes by the cross. He gave up His life. And for that to help us, He not only has to be God. He also has to be a man. He was born to die for us.
Here in the Christmas season, if you listen past the songs of consumerism, you can hear words about Christ being born in a manger. But why does it matter to us? How should that impact our daily lives? Tony taught us last week that Jesus was born to obey for us. He lived as Adam should have lived on our behalf. He had to be a human being to do this. He lived a perfect life on earth. This week we’ll look at His cruel death on a cross. He had to be a man for this reason, as well. Jesus was born to die for us, granting us forgiveness before God and freedom from Satan. We see that clearly in Hebrews 2:14-18. Let’s head there now. Let’s pray as we begin.
His Death Brought Forgiveness
I want you to see two things here in Hebrews that His death as a man brought us. Twice here it says that Jesus became a man. Two different reasons for this are given. Both involve His death and what it accomplishes. Let’s look at both, beginning with the second in the text. First, His death brings forgiveness. Look first at verse 17. The author of Hebrews - and we’re not entirely sure who it is - says God became a man. Look at it. “Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect.” For God to rescue us, He had to become one of us. Now this is like you and I becoming a bug, right? So we can reach bugs? That’s a common illustration that’s used. No. It’s greater than that. Jesus is infinite. He is deity. He becomes one of us. Finite. Human. Mind blowing! There’s no way to illustrate that. It’s difficult to grasp.
But let’s ponder what we can about this statement. It says He became a man “in every respect.” Every respect? Really? He ate and drank. He slept. He worked. He got cold. He grew up. He even cried as a baby. Dang you, “Away in the Manger” song! “No crying He makes?!” You’re wrong. Isn’t that amazing He would do that to save us? That He would put up with all of this? He did.
But look what else it says. He was “made like his brothers.” Really? He considers us brothers? Sisters? Have you thought about that? Do you believe that? The God of the universe? He considers us his family. And He wants to be close to us. Now, He’s different from us, too, for sure. But, He calls us brothers. Let that sink in.
Well, why? Verse 17 says, “so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.” He stands as a priest, like that man in the tabernacle or temple. He stands between God and us, making peace. We won’t get into that today. We’ll look at that in more detail later, when we consider that He was born to stand for us.
Here I want to focus on something else. Priests brought sacrifices, right? What was His? Himself! He became the sacrifice! Read on. Why did He become like His brothers? Why did He become this high priest? It says: “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Now there’s another big word - propitiation. No need to fear it, though. We’ll just define it. It speaks of Jesus absorbing the wrath of God for His children. You might not like to hear this. You may not want to believe it. But God is holy and perfect. We’re not. We sin. Who we are and what we do makes God angry. That deserves punishment. And that’s what hell is. God’s anger poured out on sinners forever. When we say Jesus made “propitiation,” it means that God’s anger toward His children was poured out on His Son instead. It was all exhausted on Him. He took it upon Himself.
This may be T.M.I., but this next week I have to have a procedure. A camera goes into a place I’d rather it never go. But to get ready for this, I have to drink some fluids. And that’s what I really fear. The last time I did this, I thought it was going to kill me. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. I’d put this cup of this thick, disgusting liquid to my mouth and I thought I would either throw it up or lose my mind.
Remember in the garden when Jesus is about to die? He’s asking the Lord, can you “let this cup pass from me?” What’s in that cup? It’s worse than any fluids I’ve ever consumed. It’s the cup of God’s wrath. That’s what we learn in the Old Testament. All the wrath of God for the sins of His people, Jesus is about to drink it up. He asks, “Isn’t there another way?” He knows there’s not. He doesn’t get the better prep drink the doctor promised me this time. This is why He came. To drink this cup. To drink it for us. Man, I wish I could get my wife to drink the stuff for me - especially after the way she messed with me the last time. But she can’t. But Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us, if we believe.
One of my favorite movies is Home Alone. Someone recently interviewed a doctor, asking him what would have really happened to the burglars Kevin McAllister took out. The iron to the face would have fractured all the bones around his eyes, probably messing up his vision. Grabbing a red door knob, at what must have been 751 degrees, could have caused his hand to burst into flames. It definitely would have destroyed his hand. The blowtorch to the head - especially standing there for 10 seconds - would have basically destroyed the bones in his skull. The paint cans to the head would have fully fractured their faces. It would have knocked them cold and certainly would have knocked out more than one tooth. And then they get hit by the old guy with the shovel in the face! The article’s author mocks the fact that that’s what takes them out - after all the wrath from Kevin they experienced.
But those burglars had it coming, right? And for picking on a kid, they deserved more than the slapstick abuse they received. And even though it’s not popular, we deserve punishment for our sins. If we acknowledge that at all, we’d properly come up with something for us that would amount to a slap on the wrist. But we deserve far more than we think for what we’ve done and haven’t done. But Jesus took all that abuse for us, if we trust in Him.
Here’s the main idea. He became our substitute. He took the penalty we deserved in our place. On the cross, He took hell upon His shoulders on our behalf. He was separated from God, when that’s what we deserved. All God’s anger was thrown at Him. And that should have been us. And because of that, if we believe, we can be completely forgiven.
Now hear this: for that to happen, Jesus had to be a man. To truly be a substitute, that had to be the case. It had to be. Jesus had to be a man. He couldn’t be an angel, as the author here says. He’s not trying to save angels. He had to come down and live the way we were supposed to live. He had to die the way we deserve to die, too. For us.
But no mere man would suffice either, right? How can just a dude pay for the sins of others? Particularly for many, many others? Grab me and kill me but it won’t do anything for you and the human race. Hell is forever for a reason. We’ve committed an infinite crime against an infinite God. And that’s all of us - together. If I was punished for you, I’d theoretically have to suffer forever and forever. And that’s just for one of you. Who alone can do this? Who can make a once-for-all, infinite sacrifice? Only an infinite person! God himself! Jesus!
But take it another way. Jesus was made like us in every respect, it says. But was He? Not really in every respect. He was without sin. What kind of lamb did they find when they went to make the sacrifices in the Old Testament? A perfect one. One without a spot or blemish. He’s the perfect man. He isn’t dying for His sin, too. That wouldn’t work. He dies for ours, for those who trust Him. Jesus is the perfect, spotless Lamb of God. Only He can take away the sins of the world. Notice in verse 18 another key detail: all of these sufferings Christ experienced make Him able to help us in ours. But we’ll get to that later. Next week, in fact. He was born to show for us how to endure suffering.
Jesus became a man to die on the cross that we might have forgiveness. Are you a Christian? If not, embrace Him now. If so, are you living in light of that fact? Here’s the first point of application for this morning: you don’t need to be afraid of God. That is, if you believe. Picture this with me. You get a new job. You go into it thinking it’s going to be great, but you’re not sure. You’re not sure what to think of your boss. You’re not sure if he likes you. You know he fired the guy you replaced. You’re nervous anytime you go near him. But he invites you over to eat with your family. You go to the stadium and watch the Mizzou game together. Before you know it, you’re friends. You’re no longer afraid.
That’s the way it is here with our Lord. There is a proper fear of Him. We should respect Him, for sure. We should do what He says. The Bible talks about the fear of God everywhere. If we’re not Christians, we should tremble, for sure. But through the cross, if we believe, we can draw near to Him. We don’t fear Him like we fear an angry boss. We fear Him like we do a Father. And that makes all the difference. Fear gets replaced with joy. Do you experience that?
We should. Jesus took it all for us. He took the blows. He drank it up. So we don’t need to do it to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can look in the mirror and then try to smash my head with the paint can. But it doesn’t accomplish anything. And it’s not necessary if we believe. What’s the solution? Stop looking at yourself. Start looking at Jesus. See Him in the manger. See Him on the cross. Ponder your forgiveness. Run into the arms of your Father.
As McCheyne says, “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. Live much in the smiles of God. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love.” Sing to yourself those lyrics from the carol: “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be born for me and you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the son of Mary.” Because He was born, we can be forgiven. Rejoice. Worship.
His Death Brought Freedom
What’s the second thing His death brings us here? It’s freedom. Look now at verse 14. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.” Again, no illustration can really grasp this. How does He partake in our humanity? Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant.” A lot of people have debated what that means. But it doesn’t mean he emptied out His deity. No. He added a human nature. He took the form of a servant. He poured Himself out by putting on flesh and blood.
Think about what that means. Many of you are going home for the holidays soon. You’re going to be around your “flesh and blood.” It probably doesn’t excite some of you too much. Jesus puts on humanity. He becomes flesh and blood with men and women like us. Let that encourage you for a second. But kick it up another level. If you’re a believer, you aren’t just connected to Him via your humanity. You are are spiritually united to Him. Blood may be thicker than water. But Spirit goes deeper than blood. He’s our brother. We’re in His family.
Again, though, what’s the purpose for this? There are a couple of reasons here, too. He comes first to destroy Satan. Why does He put on flesh and blood? Verse 14 again: “that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil.” Now God is the one who really has power over life or death. But He has allowed some measure of power in this world to our Enemy. God did it so His Son could stomp on Satan’s head and be glorified. We’re heading to Colossians here soon. Check out what chapter 2, verses 13-15 say.
Col. 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
On the cross, Jesus is like an emcee in a rap battle who throws down the mike, glares at his opponent, and walks off. He’s like a wide receiver who spikes the ball and glares in the faces of the opposing crowd. He destroys Satan on the cross.
But He comes second to deliver us from slavery. Look at verse 15. He comes to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” In our culture, if someone starts talking about death, we usually want to change the subject. We start calling him or her morbid. We tend to leave the room. Is that person just breaking social taboos? Sort of. But why do we have those? Death freaks us out! We don’t want to talk about it.
My wife about punches me in the night sometimes. I’ll wake up. She’s had all kinds of physical problems, so I worry about her. I’ll reach over and put my hand on her stomach, making sure she’s breathing. Sometimes she wakes up and tells me to not be so stupid. I’m going to the doctor this week because two years ago I had some strange cells up in my intestines. I’ve been a Christian for a long time. I’m a pastor. When I think about dying, I freak out a little bit. I usually want to get that out of my head, too. Those fears control us. They enslave us. Jesus came to let us go to sleep thinking, “If I die before I wake,” it’s all good.
Back to the greatest movie of all time. Know the scene where Kevin McAllister encounters and conquers his fears over the furnace downstairs? Every time he had gone down in the basement before, it had roared at him like a lion and made him flee up the stairs. Finally, as he’s prepping for the bad guys to show up, he looks at it and says, “Hey, I’m not afraid anymore. I said I’m not afraid anymore! Do you hear me?” That’s what we can say thanks to the death of Christ. We will experience death. But we don’t have to fear. It’s not final. He rose from the dead, too. We’ll be with Him. One day, we’ll rise. Shout that at the devil.
Again, how does Jesus bring this victory about? Through some impressive Judo maneuvers. Judo is a Japanese term that means “gentle way.” It’s a school of martial arts where a key part of the strategy is to try to use your opponent’s momentum against himself. He lunges at you, you guide him behind you to the ground. He punches at you, you grab his arm and throw him off balance.
What does Satan do? He comes at Jesus with death. He works through wicked men who nail Christ to the cross. It is that very maneuver that Jesus uses to defeat Satan. He grabs what seems to be a death blow and throws Satan straight toward hell. The death of Jesus was God’s plan. It says He puts death to death there on the cross. “Through death!” He rose again. Now we can get a good night’s rest. We’re free.
Freedom Flows From Forgiveness
But that freedom flows from our forgiveness. Bruce Ware illustrates it this way. I’ll mix it with a key CoMo recent event, though. Ryan Ferguson, who was in prison for murder, was recently released, right? Why? They could no longer say he was guilty of the crime. The evidence of guilt wasn’t there. So the bondage had to end. Ware says, “Remove the guilt, and you remove the just basis for bondage.” He then writes this:
Similarly, Satan’s power over sinners is tied directly to their guilt through sin. His hold on them is because of their sinful rebellion against God. But remove the guilt through Christ’s payment for their sin, and you remove the basis for Satan’s hold on them. So it is through Christ’s death and its payment for sin that the rightful hold that Satan had upon us is necessarily broken. Forgiveness of sin’s penalty and freedom from Satan’s prison go together. Remove the guilt, and you remove the bondage. As Christ bought the former—forgiveness of the guilt of our sin—he won also the latter—victory over the bondage of our sin. Praise be to our Savior for his gracious and complete forgiveness that accomplishes also this glorious and powerful deliverance from Satan’s dominion, bondage, and death (Colossians 1:13–14). (Ware, Big Truths for Young Hearts)
Some like to talk about Jesus defeating Satan and giving us liberty. But they don’t much like to talk about Christ absorbing the wrath of God. Friends, that freedom comes from the Lord Jesus dying as our substitute, granting us forgiveness. That’s the bullet in the gun. Satan holds the power of sin and death. Jesus blows it away on the cross. The guilt is gone. Now the bondage is gone, too. That’s why Jesus is the cute baby in the manger. So He could be the bloody man on the cross. And bloody up Satan in the process. Through the cross, we find freedom through the forgiveness He won there.
Again, Jesus had to be a man to give us this freedom. We as humans deserve physical death due to our sin. We deserve eternal separation from Him and wrath for what we’ve done, too. Jesus had that hell poured out on Him at the cross. But He also experienced the pain of His body dying, as well. Look back at verse 9.
Heb. 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
He drank the cup for us. But He also tasted death. As a human being. How crazy! Death is unnatural. It’s often painful. But He took it on for us. As a real man. What grace! But again, He is God, too. Only a divine sacrifice was enough to buy our freedom. Only God could bust out of that tomb near Jerusalem and cause the tombs to shake and open in the last day, as well.
Jesus became a man to die on the cross to bring us freedom. Not a Christian? Run to him today. Are you in Him? Are you living in light of that reality? Here’s the second point of application for this morning: you don’t need to be afraid of Satan. Imagine that you’re at a zoo and suddenly you see a Tiger running around. You freak out and run for a tree. You stop. Maybe you’re not supposed to run. You lay down and play dead. Who really knows anyhow? You know you’re sunk. He comes up to you. You know you’re going to be his dinner. He opens up his mouth and roars. You can’t help notice in his mouth: he has no teeth. No teeth at all. Suddenly, you’re not scared. All growl, no bite. That’s the way it is with Satan. We can say, “I’m not afraid anymore.” This frees us toward sacrificial living. Eric Papp is getting ready to go to Brazil. He’s going to be hanging in the favelas there. Those are dangerous places. You and I can go into the hardest parts of town, too, and we don’t have to fear. That’s because Satan is a toothless hillbilly.
You also don’t have to walk around fearing you’ll die. It’s easy for me to fear just about everything - car wrecks, tornadoes, everything. You and I don’t have to do that. We can truly live. We can serve Him with confidence. We can risk. We can serve Him with joy. We don’t have to be in bondage to the fear of death.
But one more angle, not so much the angle here, but what we see dominant elsewhere in Scripture. When we say we’re free from Satan, it means we don’t have to sin anymore. He is no longer our slave-master, telling us what to do. We are servants of Christ. We can do what He says. We are no longer in bondage to sin. Remember that the next time you’re tempted. We are not only free from death - the consequences of our sin. We are free from sin itself.
Freedom and Forgiveness from His Death
Freedom and forgiveness. All this comes about because Christ is born and dies. But think back to Jesus’s mom looking at him at the cross. Remember those soldiers mocking him as he gasps for breath. It looks like another celebrity crash and burn. We get tired of those. But, man, we love underdog stories, don’t we? Our football team who wasn’t ready for the SEC playing for the championship yesterday. The small town girl from hard circumstances who wins American Idol. The kid from the inner-city who gets into Harvard and ends up in Congress. We like that kind of stuff.
Christ is born in this humble stable, not in a palace. His crown is made of thorns. It is pounded on his head with a mallet. He goes out in an even more humbling way than He comes in. He dies the way the worst of criminals in the Roman Empire did. That’s why He came. To go out like this. Really?
But things are not as they seem. On that cross, this man wins a great victory. Three days later, He rises from the dead. It is there that His greatness is seen. And forgiveness and freedom flow out toward us. Bend over and drink from those streams, Karis. Draw near to Him. Believe. Follow Him. And He’ll begin to pour His greatness into us, as well.