The Captain of Salvation
December 17, 2017 Speaker: Kit Johnson
Passage: Hebrews 2:10-13
Last Sunday, I began a 3-week Christmas series from Hebrews 2:5–18. This passage describes how Jesus restricted the exercise of his full glory to be born as one of us. The incarnation is impossible for us to comprehend, but it was especially troubling to the people of the first-century.
The Jews believed that anyone who was crucified was under God’s curse; therefore, they couldn’t stomach the idea of their Messiah dying such a shameful death. And the gospel was equally absurd to the Greek dualists. They believed all matter is evil; therefore, the idea of God becoming man and submitting to human suffering was ridiculous to them.
As a result, some quickly developed alternative stories about the incarnation that were less offensive. The most common one was called Docetism. It taught that Jesus only appeared to be human. Proponents claimed that the Son looked like a man with a human body, but it was only an appearance. He never actually became a physical being. Docetism grew very popular because it removed a major stumbling block from the gospel.
But it ultimately destroyed the gospel; therefore, the church fought back. The first major opponent to Docetism was Ignatius of Antioch. He was a disciple of the Apostle John, and he was martyred in 115. He heard from John himself of Jesus life, and he argued passionately for the full humanity of Jesus. He once wrote, “Turn a deaf ear therefore when any one speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who…was really born, who both ate and drank; who really was persecuted under Pontius Pilate; who really was crucified and died…who, moreover, really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him up…But if, as some atheists say, he suffered in appearance only,…why am I in chains. And why do I want to fight with wild beasts? If that is the case, I die for no reason.”
Folks, the humanity of Jesus is not just a great story. Jesus really was born as a baby, he really did die on a cross, and he really did rise again. And Hebrews 2 tells us why his humanity is essential to the work he came to accomplish. Last Sunday we studied vv. 5–9. We saw that Jesus had to become one of us in order to lead mankind in fulfilling God’s original design that Adam would rule over creation as a righteous king. Therefore, Jesus became lower than the angels, and he even tasted death on our behalf. But then he rose again and ascended to the Father’s right hand. And because he was glorified, we can look forward to the day when we will be glorified.
The work of Christ is a great gift, but again, this was all very hard for 1st century readers to stomach; therefore, in vv. 10–18 the author goes on to describe the blessings Jesus provided that could only come about through human suffering.
This morning we will consider vv. 10–13 where we see that because of his humanity Jesus is our trailblazer and Jesus is our brother. Let’s first take a look at v. 10, where we see that…
Jesus is our trailblazer (v. 10).
Of course a trailblazer is someone who creates a path where previously no one could go—maybe through a dense jungle or a heavy snow. And we see in v. 10 that Jesus did just that for his people. He created a path we could not create for ourselves. But where does this path go?
Notice that God’s goal is to “bring many sons to glory.” We talked about this last week. Notice again in v. 7 that God’s purpose is to crown his people “with glory and honor.” This means that God made man to be the pinnacle of his creation. He made us to be perfect and to reflect his glory. And he made us to rule over his creation as righteous kings.
What a powerful testimony to God’s grace! He is infinite. The fact that he would set tiny people like us over his vast creation is marvelous, and it is all grace. And the fact that God intends for us to be perfect and to dwell in his presence for all eternity is also incredibly gracious. Therefore the statement that God wants to “bring many sons to glory” is truly incredible.
But sadly we have fallen terribly short of this glory. We are sinners who don’t even come close to the glory of God. Verse 8 says, “We do not yet see all things put under” us. We are a long ways from the glory God made us to enjoy. It may be helpful to think of the space between us and glory as a thick, dangerous jungle that we could never cross on our own. Therefore, we need a trailblazer.
The end of the verse tells us how Christ became this trailblazer.
It states that in order to bring us to glory, God determined to “make the captain of our salvation perfect through suffering.” We know that he is referring to Jesus’ death on the cross because v. 9 says that he became a man “for the suffering of death.” This really is a profound statement of God’s grace and wisdom.
The part of this statement that is especially incredible is that God says Jesus had to be made “perfect.” What does that mean? Is God saying that Jesus was somehow tainted by sin and had to become morally perfect? We know that can’t be what he means. Hebrews 4:15 states that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus never sinned, so he didn’t need some sort of new moral perfection.
Rather the Greek verb that is used here has a fairly broad scope of meanings. It is used in the Greek OT for the consecration of priests for service, and it is used throughout Hebrews for completing a task. Therefore, the idea in our text is that Jesus became fully equipped to act as our captain or representative. His suffering qualified him to ask as our trailblazer.
The following verses tell us a couple of ways that Jesus was prepared through suffering. Verse 14 tells us that for Jesus to provide atonement, he had to become a man and die as a man. I hope that we will never lose sight of just how incredible that is. Jesus is infinite God, but he needed something more to be our trailblazer. Therefore, eternal God took on the weakness of human flesh and died like any other man.
But vv. 17–18 add a second way that Jesus had to become qualified. He had to endure our with temptation. This is maybe even more incredible than the fact that he died. James 1:13 states that God cannot be tempted with sin. Sin had no appeal to Jesus before his birth, but Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Folks, the Scriptures are clear that the lure of sin didn’t just roll off Jesus like water on a duck’s back. No it had real appeal, and nowhere is that more apparent than when Jesus struggled in the Garden of Gethsemane. And we can assume that the same was true throughout every aspect of Jesus life. He really was one of us down to struggling against the appeal of every kind of temptation.
What a let down compared to his solely divine existence! But he did it, so that as v. 17 states, he could become a “merciful” high priest and sympathize with our struggle against temptation.
And so Jesus came down to us. He became human to the point of fighting temptation and to the point of dying in weakness. And v. 10 says that he did these things so he could be “the captain of our salvation.” The Greek term is archegos, and it is a picturesque term that was used for a variety of powerful figures. It could be used of a war hero who led his men into battle and ultimately to victory. Or it could be used of a pioneer, who goes into a new place and founds a city.
In this context, the idea is that of a trailblazer. Jesus went before us into the jungle, so to speak, of human temptation and ultimately death, and he cut a trail to glory. And he did it so that we could follow in his steps, so that we could also one day enjoy the incredible glory that God has waiting for us.
Maybe you are discouraged in your Christian walk. You are feeling the pain of life in a sin-cursed world, and you are hurting. Maybe you are fighting sickness or the fear of death. Maybe you are feeling the pain of other sinners. Or maybe you just feel exhausted in the struggle against sin. Take comfort in knowing that Christ has been in your shoes. He is sympathetic with your struggle.
And not only that, the fact that he has been there, means that something better awaits us. He has made a path for you to reach glory! And so see the eternal glory that is coming and press on!
But maybe you have never come to know Jesus as your personal Savior. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus is not the Savior of all people, only of those who have believed. Maybe you have always thought that it’s up to you to achieve a relationship with God. You’ve always thought that somehow you have to get up to him.
I hope you will see today that getting to God is impossible, so Jesus came down to us. He took the punishment that we deserve, so that we could receive salvation as a free gift rooted in grace. All you need to do to be saved is to simply come to Christ in faith. Stop trusting in yourself to get you to God and rest in him. If you have questions about that, I hope you will ask today and leave with a full understanding of why Jesus came and of all that he offers.
And so we have seen in v. 10 that Jesus demonstrated incredible love by coming down to us. But v. 10 also notes that behind his incredible act of love also stands the good and wise purpose of a sovereign God.
Again, both the Jews and the Greeks of the 1st century really struggled with the idea of Messiah dying as a man on the cross. Both thought that such actions were certainly below God. There had to be another way. Therefore, notice how v. 10 begins. The phrase “it was fitting” refers back to v. 9 and to Jesus humiliation. And the idea behind “fitting” is simply that God’s purpose was absolutely appropriate.
The author is going to go on to justify why it was appropriate, but for now he simply says that it was appropriate. And the only reason he gives is the nature of God, “for whom are all things and by whom are all things.” He is simply reminding us here that God is sovereign, and his purpose is infinitely higher than our own. Therefore, he sits in judgment on us, not vice versa.
This is a good reminder for our day because many people are offended by the truth of the gospel. They think it is reprehensible that God would judge sinners and the idea that our faith is centered around such a brutal act as crucifixion is absurd. And of course, they think that there are plenty of other things that God ought to do that are contrary to Scripture.
But God is God, and what he says is right because he says it is. And the gospel is truth and grace, because God says it is appropriate. But for those of us who have had our eyes opened through regeneration, we don’t believe in the wisdom of the gospel simply because God says it is right. We can see the wisdom and grace that are there. The gospel is an amazing testimony to God’s wisdom, power, and love.
And so as we celebrate the birth of Christ, his life, death, and resurrection, we should remember that ultimately all things are for God, and we must give him glory for what he has done.
In sum, v. 10 tells us that Jesus is our trailblazer. Verses 11–13 then add…
Jesus is our brother (vv. 11–13).
Jesus made incredible sacrifices in order to come down to our level, but have you ever done something really hard grudgingly? You are eager to just get it done and get out of there. Maybe you have a relative that just bothers you. But she is your cousin, and so even though she is crazy, you have to go see her. But as soon as you can out of there, you are gone.
If I were Jesus, I might have this attitude about identifying with man. I know I have to go down and be a man for a time, but as quick as I can, I’m going to get away from those miserable sinners and enjoy my glorious existence in heaven.
But that’s not what Jesus did. After all that he went through for us, and even after he rose again and ascended to the Father’s right hand, vv. 11–13 tell us that he continues to identify with us. When you consider who Jesus is and who we are, what these verses say about his identification with us is truly incredible.
We are all sons of God (v. 11a).
Verse 11 begins by stating our spiritual dependence on Jesus. He is the one who ultimately is sanctifying us. In the context of Hebrews, the author is probably imagining the preparations for a priest to serve in the presence of God. Therefore, the idea is that through the process of spiritual growth, we are being prepared for the glory that awaits us in the Kingdom.
But we won’t achieve that glory because of our discipline. Rather, in the ultimate sense, Jesus is the one who is sanctifying us. We are absolutely dependent on him.
And yet, the text states that we are also “of one” with him. The idea is that Jesus and his people have a common dependence on the Father. God of course created us, and then he determined that Jesus would become one of us. Therefore, Jesus stands with us before God has his sons.
Now ultimately, Jesus has a relationship to the Father that is very different from our own. He is self-existent and equal in glory. But this verse also states that he also identifies with humanity in our standing before God as his children, which is just incredible to ponder.
But lest we think that Jesus couldn’t possibly come down to such a low level, the text adds a second way he identifies with us.
Jesus proudly calls us his brothers (v. 11b–12).
Don’t raise your hand, but how many of you have a relative that embarrasses you? You have an uncle who is just strange, and he can’t keep his mouth shut. And so when you are in public with him, you are always worried about what is going to come out of his mouth. Therefore, as much as possible you try not to be identified with him.
In light of that picture, consider the infinite distance between Jesus and us, and then think about the fact that Jesus “is not ashamed to call us brethren.” Instead, he proudly identifies with us. And I want to emphasize that he continues to identify with us. Even today, Jesus maintains his human nature. He is still the God-man, and we are still his brothers.
Verse 12 then supports this fact by quoting from Psalm 22. Psalm 22 is a messianic psalm. The first 21 verses describe Jesus’ suffering on the cross. But then the psalm looks ahead to Jesus’ reign in glory. And our author quotes from v. 22 as proof that Jesus considers us his brothers.
And not only that, he is among us in the assembly. The Greek noun there is ekklesia, and it pictures here the assembly of God’s people. And so the author of Hebrews pictures Jesus in the congregation declaring God’s praise. He isn’t just over us; he is among us as our brother.
When I ponder this reality, I’m reminded again of David’s response to the greatness of God in Psalm 8, which is quoted in v. 6. “What is man that You are (so) mindful of him?” Why would God look at us with such incredible kindness?
Praise the Lord that Jesus calls us his brothers. Notice a 3rd way he identifies with us.
We trust the Father together (v. 13a).
Both quotations in v. 13 come from Isaiah 8. Isaiah wrote at a very difficult time in Israel’s history. He was called to preach the people, but God told him in chapter 6 that they would not listen to him, and they never did. He ministered among an ungodly people.
As a result, he watched as God judged the Northern Kingdom of Israel through the Assyrians who ravaged the Kingdom and carried the people away into captivity. In the midst of such hardship, Isaiah made the confession that is quoted here. He declared, “I will put My trust in Him,” speaking of God.
Isaiah was declaring that God would be faithful to the righteous remnant. He will vindicate his people. The author of Hebrews sees in Isaiah a type of Christ because Jesus is now the head of a righteous remnant. He has felt the same kind of rejection that Isaiah felt, and that the church continues to feel in this dark world.
And in the face of that rejection, Jesus cried out to the Father for help for himself and for us. The point the author is making is that Jesus came down to our level. He suffered alongside us and had to trust the Father in that pain. Again, Jesus is a man in every sense of the term. And nowhere is that more clear than in the fact that he endured our pain.
Therefore, we trust the Father together. A fourth way he identifies with us is…
Jesus loves us as his children (v. 13b).
This quotation comes from the next verse in Isaiah. Isaiah was originally talking about his two sons. Their names were full of significance regarding Isaiah’s confidence in God to ultimately fulfill his promises to Israel. His oldest son was named Shear-jashub, which means, “The remnant will return.” His second son’s name was Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “Hasten, booty, speedy spoil.” It looked forward to the spoils of war Israel would enjoy when God gave them victory.
Therefore, in this verse, Isaiah was expressing his confidence that God would do for him and his children what he had said he would do. Again, this is a type of Christ who also trusted God to deliver him from death and to give him and his people the Kingdom.
This quote again drives home the fact that Jesus suffered as a man, and that he identifies closely with us. We are his sons in addition to being his brothers. In the Gospel of John he also calls us his friends. Praise the Lord! Jesus is our brother.
And folks this means that we can look to him as so much more than just a ticket out of hell or a genie in a bottle who can meet our needs (4:15–16). He is sympathetic with our weakness, with our struggle against temptation, and with all of pains of this world. Therefore, we can come boldly to him and find comfort and grace. We can cry out to him as brother and a friend. If you are hurting today, I hope that you will run to Christ. He completely understands, he is sympathetic, and he is full of grace to help.
In sum, we see in this passage another rich perspective on the humanity of Christ and what it means for us. In particular, we see just how far Jesus went to identify with us and to lead us to glory. I hope that we will glorify God for his marvelous wisdom and love. And I hope that we will all run to Christ as our Savior who has provided salvation. And I also hope that we will run to him as our brother who sympathizes with our pain.