Jesus Came to Suffer and Sympathize (Hebrews 2:5-18)

nativity scene

Big Idea: Jesus became one of us to come after us.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Chronicles of Narnia. If you’re a reader, I recommend it.

In the final book, Lucy makes a profound statement about Christmas: “Yes … In our world, too, a Stable once held something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Think about that. Christmas is about God the Son, the creator and sustainer of this world, the one who holds everything together, becoming human. It is more than anyone can comprehend.

And so this Christmas we’re asking a simple question: why? Why did God the Son become human? Last week, Nathan looked at the first part of Hebrews, which tells us that Jesus came as God’s final revelation. Jesus came to speak to us. God sent Jesus to personally communicate to us. It’s one of the major reasons why Jesus came to earth.

But today the writer to the Hebrews helps us understand a little bit more about Jesus.

Lower Than the Angels

Hebrews 1 makes the argument that Jesus is far superior to the angels. That should be pretty obvious to us when you think about it.

Jesus eternally preexisted. He isn’t a created being like the angels. In fact, he created the angels. Angels worship him. He’s also been exalted by God. Hebrews 1:13 says, “And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” Jesus sits on the throne of heaven and rules the world with righteousness. It’s impossible to make too much of Jesus.

But then chapter 2 tells us something surprising: for a while, Jesus became lower than the angels. Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus…”

Let’s try to follow the reasoning. Beginning with the birth of Jesus, there was a short 30-some year period — “a little while” — in which the one who was higher than the angels, the ruler of the angels, the one adored by the angels, served by the angels, became lower than the angels. He became a man.

Why Did Jesus Do It?

I think you’ll agree that’s quite a demotion. Why did Jesus do it? That’s the question we want to ask today.

And this passage gives us a very encouraging answer. Why did Jesus become human? This passage gives us kind of a two-part answer.

Jesus become human so that he could be one of us… (2:10-13)

God can do a lot of things. There are some things God can’t do. He can’t contradict his nature. He can’t sin, for instance, or do something illogical. And until the birth of Jesus, God couldn’t say from experience that he knew what it was like to be human. God knew what it was like to be human, but he never had experience being one of us.

But that changed with the birth of Jesus, and it’s staggering. Verses 10 to 13 talk about the fact that God the Son became human. Not only did God become human, but he did his best work through suffering, according to verse 10. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” John Stott, a famous preacher, once said:

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross … In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? … He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.

For those of you who have wounds, God the Son knows what it’s like. He has wounds too. He has entered this world of suffering.

Verses 11 to 13 drive this home. Jesus is not just God. He is God, but he is more. Jesus has become our brother. He’s not just above us. He’s come alongside us.

That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”

And again,

“Behold, I and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:11-13)

We’ve been watching season 4 of The Crown. In one scene, the Queen and Prince Phillip go out to meet the crowds at Buckingham Palace. An aide says, “We’ve identified and prepared a few suitable members of the general public for you to meet.” Prince Philip says, “Let’s get this over with.” And then they go into the crowd for a few polite handshakes before returning to the palace.

I know that’s fiction, but it’s also how you would expect royalty to act. Is that what God has done? No. Hebrews says that Jesus actually chooses to call us brothers. He quotes Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8. Psalm 22 talks about the psalmist being vindicated so that he can take his place among God’s people gathered in worship. Hebrews applies this to Jesus. Jesus came so that he could take his place as one of us. God didn’t do a meet and greet and then take off. God the Son became one of us so that he could take his place among us, so that he could call you his brother, his sister. That’s what Jesus came to do. And even better, he’s not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, according to verse 11. He loves to identify with us.

Dane Ortlund writes, “Jesus had zero sin. But he did experience everything else that it means to live as a real human being in this fallen world: the weakness of suffering, temptation, and every other kind of human limitation.”

Here’s how Max Lucado puts it:

Angels watched as Mary changed God’s diaper. The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons.…

Jesus may have had pimples. He may have been tone-deaf. Perhaps a girl down the street had a crush on him or vice-versa. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing’s for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.

For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.

To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? He truly became one of us. Jesus became human. He became our elder brother.

And it’s not just for the sake of identifying with us either. You get little statements about what this does for us in this passage: “bringing many sons to glory … the founder of their salvation” (2:10); “he who sanctifies” (2:11). “He became like us so that we might become like him,” says Richard Phillips. “He came to where we were to take us to where he came from so that we might become like him in his glory.”

Don’t miss this. Jesus became lower than the angels at Christmas because he wanted to identify with us. “He who was the all-powerful Lord, who cast the stars to their appointed rounds, who sat above the globe spinning it through his powerful word” (George Guthrie) loved us so much that he became one of us. That’s one of the reasons that we celebrate Christmas.

Why did Jesus become human? Jesus become human so that he could be one of us. But it gets even better. The writer of Hebrews continues with an explanation of what becoming one of us allowed Jesus to do. Jesus became human so that he could be one of us…

…So that he could go after us (2:14-18)

God becoming human at the Bethlehem stable allowed God the Son do some things for us that would have otherwise been impossible.

In the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus said something profound. It’s so important that I want to read it a couple of times so that we all get it. Here it is: “What has not been assumed cannot be restored.”

What he means is that to deal with humanity’s problems, God had to become human himself.

That’s exactly what this passage tells us.

First, he broke the devil’s hold and liberated captive humanity (2:14). Because he’s human, he could die in our place as our substitute. And even better, he was able as a human to defeat death’s grip on humanity and to defeat Satan so that we could be set free.

Second, he made propitiation for God’s holy wrath against our sin (2:17). 900 years ago, Anselm explained how Jesus was able to pay for our sins:

It could not have been done unless man paid what was owing to God for sin. But the debt was so great that, while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that the same person must be both man and God. Thus it was necessary for God to take manhood into the unity of his person, so that he who in his own nature ought to pay and could not should be in a person who could.

Jesus as God was able to pay the penalty for our sins; Jesus as human was able to pay the penalty on our behalf.

Finally, he became a merciful and faithful high priest who is able to help us who now experience temptation (2:18). Jesus is ideally suited to help us because he’s been through it too. He knows temptation better than we do, because he experienced all of it and didn’t give into it.

Friends, this is the reason behind Christmas. Jesus became one of us to come after us — so that he could identify with us and do everything necessary to save us.

That is why we read in the gospels about Jesus hanging out with sinners and not being ashamed to call them his kin. That is why he delighted in eating and drinking with them. That is why he was willing to die for them. He became like you; for you he died.

How do you respond to that kind of love? You receive it with empty hands of faith right now and come to him.

Lord, we can’t get over that Jesus became one of us so that he could come after us. He is not ashamed to call us his kin. He has done everything we needed done but couldn’t do for ourselves.

May all of us experience that love today and respond by loving him who has loved us so lavishly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus Came to Suffer and Sympathize (Hebrews 2:5-18)
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada