- Keep the Ch 1 ideas close to mind because without them, you’ll drift away from the true teaching. And the teaching that Christ gave us is no mere babbling. It’s serious stuff man. (vv 1-4)
- Christ is the author of our salvation. His sacrifice is grace poured out by God onto us because His suffering is instead of us. This suffering has made Him a perfect Savior (vv9-12)
- Christ is the Son, we are the children of God. Although He calls us brothers, we are not the same as sons. The son is one, huios Theou, and we are children of God teknia Theou. The difference between the two is like Mercedes vs Mercedes, where the first is the factory of Mercedes, while the second is a car that bears the mark of Mercedes.
- The reason why Christ is like us, in flesh, is so that He could be qualified to do the work of a high priest who brings atonement from the people before God. (vv14-18)
- His part in feeling temptation is in him not rejecting the cross to fast-forward to the crown. Instead, he resisted that jump to crown and took the cross. Christ’s jump to power was a very viable option for him and this is why it was a relevant temptation, just as relevant temptation for us is to: lie, steal, hate, cheat, covet, be careless etc. (v 18)
Buried between Chapter 1 and most of Chapter 2 is a very interesting turn in thoughts, from theology to application. Verses 1-4 serve as a hinge that connects chapters 1 and 2. Being a pivotal segment, it is natural to look at both wings of thought as a funnel that focuses our thoughts and attention onto this short section.
The big idea
Chapter 1 and most of Chapter 2 hinge around the ideas in vv 1-4. In this section the preacher switches from an academic, philosophical explanation of the nature of Christ and his appointed task toward a call to inward awareness of the listener: “Be careful where you walk so you don’t screw up on this important idea: Christ is God in flesh, here to talk to you and call you to an amazing symphony of Understanding and Application, that weave up together into a communal diary that is brimming with a life so glorified that only God could achieve… and He is, by you being acutely aware of his great presence in you as a person, and in you as a community.”
My dilemma: Personal reflection alone or being open to learn from others
While going through the materials on this chapter I was faced with a couple of interesting ideas: studying the text vs reading commentaries; and an idea about the importance of training that came from a movie on tv about some surfers in Hawaii.
My first interesting idea about preparing this message was the battle within me to spend as much time as possible in personal study and reflection on Hebrews 2. There are some great methods of dissecting the text in order to get the most of it, but that would take up time I don’t have. On the other hand, ignoring what smarter guys before me saw in Hebrews would be a very dumb thing to do. So I took up the Interpretation commentary on Hebrews and found some very encouraging and sharp perspectives on this text. I wish I could take up Word Biblical Commentary too but… time is a problem. Anyway, let’s dig in.
The sandwitch structure: bread first
Chapter 1 told us about the key figure of Christ, as the unique Son of God, God himself in flesh, who speaks to us directly and teaches us of salvation and holy living. This can be the bottom slice of breat.
The top part of the sandwitch, the second slice of bread, is in vv. 5-18. Here, the message is more or less the same, a continuation of Chapter 1. Or if you’re not hungry, you can use the idea of a ladder, where one side of the ladder is Chapter 1, and the other side is Chapter 2, while the top of the ladder is vv 1-4.
So what’s the bread of vv 5-18? It’s actually got two parts. So this sandwich has whole-wheat bread. Enjoy. J
vv. 5-9: Jesus seen as a victim vs Jesus as believed to be King of Kings
The preacher here continues to build the argument started in Chapter 1, that Christ is a lot more than angels or humans. He’s completely unique.
The interesting thing in these verses is that the preacher quotes Psalm 8, where, the psalmist talks of humanity in general as being lower than the angels, but it is people that are crowned with the glory of being created in the image of God. But the preacher here sees Psalm 8 as a messianic psalm. He completely changes the meaning of the psalm. We could say that he screwed up on the context and misquoted the psalm. But, from a wider context of the entire Old and New Testament, every single page revolves around God’s redemptive plan plaid out in Christ. This preacher is a bold guy. His deep focus on Christ allows him to see Christ everywhere. In Psalm 8 too.
The key idea however, is 8-9: Yet at the present time, we don’t really see that the world is governed by Jesus. But, we do see JESUS, crowned because of his suffering. The nuances in the Greek original of this text build quite a bit of suspense like: What we see…. What we actually see…. What we truly and clearly see… My dear church, what we do see is JESUS, crowned…”
Why the text builds up so much anticipation and tension here? It is easy for us to look at the world and conclude that it’s a mess. Crime rates go up, standard of living goes down, war or rumors of war are everywhere. It’s hard to be optimistic and claim that over such a messy, crazy, corrupt self-destructive people rules a good God who loves us all. When we are emotionally engaged with the surroundings, what we see is what we perceive as the only reality. We see images of suffering/evil/unfairness and we conclude that the world is going downhill.
It’s an interesting thing, images. A week ago I had a project to analyze a client’s website by tracking how visitors interact with the site, and based on these findings, to suggest a redesign so that more visitors would turn into buyers on the site. Thanks to technology we can track where they click, where their eyes are focused and what segments of the webpage get ignored. In just about any analysis I’ve done or read about, people most of the time look at big bright elements on the page: images, subtitles, buttons etc. And these big bright elements in our world are news of corruption, poverty, suffering, desperation. No wonder we feel stuck.
But, there is light at the end of the tunnel only if we decide to focus on the text on the page, if we decide to actually read what the story is about and look beyond the bright images and buttons. As the preacher says, once we open our minds to what we’ve already heard, once we stop being shallow observers of the world and look at Christ, we remember that Jesus does receive his glory because of his suffering. He is ruler of everything. It may not appear so, but this is only because we see things from our created perspective. Outside creation, outside the linear existence in time, Christ IS at the right hand of the Father, and he has all his enemies under-foot. Let’s pause here with the idea of visible vs faith-based perspective on the world and quickly jump forward to the rest of the chapter.
Fast forward to 10-18: The Christ who suffered
Packed within the point of vv. 8-9 is the rest of the chapter, vv 10-18 (a sandwitch within a sandwitch), where the preacher depicts Christ as a liberator who storms in the prison, kills Satan who keeps us locked up under threat of death, and sets us free from bondage. Also, the preacher depicts Christ as the high priest who saves us from doom by bringing a perfect sacrifice at the heavenly altar, and once for all solves the problem of our sins.
This compound picture of Christ shows us just how complex salvation is, and how wonderful Christ is. We can’t see Christ as savior without understanding that salvation was a violent act. Yet within this violent salvation, we cannot forget that Christ is the compassionate high priest who is made suitable to be our savior because he already understands what suffering is.
Such deep understanding of Christ the Savior shapes the way we behave. At one hand, we learn to be shrewd like snakes but harmless as sheep, and yet on the other hand we understand when is the right time to speak up and challenge the powers that be, like Paul challenged the rulers in Philippi to come down and apologize for treating a Roman citizen disgracefully. This wisdom for life springs from a deep understanding and knowledge of Christ. Our theology becomes our life. The better we are at it, the better we can live a life that is worthy of Christ.
This Savior who is made suitable to be high priest by his personal suffering is meeting us where we are, in our suffering. The sacrifice of Christ makes our suffering a communal act with Christ. We don’t suffer in isolation. Whatever we feel: pain, anger, bitterness, betrayal… Christ has been there, he knows what betrayal is. He knows what pain is. This too should affect our life, lest we get stuck in despair and self-pity that nobody understands us, nobody cares for us, nobody loves us. That’s a lie the Devil implants in our minds.
Stepping back to vv 8-9: The Christ known by faith alone
Now that we have the theology of the Suffering Servant who was made suitable to be the high priest through his personal suffering, we don’t have to focus on the images and buttons that speak of doom and gloom. Now we must apply what the text says, what we’ve heard about Christ… and live it out.
What we do see, what we actually see in this mess of a world, what we really see as we live out our life within the Church, what we truly see… is Christ our compassionate savior and Lord.
The preacher in Hebrews is challenging his listeners to consider the teachings of Christ as a tool for living.
Stepping back to vv 1-4: Closing the sandwiched and onto the meat: Theology for life
At one side, with Chapter 1 speaking about Christ as the unique son of God, God himself in the flesh, and on the other side vv 5-18 speaking of the same Christ as our Savior who had to suffer to death in order to provide us with salvation, we are now back to the meat of the issue. If chapters 1 and 2 were two equal sides of a ladder, vv 1-4 are at the top of the ladder. These verses are the focal point of the first two chapters.
So why are they so important: Because they take the deep, vibrant, energetic teaching of Christ, and set it as the foundation of proper Christian living. The structure of these two chapters is arranged in such a way that there are several questions and several answers the preacher helps us with today:
- What does theology have to do with Christian ethical living? You can’t really live ethically as a Christian without a clear and deep understanding the person of Christ and the act of salvation.
- Is there spirituality outside a dedicated, communal following of what the Bible teaches? Not really. Nobody exists in a vacuum. We are all members of a single body. What one does affects the other. When an individual has an issue with following a clear biblical teaching, the entire body suffers.
- Can I grow in holy living without growing in my understanding of Christ? Not really. It is our focus on Christ, our dedication to know Christ more that results in an internal desire to grow more like Him. Learning who Christ is helps us understand how we ought to become.
Wrapping things up
We start the journey at v1 with a warning of “Don’t forget this” and pass through the rest of the chapter to understand that “this” is in fact the understanding that Christ is the God-in-flesh who provided us with salvation by undergoing violent suffering. We return back to vv 1-4 again to conclude that proper theology affects our ethical living, and our desire for ethical living spurs us to grow theologically so we can better know “What Would Jesus Do.”
In the movie I saw about the surfers and their training, in one moment, one of the surfers was caught up in an underwater current and was trapped. With just moments separating her from drowning, instead of panicking, she did what she was taught to do, what she was trained to do, and got out of the deep water safely. At that moment, when the going got tough, she had the tools to look past the immediate danger, fall back on her training, and do the right. Her good training helped her not to wonder what to do next. The right thing was so embedded in her that it was a reflex reaction to push off properly and swim to safety.
We’ve all had problems in life. We’ve all been robbed from the joy of the knowledge of Christ. In those moments, when the bad images on a page steal our focus from what the text says, we must fall back to what we’ve been trained to do: focus our eyes on Jesus, the God-in-flesh, our High Priest, our Savior. Once we remember who Christ is and who we are in Christ, problems seem different, less scary, more manageable.
This doesn’t mean that life won’t be hard. It means that difficulties in life should not paralyze us, they should not prevent us from acting Christ-like. By trying to figure out how to deal with these problems, we go back to Christ, to know him more, so we can practice Christianity better. It is this entangled, inter-woven role of theology and ethical living that we have as a recipe for a good christian life. It is this complex simplicity of following Christ that we call sanctification, or deification… or simply growing in Christ-likeness.