The True Man
The True Man
Seeing the signs ...
Are you the sort of person who pays much attention to warning signs?
When we were overseas a couple of months ago, I found myself paying much closer attention to warning signs than I think I normally do!
Don’t do this,
Stay away from this,
Only these people are allowed in here.
I saw them everywhere!
I don’t know whether they have more warning signs in South East Asia, or whether it was that because I was in unfamiliar territory, but I was generally keen to observe and heed whatever warnings were around.
I saw in a Malaysian newspaper article, a sign in a public laundromat warning that only Muslim people were allowed to wash their clothes there.
And then in Singapore, the warning signs are everywhere;,
Do this, you’ll get fined,
Do that, you’ll get fined,
Don’t do this, you’ll get fined!
I even bought a T-shirt for my daughter Heidi, that says “Singapore is a fine city”, and it has pictures of all the warning signs, and the corresponding fine you’ll pay if you ignore them!
A warning sign (v 1- 4)
There are some warnings that we tend to ignore. There was a sign at a military base in Malaysia that said “photos are prohibited”, and a little diagram of a person getting shot, so I took a photo of the sign!
But actually this warning, this one sounds like one we want to pay attention to, doesn’t it?
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away
For us it’s been a week since we were in Hebrews chapter 1, but for the original recipients of this letter it was just the last breath.
The author’s just finished saying that Jesus, God, the Son, is the final authoritative revelation from God,
That he’s a better word from God, and a better way to relate to God than any of the ways that God had provided in the past.
And then he showed from the Old Testament how much superior Jesus is to the angels, with a great litany of Old Testament quotes, leaving his readers in no doubt, that Jesus is a better way of understanding God than anything else they’d ever known.
So in the light of that which we have seen of Jesus, we must pay careful attention, so that we do not drift away.
Those of you looking at Hebrews in your Bible Study Groups will have got a sense of the very real temptation facing the original readers, to do just this, to drift.
To let go of Jesus,
To not hold so firmly,
To not live as if he isn’t, the final, authoritative word from God.
And we need to take this warning seriously.
I’m sure we’ve seen it play out in the lives of people we know.
Perhaps Jesus got crowded out by other things;,
Perhaps the cost of following Jesus became too great;, sticking out like a healthy thumb among all the sore thumbs meant getting too much attention.
Maybe we even know people who used to sit here right here with us on Sunday mornings,
Or people who used to join us in Bible study,
Or youth group,
Or young adults.
Maybe actually, it’s us. You look at your life, and you realise you’re on the edge of drifting away.
That the call that perhaps Jesus once had on your life, you’ve become deaf to, or at least, it’s getting harder and harder to hear.
Please see the warning sign;, We must pay the most careful attention. Listen to the God who has spoken finally and authoritatively in his Son, so that you do not miss out on this great salvation.
It’s Jesus, we’re told in chapter 1, who provides purification for sins.
It’s Jesus who takes the punishment that we deserve for our rebellion against God;, for living in God’s world with no regard for God.
If we drift from Jesus, there is no other alternative!
And the comparison shows just how serious the problem is. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?
the message spoken through angels, is another way of saying what the author said in 1 verse 1, that God spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament.
There was a belief in Jewish folklore that the angels were intermediaries when God gave the law to Moses at Mount Sinai. Deuteronomy 33 speaks of God being present there with his angels, and so over the centuries they kind of got read into the story a bit more.
But certainly the angels, the heavenly court, highlights the majesty of the Old Testament law, and so if you turned your back on what God said there, there were consequences;, just punishment as the author calls it.
But we’ve just had a chapter on how much greater Jesus is than angels,
And so if turning your back on the word of God that came through angels was to put yourself in a bad position,
How much worse, to turn your back on the Son?
To thumb your nose at the one whom God thinks is the best possible revelation of himself?
There is then, no escape, if we turn our back on Jesus. Not because God’s spiteful and vindictive, and he says, “well, either you listen to Jesus or you get it in the neck”, and not like some little kid who doesn’t get his way so he takes his bat and ball and goes home,
But if we ignore the salvation which was first announced by the Lord, and which 4 God also testified to, verse 4,
We’ve put ourselves at arms lengths from the means of salvation that God’s provided. There can be no escape from punishment.
What is it to neglect the warning?
But notice what it is to neglect this warning.
Verse 3, how shall we escape if we, ignore so great a salvation?
The danger is not just in wilfully rejecting Jesus,
Coming out as an militant atheist,
Those are dangers, sure! but the danger we’re warned about here, is simply to ignore, the forgiveness and reconciliation Jesus offers.
Here we’re being warned about being too busy, for Jesus,
Here the warning is about thinking that taking Jesus seriously is for someone else;,
It’s OK for mum and dad,
It’s fine for the wife and kids, but you know, I just never really,
how shall we escape if we, ignore so great a salvation?
There’s an old story in the vein of C S Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, about 3 devils who are about to sit their final exam before being let loose in the world to try and lead people to hell.
The first one comes in, and it’s just a single question exam; “How will you stop people trusting in Jesus?”
Quick as a flash he replies, “I’ll tell them there’s no God.”
The examining devil responds, “That’s not enough. People know in their heart that there is some-thing or some-one out there.
Next one comes in. Same question.
This one replies “I’ll tell people there’s no heaven.”
But once again the senior devil responds, “Deep in their hearts, people long for and hope for something more than this life, saying there’s no heaven is not enough.
And so the 3rd devil comes in, “How will you stop people trusting in Jesus?”
He thinks for a minute, “I’ll tell people, there’s no rush.”
“’A’ plus, off you go, do your worst.
Now, it’s just a made-up story of course, but we feel the weight of it, don’t we?
The author here warns us, not about wilful, hardened disobedience, maybe we’re much more attuned to that,
But about ignoring the great salvation that Jesus offers us,
Going on with life,
Throwing ourselves into enjoying all the good things that God gives us,
All the while imagining, “I don’t need Jesus,
I don’t need the forgiveness and reconciliation he offers”,
Not thinking about what an eternity separated from God and his blessings would be like.
To follow Jesus whole-heartedly will be costly, Hebrews is absolutely aware of that.
To ignore Jesus, though, to drift away, is even more costly.
Let’s see the warning sign. This is the first of what are called 5 warning passages in Hebrews,
Let’s hear the warning, and consider the salvation announced by the Lord, that is, from Jesus’ own mouth.
And in case anyone was wondering whether Jesus’ message of forgiveness can really be trusted, “go and check out the evidence”, the author says.
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
God made a point of interrupting the normal flow of events and history, to draw attention to what was happening in Jesus.
Even the non-Christian historians of the time, like Josephus, record that there was all kind of strange activity centred on Jesus.
That’s God, kind of banging on the window of our existence, saying, “please don’t miss what I’m doing here,
Please don’t ignore, what Jesus can offer you.”
This salvation comes through Jesus’ suffering before being exalted.
But what Jesus offers us, although it’s offered free to us, it came at a cost to Jesus.
Jesus achieved this great salvation by suffering.
You’ll see there the quotation from Psalm 8, which we read earlier, where David kind of examines humanity against the backdrop of the wonder of creation.
The author quotes from the Greek Old Testament. That was the Bible of the first century, and it’s why his quotation is a little different to what we read in Psalm 8. Our translation is taken straight from the Hebrew manuscripts, so don’t get put off by the minor differences in the wording.
And just by the way, if your memory is anything like mine, and you can’t remember where some stuff comes form in the Bible, be encouraged! Look at how he quotes it!
But there is a place where someone has testified:
Pretty sure if you go to the Bible College SA open day on Saturday you’ll discover that’s not really the preferred citation method.
But if that’s you sometimes, don’t worry! You’re in good company!
Just so you know, it probably wasn’t that he couldn’t remember. The philosopher Philo of Alexandria was known to quote references like this, and this is perhaps a nod to him, but it can still make us feel better!
But here’s a Psalm that Old Testament Israel understood to be talking about them, humanity in general, in the light of everything that God had made;,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them
Why are you so concerned about a person?
We are puny, in the world.
You know the story of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson out on a camping trip, and in the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and nudges his companion.
"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replies, "I see millions of stars."
“And what does that tell you?"
“Well,” Watson says, “"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and billions of planets."
"Meteorologically, I can tell that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."
"Theologically, I can see that God is very powerful and that we are small and insignificant.
"What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes was silent for a moment, and then replied, "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!"
But Watson was right! God is very powerful, and we are small and insignificant.
But the author of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, understands this Psalm, not only to refer to humanity in general, but to refer to Jesus specifically.
Now, to help us understand the original scope of the Psalm our Bible translators have translated the words man, and him,
With the more inclusive mankind, and them.
That’s how Old Testament Israel understood it; all of us.
But Hebrews is saying this Psalm tells us something about Jesus, a particular man.
So consider the original language and the singular pronouns. The ESV Bible puts it like this, What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
The great message of the Psalm is true generally of humanity, that is how God sees us, even though we’re puny in relation to the enormity of creation, but it’s even more true of Jesus, who was for a time, humiliated,
But then exalted, and everything placed under his feet.
Jesus is so much greater than the angels, you can’t read chapter 1 and not come away with that!
But he achieves our great salvation, by being made for a little while lower than the angels;
It was necessary for Jesus to suffer, in order to be glorified.
Psalm 8 is about people.
But it’s also about a person.
Jesus is the fulfilment of humanity,
If you like, Jesus is the truest human.
He experienced the frailties of human existence,
The one who is God, and over all creation,
Became man, entered into creation,
So that he can return to his exalted position, taking, us, with him.
Because Jesus shared in our human nature, what he achieves as a human, becomes our experience too.
I’m sure you noticed that in the days leading up to the grand final last week, lots of people climbed on board the Crows bandwagon! My Facebook feed was filled with pictures of people who hadn’t said anything footy related for years, suddenly updating their profile pictures with Crows colours, and the shops sold out of scarves and guernseys, and all that.
And then since Richmond won, everyone’s getting on the Tigers bandwagon, sharing in their glory, basking in the glow of what they achieved.
Well, the author here invites us to get on the Jesus bandwagon.
What he’s achieved, becomes ours.
Now when you go and buy a Crows scarf and beanie, you don’t actually become one of them, do you? You don’t get to share in their glory because you’ve actually become an AFL player.
But with Jesus it is exactly that. Because the eternal son of God became a human, took on human nature, that’s why we get to reap the benefits of what he achieves.
See verse 9, we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Do you see the bandwagon?
Jesus death is beneficial for all of us, everyone, as the author says, because he was made lower than the angels for a little while.
Jesus is able to provide the purification for sins that we saw last week in chapter 1, only, because, God became a man.
If you weren’t here with us last week, I hope you’ve had a chance to listen to the talk on Hebrews 1, I don’t want you to be foundation-less for the rest of the series.
But we saw there, the great lengths that the author goes to, to show us that Jesus, the Son of God, shares his nature with his Father.
That’s not to say that they’re the same person, we know that’s not true, but they share the same nature and divinity. And I used that very technical word, they’re the same stuff.
The Son shares the nature of God with his father.
But now we see that chapter 2 sits in parallel to chapter 1, and that while in chapter 1 the great truth is that Jesus shares his Father’s divine nature,
In chapter 2 the wonderful truth is that Jesus shares our human nature.
And the bandwagon is open to all. The benefits of what Jesus achieves as a human, are available to all humans.
What Jesus achieves as a man, benefits us (v 10 – 18)
And so the author then turns his attention to what Jesus achieved for us, as a human.
Remember his goal is that we don’t ignore what Christ has done for us! that we don’t drift.
He wants us to be very clear on what Jesus has achieved, for us to fix our attention on that, and be convinced that Jesus is worth persevering with.
Jesus, the man, makes salvation possible (v 10)
And we’ve kind of touched on it, but he comes back to the point, that Jesus, the man, makes it possible for us to be saved, that is to escape the just punishment for our sin and rebellion against God.
Jesus makes salvation possible. That’s what’s behind describing him as the pioneer of our salvation.
We tend to think of a pioneer as the first person to do something. Amelia Earhardt was a pioneer aviator;, she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.
The thinking here is not just the first one, but the one who makes it possible for everyone else to follow. And in some ways the pioneer aviators, did that, didn’t they?
But don’t think so much about the person flying across the ocean on their own, but imagine an explorer, leading a group of people through the jungle,
Hacking at vines with their machete,
Clearing a path,
Showing the way forward,
Making it possible for everyone else to follow.
Without that pioneer there is no path through the jungle.
Without Jesus, there is no salvation. That’s why he’s called the pioneer.
Again, do we see why, to not hear, God speak in Jesus,
Why ignoring Jesus, however politely, is so dangerous!
He is the pioneer of salvation,
He’s the one, the only one who can say “come this way, and I’ll lead you through.”
Jesus, the man, leads us from suffering to glory (v 10)
But what do you notice about the way that Jesus gets us to glory?
The path to glory is through suffering, isn’t it?
We’ve seen this already, Jesus was made low before being exalted, but now because we know that Jesus is our pioneer and we follow where he goes, we see that suffering before glory will be our experience.
it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered
It’s the same pattern presented right through the Bible;,
Salvation and glory, are the sequel to suffering.
it was fitting the author says,
That is, it was in keeping, with the very nature of the fabric of the world as God created it, that Jesus must taste suffering before glory.
And remember that this is the bandwagon that we’re invited onto, salvation and glory comes through suffering.
If that was Jesus’ experience,
If it was right, and fitting, and in keeping with the principle stitched into the created order, that Jesus suffered and then was glorified, if he’s our pioneer, why would we think that we could reach salvation and glory without suffering?
Salvation and glory, are the sequel to suffering.
I’ve found myself watching old episodes of Yes, Prime Minister recently. But I feel that I’ve only got, kind of half the picture, because I’ve started with the sequel, not the original series.
If it’s fitting that the pathway to salvation and glory is through suffering, then it would be a mistake to suggest as some Christians do, that we could bypass suffering, and go straight to glory.
If we’re on the Jesus bandwagon, which is the only way to be saved from our rejection of God,
And if he is our pioneer,
And if his path was suffering first, and then glory, how could we possibly expect that our experience would be any different?
Jesus being made perfect doesn’t mean that he was lacking anything, but that his work needed to be completed,
Jesus needed to suffer, not for his own sin, but for ours.
And when he had done that, there was nothing left to do.
Jesus shares our nature (v 11 – 13)
And so the author then expands on his argument about the close relationship between Jesus and the rest of humanity. He’s already spoken of Jesus as the true humanity that the rest of humanity can follow through suffering to glory,
But now we get some more detail on the implications of Jesus’ humanity, and what that means for his relationship with us.
He speaks of us being part of the same family as Jesus, verse 11.
And then he goes to the Old Testament, as I’m sure you’ve already noticed, he likes doing.
And he quotes Psalm 22, which is perhaps more well-known to us as the source of Jesus’ words on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,
And that fits with the author’s purpose doesn’t it, to show suffering first, and then glory.
So he quotes from later in the Psalm, picturing Jesus as singing God’s praises, in the gathering of God’s people whom he calls his brothers and sisters.
And the assembly there is the word for “church.” Jesus pictures himself, turning up to TMB on a Sunday morning and taking part in our service!
Jesus identification with us is such that he’d be quite happy to turn up here and join with us, as we sing God’s praises.
Jesus turning up might make the preacher a little bit nervous!
But he’s united with us, joining in with our praise of God.
Then there’s 2 lines from Isaiah 8, both of which, I think are highly unusual to be put on the lips of Jesus.
Isaiah 8 is all about how Isaiah was to witness to the people of Israel, not only through the message that came from God, but also just through the life of Isaiah and his family.
And so Isaiah says there, I will wait for the LORD,
, I will put my trust in him.
He’s saying, “what other people do is up to them, but as God’s person, I will put my trust in him.
And the second one, Here am I, and the children God has given me. That’s the language of making yourself available to God. It’s “do with me what you will,
Send me where you want me to go.”
And you may know that in Isaiah 6, these very words, “Here am I”, that was Isaiah’s response to Gods’ call on his life, his commissioning for ministry.
Do you see what’s happening in Hebrews? These statements that are the marker of faithful and obedient, but very ordinary people, they’re put on Jesus lips; I will put my trust in him,
Here am I
Jesus is saying, “I’m just doing what any faithful, obedient, member of God’s people does.”
Remember last week, The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word,
But he’s happy just to be counted as one of, the people of God.
We have politicians who don’t even think they should have to be treated like regular people.
The eternal Son of God says, “Oh yeah, count me in. I’ll trust in God just like they do.
I’ll make myself available, just like they do.”
Jesus became like us, to atone for our sin (v 14 – 17)
And Jesus’ willingness to become like us, was for a particular purpose; to make atonement for sin.
See verse 17, For this reason he had to be made like them, m fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
He makes the same point in verse 14;,
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death, —that is, the devil
You might know that we often call the Son of God taking on flesh and blood as a human the incarnation. Which is a bit of a religiousy sounding word, isn’t it?
One day, though, I learnt that the word incarnation came from the Latin word carne meaning meat. Like chilli con carne, chilli with meat.
It’s a bit less technical and religiousy sounding, isn’t it? Jesus became meat.
It’s brutally ordinary, and everyday.
Jesus took on ordinary, everyday, human nature,
Not just, to show his love,
Not just, to be an example,
Certainly not because we had anything to commend ourselves to God,
But Jesus shared in our humanity, to pay the price for our sin.
See verse 14 says he became human to make an end of death,
And since death comes from sin,
Verse 17, to make an end of sin, means Jesus can make an end of death.
Of course, Jesus becoming fully human in every way, doesn’t mean that Jesus took on sinful human nature. Our human nature is stained by sin. Every part of us is broken in some way, by our rebellion against God.
If Jesus had a sinful human nature he wouldn’t be able to make atonement for the sins of the people, because he’d have to make atonement for his own sin.
No, Jesus’ human nature wasn’t stained by sin. But it was a real human nature. It was the real human nature. What humanity is supposed to be!
The other thing we want to to bear in mind, is that for the Son to become fully human in every way, doesn’t mean that he stopped being God. He didn’t give up his divine nature.
The wonder of the incarnation is that it’s God who is with us in human flesh. If Jesus stops being God, there’s no point to the incarnation.
And if you think, “hang on, that’s a bit weird”, yes it is weird! It’s only ever happened once in the whole of eternity!
But it happened for this purpose, that sin might be defeated.
Sometimes Christians like to pull apart the letters in atonement
, and define it as “at one ment” which is not proper English! But let’s not let that stop us!
Atonement is putting us at one.
Us and God, once separated and estranged because of our sin,
We were once deserving of God’s anger at sin.
Jesus turns away God’s anger, and makes us at one.
And Jesus is able to do that, because he became at one with us.
What the high priest in the Old Testament did in providing atonement for sins, was only symbolic, was only temporary. Jesus achieves it in reality.
Last Sunday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Jewish people around the world remember it still. It’s the day prescribed in Leviticus 16 for the high priest to make atonement for the sins of the people.
What’s significant about the Day of Atonement is that it was a reminder that the sacrifices offered every day, and week, and month, they were never able to truly atone for sin.
Ordinarily, the person bringing the sacrifice had to stand far off, from the presence of God.
But on the day of atonement, the high priest, as representative of the people, entered right in to the presence of God in the Most Holy Place.
So even this week, if we looked at our calendars, or read the news, we’ve had a reminder that sin needs to be atoned for.
We were broken by sin and powerless against it. How on earth were we ever to reach the great heights of ruling under God in the world to come? To fulfil our Psalm 8 mandate?
We’d be able to do Psalm 8 if we didn’t keep making a mess of things!
Well, because Christ became one on us, and made an end of sin, we can follow him into that purpose that God intended for us.
And part of Jesus’ merciful priestly ministry,
Part of what he is able to do for us because he became one of us, is to provide help in the face of temptation.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
We’ve already seen that the great temptation for the original readers of Hebrews, was to, step back form Jesus, to drift, to blend in with the world around them.
What a great encouragement, that in those moments of temptation, these Hebrew Christians could look to Jesus, and know that standing in the presence of God,
Interceding for them, as a faithful high priest, was one who had known and experienced temptation, and had overcome it.
Why do I avoid giving advice to women who are about to give birth?!
I’ve never done it!
I wouldn’t be especially sympathetic!
I wouldn’t know what’s expected.
But actually, even just seeing another mother with a young baby I think is an encouragement to the expecting mum;, Look at her! Someone else has got through this!
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Friends, someone else has got through this.
Who better to be your representative in the presence of God?
Who better to be your pioneer, hacking their way through the jungle of life, saying, “come on, follow me”, than the one who suffered when he was tempted
Do you remember the Joan Osborne song, One of Us?
What if God was one of us? she asked
Well Joan, I’ve got news for you!
Or think of a different song.
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus.
He absolutely does.