Friday, April 8

Friday, April 8

Reader: “For only as a human being could he die,”

Response: “and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.”

Scripture: Hebrews 2:10-18

God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. For he said to God,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.

    I will praise you among your assembled people.”

He also said,

“I will put my trust in him,”

    that is, “I and the children God has given me.”

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Some thoughts:

Several years ago I had the opportunity to speak on Christianity to middle schoolers in an exclusive private secular school in San Diego. A Rabbi, an Imam, and a Priest were also speakers in the series. (I know it sounds like the beginning of a joke!) I presented this idea to the students: You had all the power in the world to do anything you could imagine. You made a tiny little world run by a colony of ants. And you needed to communicate with the ants since they were having trouble getting along. What would be the best way to communicate with them to help solve their problem? After several ‘other world’ ideas, one student said, “The best way to connect with the ants would be to become an ant since you had that power. The class thought that would be a good idea. And then I asked them, “How do you think the ants would respond?” I will never forget one little girl’s answer, “We’d kill you because we don’t want you telling us what to do.” That’s a picture of Christianity. God became a human being, one of us to solve our alienation from each other and from him.  We responded by killing him on the cross, but he rose from the dead to provide a way for us to get back to God.

This passage in Hebrews carries that same message. Human beings have a fatal sin problem which alienates them from their Creator. The sin problem makes us slaves to death. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to solve it. Nothing. The sacrificial deaths of animals was a type, but did not solve the problem. Sin causes death and fear of death causes sin. That fear leads to bondage to sin. Philo, a Jewish philosopher during the time of Christ, made the observation that “nothing is so calculated to enslave the mind as a fear of death.” (The recent pandemic has certainly proved that statement to be true.) I’ve seen people paranoid with fear of death.

The only way to solve the sin and alienation problem would be for a perfect sinless human being to die to break the power of the devil and the fear of death. Sin brings death, but if you have no sin, you have no death. But if you die with no sin, death is defeated byu God. God couldn’t die simply as God and solve the human sin problem. Only by being completely human in every way, and being sinless and being completely God in every way and dying could the power of the devil and sin be broken. The fact that the Temple curtain was ripped open giving humans direct access to God proved that God the Father accepted the sacrificial death of his perfect human Son of God. If Jesus wasn’t truly and completely God in sinless human form, the cross would be worthless. His death would be worthless. Our lives would be without any hope ever. The resurrection proves the deity and humanity of Jesus.

But Christ’s humanity also means that the Son completely identifies with humans in every possible way having suffered and being subjected to everything normal human beings go through. The result is he is able to help his human brothers and sisters in everything we face. He is our faithful High Priest interceding on our behalf as one who knows and understands. Rest in him today in every situation.

Music: “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor”     St. Luke Cathedral     Choir of King’s College

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,

All for love’s sake becamest poor;

Thrones for a manger didst surrender,

Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,

All for love’s sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,

All for love’s sake becamest man;

Stooping so low, but sinners raising

Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,

All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,

Saviour and King, we worship thee.

Emmanuel, within us dwelling,

Make us what thou wouldst have us be.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,

Saviour and King, we worship thee.


Lord Jesus Christ, Thou wast poor and in misery, a captive and forsaken as I am. Thou knowest all men’s distress; Thou abidest with me when all others have deserted me. Thou doest not forget me, but seekest me. Thou willest that I should know thee and turn to thee. Lord, I hear thy call and follow thee; do thou help me.                    ―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.91