“The Christmas Cure, part 4”                                      December 23, 2012

Hebrews 2:5-18

 

We’ve spent the four Sundays of Advent studying Hebrews chapters 1 and 2.

This morning we come to the end of chapter 2 and one of the most magnificent

   presentations of the incarnation in Scripture—one of great Christmas passages.

 

INTRO:  Someone was once telling me about a hike he took in Rocky Mountains.

And he was describing the beauty of the scenery on the way to the top.

   He said we came to a view that was so amazing, I stopped and got out my camera.

   I thought I had never seen anything like it in my life.  Took lots of pictures.

Kept hiking, and then came around the next bend, and there was another view—

   even better.  Stopped and got out my camera.  Thought it couldn’t be any better.

But guess what, another mile up the trail, another photo-worthy view that took

   his breath away—and it was like that all the way to the top.

 

That’s a good description of this passage that we’ve just read.

In these verses, the writer of Hebrews presents us with a mountain peak.

   That mountain peak is the incarnation.  What is the incarnation?

   You know what chili con carne is, don’t you?  Chili with meat.

The incarnation is the eternal Son of God taking on human meat and bones.

   And Christ didn’t just take on the physical aspect of our humanity—

   he took on a whole human nature when he was born at Christmas.

 

The incarnation is the great mystery of the Christian faith.

   Yes, we would say that the cross is the focal point of our faith.

    It is by the cross that our sins are forgiven.  Jesus came to die.

But he could not have died if he had not first been born a man.

   Without the manger, the cross would not have been possible.

 

The incarnation is the beautiful mountain in this passage. 

   And as we climb it, there is presented before us beauty upon beauty.

Around every bend the writer of Hebrews heaps rich and wonderful descriptions of

   the man Christ Jesus before us, and we could stop and gaze at each of them.

One of the views in this passage is the priestly office of Jesus Christ.

   Another view is the doctrine of the atonement—how right with God.

And there is even more.  Someone has said that we have in these verses

   a brief summary of the whole Christian faith.

 

As I’ve told you the past three Sundays, Hebrews is really more of a sermon

   than a letter—and like any good sermon, it has a single theme. 

   The theme is the necessity of persevering in your faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Hebrews was written for a congregation of Jewish followers of Jesus Christ.

   These believers had once stood at the height of Christian maturity. 

They endured persecution and loss.  They gladly suffered and supported each other.

   But over time, the cares and distractions of life began to wear them down,

   and they were in danger of drifting away from faith.

 

Their particular temptation was to put their hope in angels.

   I know that sounds strange, but in the first century, there were some Jews who

   gave a lot of attention to angels and put their hope in them for the future.

Focusing on angels gave them a sense of peace, security, acceptance.

   I won’t go into the reasons why. 

 

All that matters is that you can see we do the same thing.

In the cares and distractions of life, we are tempted to put our hope in things

   besides God and Jesus Christ. 

Money, success, family, hard work, health, education, possessions, plans.

   Not things bad in themselves—but completely unable to save or help you.

 

Hebrews warns you:   Don’t lose your confidence in Christ.

   Don’t replace him or supplement him with someone or something else.

Don’t start out with Jesus but then go back to trusting created things to

   give you the security and worth that God alone can give. 

 

The way you keep from losing your confidence in Christ is to look at him.

   Gaze on him and see how much better he is at meeting your needs than

   anything in this world that you are tempted to trust instead.

Look at him, worship him.  And then let that view move you to trust him more.

   The book of Hebrews overwhelms you with one magnificent view after another. 

 

But we’re not going to look at everything this passage says about Christ.

   We’re going to focus on just one view.  Imagine we’re hiking up the trail of the

   incarnation on this Christmas Sunday and we’ve come to an overlook.

We’re going to stop here and feast souls.  This is the view.  Jesus is your brother.

   When the eternal Son of God became man, he became your brother, older brother.

Let’s look at three things your older brother does for you that nothing else in

   this world can do.  Three reasons you need your older brother.

MP#1.  Your older brother descends to you.

Jesus Christ came down to your level when he became a man.

   He descended, he sacrificed, he suffered so that you could be blessed.

   There is nothing in this world that will do that for you as he did.

Hebrews 1 contains some of the loftiest descriptions of him in New Testament.

   He’s called Heir of all things.

   Maker of the universe.

   The radiance of God’s glory.

   The exact representation of God’s being.

   Sustainer of all things.

Christ is presented as God in the most glorified terms.

   Someone has described Hebrews 1:1-4 as nosebleed Christology.

 

But then what happens in Hebrews 2?  He comes down.  He descends.

   We don’t climb up to God, he comes down to us. 

Look at verses 14 and 17.  “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too

   shared in their humanity.”  “He had to be made like his brothers in every way.”

There is no aspect of human experience in this fallen world he did not partake of:

   He was hungry, he was thirsty, he was tired, he went without, he was belittled,

   his family and friends misunderstood him, he was lied to, he was lied about, he

   was reviled, he was abandoned, he was betrayed, he was beaten, he tasted death.

Why?  He’s heir of all things, maker and sustainer, radiance of God’s glory—

   why would he come down to that level? 

 

Because that’s what older brothers do. 

Older brothers love their fathers, love their younger siblings, and are willing

   to lay everything down for the good of the family.

Christ Jesus took on human nature and descended to the shameful death

   of the cross to bring his younger siblings to glory.

 

I know that many of you have read Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God,

   which is an exposition of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.

   He makes a profound observation about the parable that I never noticed.

The Jewish religious leaders were criticizing Jesus for associating with sinners—

   people who had fallen morally in very visible and ugly ways.

So in answer to their criticisms he told three parables—

   Parable of the lost sheep, of the lost coin, of the lost son (prodigal son).

Keller says:  In all three, something valuable lost.

   Point is that lost, sinful people are valuable to God.

But look at the glaring omission in the third parable. 

In the first two parables, someone looks for precious things lost.

   Shepherd leaves 99 to look for one lost sheep, Woman sweeps house for coin.

But in the last, a son and brother is lost but no one is looking for him.

   And who is supposed to be looking for him?  The older brother.

   Because that’s what older brothers are supposed to do.  Seek lost brothers.

But instead descending from his place of honor in the home, going to find his

   younger brother, he stays home and is angry when brother reappears. 

   Says to his father:  This son of yours who has wasted inheritance on prostitutes.

 

The description of that proud, unloving older brother was an indictment of the

   the religious leaders.  They should have been out searching for sinners who

   needed the message of God’s grace, coming down to them.

But more than that, the older brother in the parable shows how Jesus is the

   perfect older brother.  He lowered himself.  Went to the far country.

   Found us in our sin and need, in the pig pen with the slops, brought us home.

We were lost.  God’s children were lost.  Older brother Jesus came and found us.

   And in order to do that, he lowered himself.  He did so willingly, gladly.

 

When that view of Christ sinks in, you realize two things.

First, this means that your suffering is not for nothing.  It can be redeemed.

   If your older brother came down and suffered all the bad things of life in a fallen

   world, then when you suffer the same things, know will work for good.

Second, and even more specific, you realize that following him in this is the pattern

   for your life.  That you are called at times to descend.

See, the world needs older brothers.  It needs Christians who are willing to descend

   to people in need, to come down to them, to sacrifice for them—

   so that God’s lost sons can be found.

 

I heard an illustration of that this week.  It was a story a man told of something

   that happened to him at work, that was the catalyst for him to seek God and

   and eventually become a Christian.

What happened was this:  He had been working in a new job in a large company

   when he made a bad mistake that cost the company a lot of money. 

   Thought going to get fired.  Deserved to get fired.

But his boss took the blame.  Boss represented it as his department, his fault.

   So man went to boss and said:  Thank you, but why did you do that for me?

   Boss said:  Well, it seemed the right thing to do. 

 

This person said:  You’re not telling me everything.  Nobody does this.  Why?

   Boss said:  I’ve been here a long time, have a lot of capital.  I could absorb it.

   You would have been fired.  This person said:  Still not shooting straight with me.

Boss looked at him and said:  Do you really want to know? 

   I’m a Christian.  And Jesus did the same thing for me.

 

Where do you learn how to live in this world? 

   If you’re a child of God, you learn from your older brother. 

He has descended to you, he sacrificed for you, he brought you back to family,

   and in doing that, set an example for you to follow.  Why trust anything else?


 

MP#2  Your older brother defends you.

Verse 10 calls us sons and then calls Jesus the author of our salvation.

   Lots of ink has been spilled over the best way to translate this word “author.”

   No exact English equivalent.

It could be translated pioneer, leader, trailblazer, but it also has the nuance

   of captain or champion. 

In other words, someone who leads the way because he’s made a way,

   he cleared the way, he’s defeated the enemy, so that we can follow.

That’s what Jesus is, he’s the older brother who is the family champion.

 

Genesis 3:15 is the first promise of a champion.  It was a dark time. 

   Adam and Eve had sinned, they were cursed, cast out of Eden.

God said to Eve, Do not despair.  I have not abandoned mankind.

   A champion will be born in your family, crush serpent’s head.

   He will come to set things right and lead the people of God to Eden once again.

You could read the whole Old Testament as the promise of coming champion

   older brother.  All the great kings foreshadowed his coming.

   David slaying Goliath a picture of the coming Christ.

 

In the New Testament the champion comes to open way to eternal life. 

Skipping to the very last book of the Bible, Revelation.

John the Apostle sees the risen Lord in his glory.

   He fell at his feet like a dead man.  Remember what happened?

Jesus placed his right hand on John and said: 

   Do not be afraid.  I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One.

   I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever. 

   And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

No greater threat to you than death and Hades.  I own those.  Do not fear. 

 

Wouldn’t you love to have an older brother who would be your champion?

   Who every day of your life would put his hand on you and say: 

   No matter what you are facing, do not be afraid.

I don’t have an older brother.  I am an older brother.  Not a good one,shamed to say.

   But when I was a boy, an older boy in my neighborhood named Gib Finch.

   We would play together.  Ride bikes all over town.

That was in the days before leash laws and dogs would run out of yards and chase

   you.  I had been attacked by German Shepherd so dogs terrified me. 

One time he said, Come on, let’s go this way. 

   I said, No.  I’m scared of the black dog that lives on that block.

Gib was what my mother called a husky boy. 

   That was a polite way of saying he was about three times bigger than me.

He said:  Listen, the last time that dog chased me, I kicked it so hard in the ribs

   it ran off and hid in the garage.  It won’t bother us, I promise.  You follow me.

I peddled behind my husky friend—

   and sure enough, when the dog saw his bike it cowered in the garage. 

   Ha.  I thought.  Come on out now you chicken.  It was wonderful.

With my trailblazer, my captain I was not afraid.

 

Look again at verse 14.  Focusing on this brother theme. 

   Here we see his work as our family champion.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death

   he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who

   all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

 

The Devil, that old black dog wants to destroy you, body and soul. 

   When evil comes against you, it can destroy you.  It happens all the time.

   People experience evil in world, even sinned against, innocent party.

   And the bitterness, and the fear, and the fallout, own responses destroy them.

How often have we seen that played out—a story of terrible abuse—

   and then it is revealed that the abuser himself was abused. 

   What is that but evil destroying a person.  Death is the final evil blow.

But Christ, by his death and resurrection, removed the guilt of our sins,

   and opened the way of life for all believers. 

Death and the fear of death no longer has dominion over the family of God.

   And if death has been defeated, then we need fear nothing else.

 

I know many of you have been praying for Derek and Tracie Rakestraws’ friends

   the Tabers.  A young family, mother Mary and four children ages 17, 15, 12, 6

   now grieving the loss of husband and father after long battle with cancer.

Tracie sent an email Thursday that said: 

Just wanted to let you all know that Robert went home to be with The Lord last night.  Mary

   and kids are as good as they can be.  They are holding on to the hope that is within them.  

As Nicki and I were praying last night The Lord brought to mind the hope that we have and

   say often in church which is...Heidelberg Question and Answer #1

Christian, what is your only comfort in life and in death?

   That I belong body and soul, in life and in death, not to myself, but to my faithful Savior,

   Jesus Christ; who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has

   completely freed me from the dominion of the Devil; that He protects me so well that apart

   from the will of my Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from my head; indeed that everything

   must fit His purpose for my salvation.  Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of

   eternal life, and makes wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

I believe this says it all. 

 

There is nothing and no one  in this world who can defend you like Christ.

Will your money be your champion on your deathbed, when doctors have done

   all they can and you are dying?  Will it fight for you and make a way to heaven?

   Will your success, your hard work, your moral living. 

None of those things will put their right hand on you and say—

   Do not be afraid.  Follow me.  But Jesus will, and has. 

You need an older brother to defend you.

 

Your older brother descends to you, he defends you and . . .


 

MP#3  Your older brother delights in you.

Verse 11  Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of

   the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” 

There’s enough in that one verse is enough for you to chew on for a long time.

 

In some places, the way you get consideration is you hand in a resume.

   It lists your education, accomplishments, awards.

   It’s on the basis of what you have done that you are recognized.

But there are plenty of other places in the world, where the way you get

   consideration and advancement is by your genealogy.

   It’s your kin that matters more than anything else. 

That’s the way it often is in small towns. 

   One person might have more impressive credentials, better resume.

   But this other fellow see, he’s Buddy Smith’s nephew.  He’s kin to so-and-so.

   I know his daddy.  He’s the one we need to hire.

 

But that can cut the other way, can’t it.  What if your kin are rascals?

There was a family in Tuscumbia, my home town, the Greens. 

   The patriarch Mr. Green was notoriously lazy.  His sons were lazy.

   Stories all over town about their poor work ethic.

I had a friend whose father owned a little store, general store.

   Against his better judgment, hoping that maybe things had changed,

   he hired two Greens to put together bicycles.  It was Christmas season, busy.

   He put them in shop, said here are the tools.  Give you $10 per bike.

After several hours, went back to check on them.  Had found a can of gas.

   Gotten high sniffing it.  Jumbled parts of several bikes.  Seats/handlebars.

There was one Green boy who was different.  He made good, as they say.

   But he had an uphill battle.  Nobody wanted to hire him, because of his kin.

   Think how ashamed he was of his brothers.  How ashamed of his genealogy.

 

Christ came into a society that placed great importance on genealogy.

   Being related to the right people.  New Testament begins touting his genealogy.

Matthew 1:1, The Genealogy of Jesus Christ.

   But then you begin to read that genealogy, and there are people mentioned

   as ancestors of Christ who no Jew in his right mind would have included.

Tamar—who was impregnated by her father-in-law Judah, Genesis 38,

   one of the most dysfunctional, shameful, and gross chapters in the Bible.

How about this line in Christ’s genealogy:

   “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.”

The most shameful episode in David’s life, adultery, murder.

And here it is.  Would you ever put that in your resume.

   Could go on—Jesus’ family is filled with sinners—but he says

   These are my people.  I am not ashamed to call them brothers.

 

How in the world does Jesus Christ look at people like us,

   who have lived lives of shame, who have done and said and thought awful things,

   how does he look at us and say that we are in the same family,

   and I am not ashamed to call them brothers?

How is that possible when we think about the ways that we have failed even

   as Christians.  The laws of God we have flaunted, people we have hurt.

 

Here it is, in verse 17, one of the brother verses:

   For this reason he had to be made like his brothers 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.

Make atonement—once again, one of these Greek words that has inspired lots of

   debate, but most accurate meaning is to make satisfaction for God’s wrath.

Propitiation is the theological term.  God loves us but as judge had to punish sin.

   So he sent his son, who was made like brothers, took on flesh and blood,

   so that as a man he could take on your ugliness, become sin for you,

   suffer God’s wrath for you—then give you his perfect record.

Because he’s done that for you, he not only loves you, he’s proud of you,

   he delights in you.  How does that help you in your life this week?

 

R. Corteze is a PCA minister in Florida, he told the story of a woman who had

   attended his church for years.  One day she came to see him and said:

I wanted to tell you that I became a Christian in church this past Sunday.

   You were preaching and the thought came to me that God has been around me

   all my life, but he’s never been in me.  So I just prayed, God, come into my life.

Right away, do you know what popped into my mind?

   “I don’t have to color my hair anymore.”

 

Corteze’s comment was:  What a profound fruit of conversion.

   She sensed immediately, My older brother likes me. 

   He sees all my flaws, knows all my failures, and loves me just the same.

   I don’t have to try to be what other people think is beautiful.

What tremendous freedom.  If this could sink down into your bones—

   that your worth and identity and affirmation are secure in Christ.

What are you doing to try to make yourself acceptable?

You don’t have to prove anything to anyone—not even to yourself—

   if you ask God to come into you, Christ is not ashamed to call you brother.

 

And one last thing.

Why is it always brothers and sons?  Why not sister and daughters?

   Is this some kind of sexism in the Bible?

   That’s what some people think. 

We ought to change our Bible translation to add inclusive language.

   I am not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

But that is to miss a profound point in this language of sons and brothers.

 

The Bible was written to a Roman and Jewish culture that did denigrate women,

   did view them, not just as lesser citizens, but lesser human beings.

Under their laws, only sons could inherit their father’s estate. 

   Only brothers could share in the family inheritance.

So by calling all Christians, men and women, God’s sons and brothers of Christ,

   Hebrews is affirming the very opposite of Greek and Roman culture or any

   culture that denigrates people for one reason or another—color, sex, education.

 

God delights in all his children so much, that he regards them all as sons,

   all as co-heirs with his eternal Son Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that wonderful, to be a child of God, to have an older brother—

   who descends, who defends, who delights.

 

Maybe you are like that woman in church, God has been around you all life,

   he’s blessed you, he’s guided you—but you sense, he’s never been in you.

Ask him to come in.  Tell him that you want to be his child.

   And then trust his Son Jesus.