Pastor, First Baptist Church, Covington
Years ago as a young preacher, my wife and I packed up our possessions and moved to upstate New York to become a church planter. The work was challenging but rewarding. One of the barriers we faced was our speech. Whenever I would open my mouth and begin to speak, my West Tennessee accent would betray me. The statement would then come, “You aren’t from around here, are you?” In other words, “You aren’t one of us.” Gradually they began to accept us, but some with great reluctance.
Why did Jesus become one of us?
First, so that the devil’s power would be destroyed. Verse 14 says Jesus has something in common with God’s children. His body was real. He experienced weariness, hunger, thirst, pain, and even death. All this was real, not pretended. Jesus made the choice of His own volition. Philippians 2 says He emptied Himself.
His coming in flesh had one primary purpose and that was to destroy the devil’s power over death.
Everyone dies. That is a numerical factor as well as a physical reality. If it weren’t for sin perhaps death would be a gentle, harmonious passing from the physical world into the heavenly realms. But sin brings the gloom, doom, and horror of its finality. Sin also often brings the physical pain of dying. For the Christian death itself has not changed, but the evil of it has been transformed into blessing.
Second, Christ also came to deliver us from the fear of death verse 15 tells us. Without Christ most people have either an outward or suppressed fear of death. For them it is the great unknown. Will it be complete cessation? Will it be painful torture? Will it be a hollow, soulless, ghoulish existence waiting for reincarnation?
When I was a church planter in upstate New York, it was my privilege to lead a husband and wife to Christ. They were in their 60s; and I noticed she was very emotional as she received God’s gift of eternal life. Weeks later she told me that from childhood she had had a deep fear of dying. She was terrified with the thought of her body being lowered into the ground. This went on for decades. She then smiled broadly and said, “Since I have received Christ those nightmares have stopped. I am so amazed and happy.” Jesus freed those who were in “slavery” to the fear of death.
Third, that He would absorb God’s wrath for sin. There are two possible interpretations for the mention of angels here. One says that angels are sinless; therefore, their nature does not need redemption. Another thought would be that this refers to fallen angels. Is the writer answering the question, “Why did Christ come to help lost men and not the lost/fallen angels? Both are in a state of sin and misery. The answer might be that greater guilt is attached to one who has not been influenced to evil. Satan and his angels generated the first sinful thought right as they were in a place of holiness and worship. Man is born with a free will and inclination to sin; therefore, these angels are under greater judgment.
Christ, in absorbing God’s wrath, became our great High Priest. Products for consumers are tested before they go to market. If they fail they are kept off the shelf. Christ was tested in every way possible. He was perfectly obedient. He patiently endured, and He triumphantly overcame. This is why He is merciful and faithful as our High Priest. Because of His victory when we are weak, He can make us strong.
We can trust Him entirely at all times.