The writer to the Hebrews opens his letter with a profound truth: Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God to mankind, 1:1-2:18. In the passage before us, 2:10-18, we read of Jesus, the Son of Man, the Saviour and High Priest of his people. Jesus is the perfect man who has made atonement for us, finally and completely.
v10. God's ultimate purpose for his creation is to gather a people to himself in order that they may share in the Creator's glory. To achieve this end, it was "fitting" (a right thing for him to do) for God to provide the way to glory through the suffering of Jesus. Jesus was the "author" of this salvation in the sense of being its pathfinder, or pioneer. That is, Jesus cuts out the pathway for us to travel; he identifies with sinful humanity, remaining obedient unto death and so, as the perfect saviour (high priest), he provides a perfect pathway to glory.
v11. Jesus, the one and only holy (perfect, set apart for God) son of God, has now entered glory. Those who follow the pathway cut by Jesus, not only share his holiness, a holiness which will be fully realized in glory, but they share his status as a son of God. In Christ we become sons of God.
v12-13. Three Old testament passages are quoted to support the contention that Christ is our brother. All three establish the solidarity of Christ with his disciples.
i] Ps.22:22. The early church treated Psalm 22 as a messianic Psalm fulfilled by Christ during his life. Jesus the messiah had praised God and put his trust in God. In typical Hebrew parallelism, God is praised in the presence of "my brothers" and the "congregation" ie. the assembly of believers, the church.
ii] Isa.8:17b. This rather obtuse reference links Christ and his brethren (the righteous remnant of Christ's day) with Isaiah and his disciples (the righteous remnant of Isaiah's day). Isaiah was rejected, his words ignored, just as Jesus was rejected and ignored. Yet, Isaiah, like Jesus (and the righteous remnant in Christ), continued to trust in the ultimate victory of the living God.
iii] Isa.8:18a. Isaiah and his children served as a sign to Israel of God's intentions for his people. This is particularly seen in his children's names which mean "remnant will return" and "hasten booty, speed spoil". For Christ, his remnant people, the church, his "children" ("those whom you gave me out of the world"), his brethren, are similarly a sign to the powers of this age.
v14. The pathway cut by Jesus had to be cut by a real person. Jesus had to be born naturally, live naturally and die naturally; he had to share the "humanity" of his "brothers". Through this role, Jesus himself took the sting of death and by his dying, drew the sting from his brothers. In so doing, he renders the powers of darkness powerless.
v15. Through his death Jesus frees his brothers from the bondage of fear, the fear of death for sins committed. Before Christ, resurrection was but a forlorn hope; in the reality of Christ's resurrection, we find hope.
v16. Those whom Jesus "takes hold of" (helps) and leads along the pathway, are not "angels", but the family of faith. They are the true sons of Abraham, Gal.3:7.
v17. To take his brothers along the pathway to salvation, it was necessary for Jesus to be as his brothers; he had to be truly human. The writer to the Hebrews now ties the "pathfinder" role of Christ with that of his priestly role. A high priest must be one with the people he represents before God. This identification enables Christ to be "merciful" toward his brothers - he is able to sympathize with their state and so speak for them. Also, it enables Christ to be a faithful, reliable pathfinder. As the perfect high priest, Christ can "make propitiation for the sins of the people" - atone for our sins and therefore turn aside the judgment that is due us.
v18. Having such a pathfinder, such a high priest, who has cut our pathway to eternity, atoned for our sins, assured our salvation and is now reigning in eternity, we have little to fear in the face of life's challenges. Jesus has faced all that we face and more and was victorious. He is therefore well able to aid us in our struggle, in our "time of testing".
The writer to the Hebrews is addressing a group of Christians who are "sore tested" by life's vagaries - tested even to the point of giving up their faith. The powers of darkness are squeezing in on them. To help them through the time of testing he lifts their eyes to one who "is able to help." He reminds his readers that they are "brothers" of Christ, the "pathfinder" and "high priest" for those on the way to glory. Jesus has set the way for us so that we might share glory with him. So, fear not.
When the walls of life squeeze in on us and begin to suffocate us, the best way of pushing out the barriers is to look to the one who has completely destroyed all barriers, even the barrier of death.
1. Jesus is the "author" of our salvation, or better our "pathfinder". What does this mean?
2. In what sense are we Jesus' brothers?
3. How does Jesus help us in the "time of testing"?