Why Jesus Chose to Share in Our Humanity
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Delivered By
Rev. Nathaniel Schwartz
Delivered On
February 2, 2014
Central Passage
Hebrews 2:14-18

EPIPHANY 4                         Hebrews 2:14-18                           FEBRUARY 2, 2014
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. (NIV)


Today’s text says that Jesus “shared in our humanity.” So how do you think that conversation went in Heaven? “My Son, I need you to do something.” Absolutely, Father. What is it? “I need you to leave Heaven, to leave this place of perfect joy and peace. I need you to set aside the full use of your power and choose to be confined by time and space, to be limited in knowledge and power. I need you to go to earth—a place of sin and sadness and continual moral decay. I need you to not only live there among the people who have created that sin and sadness, but I need you to become one of them, to share in their humanity, to be tempted incessantly by the Devil. Then, I need you to die. But not just any death, no, I need you to die by crucifixion—and while that’s happening, I’m going to punish you for all the sins of all the world. So, Son, what do you say?”

Clearly, coming to this earth to “share in our humanity” is not something that you would think Jesus would sign up for. Surely He would much rather “grasp” his equality with God the Father, guard it, clutch it like the precious thing that it is, and refuse to let it go.

Now I must admit that I don’t even know how to compare the difference between the two - that is the step down that Jesus had to take to “share in our humanity.” Maybe I could compare it to our lifestyle in Lee’s Summit and then suddenly having to become a citizen of a Third World country, scraping by with barely enough food to survive. Would you sign up for that? Would you sign up to live in extreme poverty for the rest of your life?

My friends, even if you knew that your presence there was going to benefit those living in poverty, I think that many of US would say, “No thanks.” But maybe we would feel differently once we got over there and actually got to know those people?

Well, my friends, Jesus knew us.  That’s right, He knew the people whose humanity he would be sharing. But that didn’t make him more willing to do it because there is nothing cute and cuddly about us. We sinners aren’t the tail-wagging, eager to please puppy whose very expression says, “Take me home.” No, in reality, we’re more like the snarling, barking, junkyard dog whose expression says, “Don’t you dare touch me—because I hate you!”

My friends, we are miserable sinners and our sinful minds are always on the attack, always trying to keep everything for ourselves, always refusing to give God even a portion of our hearts and lives. And this attitude toward God shows itself when we take his name in vain, when we lie and deceive for personal gain, when we hold grudges, and a host of other wicked actions.

So then, consider this.  Suppose you were Jesus living in Heaven, watching us trample his laws, spit in his face with our sins, and make a mess of the perfect world he had given us. If you were Jesus, would YOU be interested in “sharing our humanity”? Probably not.  And yet Jesus looked at this broken world and looked at our sinful flesh and decided to become a part of it. In fact, our text says that he became like us "in every way."

And the fact is that he had to.  Jesus had to become like us if we were going to be saved.   Indeed, our text says not only that Jesus became like us "in every way", but also that "he had to be made like" us. That was the only way that he was going to "become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God", and it was the only way that he was going to "make atonement for the sins of the people."

Now wait a minute.  What’s all this “high priest” and “atonement” talk?  Well, my friends, when we study the Old Testament we discover that he high priest was an odd sort of breed. On the one hand, he was like all the other Jews. He "shared in the humanity" of Jews--he got hungry, he got tired, he ate, he drank,-- in a word, he was human. And yet there was something about him that was entirely different from the rest of the people. He was the only one who could make payment for the sins of the people. And so once a year on the Great Day of Atonement he would put a goat to death as a sin offering for the people (Leviticus 16), and then he would assure the Israelites that their sins had been atoned for, that they were "at one" with God.

In the same way, Jesus "shared in our humanity" so that he might become our high priest. And he did so because all the previous high priests never made a lasting atonement for the sins of the people. For the payment for all the sins of our flesh and blood had to be the life of a flesh and blood human – a sinless, perfect one.  And since the priests of Levi were not perfect and could not make the perfect sacrifice, the next year on the Great Day of Atonement they would once again have to take the life of a goat--and the year after that, and the year after that.

My friends, this is why we have a hymn in our hymnal that declares, “Not all the blood of beasts, on Jewish altars slain, could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.”  Ultimately, that means that apart from a perfect high priest we are held in slavery by sin and by our fear of death--not the death that comes as a result of getting old or sick, but the eternal death that comes because of the guilt of our sin.

That’s right, until a perfect high priest makes a perfect sacrifice and truly takes away our sins, we are held captive by our fear of eternal death and punishment in hell.  And that is why God the Father sent Jesus to become fully human, to become like us in every way--except he was without sin.   Yes, Jesus shared in our humanity--our sorrow, our joy--but never our sin.  He faced temptation just as we had--but perfectly resisted as we had not.  And then Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins!  It’s as the hymn writer proclaims, “But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away, a sacrifice of nobler name, and richer blood than they.”

And that, my friends, is precisely why God became one of us in the person of Jesus. That's why the Holy Spirit fashioned those tiny little hands in Mary's womb--so they could one day take two big nails. That's why the baby in the manger had two little feet--so they could one day climb a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred little head was made so it could one day wear a crown of thorns, and that little infant body was wrapped in strips of cloth so it could be pierced by a spear and then once again wrapped in cloths and laid in a grave.

It was for this that Jesus came to this earth. He did that most human of things--he died--in the most inhuman of ways--crucifixion--by suffering something no human on earth has ever known--the wrath of God over sins--in order that by his death he would destroy the fear of death for us. That death he died? It was ours. Since he died it, we don't have to.

So are we still afraid of death? The apostle Paul certainly wasn't afraid of it. In addition to admitting that at times he eagerly hoped to die (Philippians 1:21-24), he mocked death. Just look up 1 Corinthians 15 and watch Paul bouncing around death like a supremely confident boxer bounces around his opponent. "Hey, death, where's your victory?  Hey, death, where's your sting?"

Perhaps it sounds flippant for us to speak of death in that way. But it shouldn’t.  Death is a big nothing. It's been exposed for the powerless bully that it is.  It's been exposed by Jesus Christ. After all, not only did he die (which would have appeared to be a knockdown by death) but he also popped right back up on the third day and said, "Is that all you got?" And death had to say, "That's all I got."

And if that's all that death has got, then we've got no reason to fear death, either, because our brother Jesus has defeated death. That's right--Jesus is our brother.

A few verses before our text it says that Jesus is "not ashamed to call us brothers." (Imagine that--the only person ever who could choose his brothers and sisters, and he still decided to choose us!) And you know what brothers do for each other--they get each other's back. That's what our brother Jesus does for us--he whupped death and told it not to mess with us anymore. And our brother can whup death anytime, anyplace--and he'll do it again when we die, picking us up immediately off the canvass and putting a crown on our heads.  It will be just as Scripture promises, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life.”

So rejoice, my friends, we have a brother just like us--one who understands us because he has been there.  He has endured the trials and pain and suffering of our world, including the pain and suffering of death.  And He has already defeated all our enemies and promises us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, and His power and presence in our daily life until that day that He takes us home to heaven.   May that bring you peace, hope, and joy – today, tomorrow, and always.  Amen and Amen.