For the Love of God, Volume 2/April 27
From Gospel Translations
Numbers 4; Psalm 38; Song of Songs 2; Hebrews 2
OCCASIONALLY WE HAVE OVERLOOKED the theological significance of Jesus’ humanity. That is one of the important themes of Hebrews 2.
Both the one who makes human beings holy—Jesus himself—and the human beings who are made holy are of the same family. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers (2:11). Since we have flesh and blood, he shared in our humanity (2:14)—which of course implies that this was something not intrinsically his, but something he had to take on (the eternal Word “became flesh,” John 1:14). He did this so that by his death (something he could never have experienced if he had not donned flesh and blood) “he might destroy him who holds the power of death . . . and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (2:14, 15). Jesus did not don the nature of angels (2:16—which shows that Jesus was not a merely angelic being). Rather, he became a human being, a human being with a genuine lineage—the lineage of Abraham (2:16). If he was to serve as mediator between God and human beings, “he had to be made like his brothers in every way” (2:17—which presupposes that he already was like God in every way). So it was entirely “fitting,” then, that God should make the author of our salvation “perfect through suffering” (2:10). The idea is not that Jesus gains through suffering a moral perfection he otherwise would have lacked, but that the perfection of his identification with us depended on participating in our common currency, which is suffering.
The author of Hebrews has already hinted at the problem that Jesus came to resolve. Originally human beings were made to be God’s vice-regents over the entire creation, a point not only made by the creation accounts (Gen. 1—2) but reiterated in the superb poetry of Psalm 8 (cited in Heb. 2:6-8). But as the author of Hebrews points out, we do not yet see everything under our feet, as Genesis 1 and Psalm 8 envisage. Of course not: the Fall has intervened, and death takes its unvarying toll. But what do we see? “[W]e see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (2:9). The point is not exactly that Jesus is the “man” envisaged in Psalm 8, as if he were being prophetically described, but that by his mission, by his identification with us, and by his death, he becomes the first human being to be crowned with such glory and honor, as he brings many sons—a new humanity—to glory.