Hebrews 2, 4, 5, 12, 13. Chapter 18.
Crucifixion was the most horrific form of torture ever devised by mankind, evoking such terror that the ancients wouldn’t even write about it, leaving behind scant information on the details, a black void of terror. The mere threat of it made the blood run cold. The victim was to be pitied. When crucifixion had worked its deadly goal, a desiccated shell of a human being hung twisted upon a tree, barely recognizable as human.
The Romans crucified slaves, villains, and political prisoners, lining public roads outside city walls with withering corpses dying while pounded to wood, shoving their bodies up onto the nails in their feet merely to breathe. It usually took days to die of suffocation and dehydration, the stuff of nightmares.
And yet, Jesus stepped toward this on our behalf, knowing that not only would it separate him from himself, but that it would separate him from his Father and put all of humanity in the most treacherous and terrifying place. He was the hope of us all, our only hope, and yet in Gethsemane his soul shrunk away from the horror of the torture and of the coming separation from the Father.
“Let this cup pass from me,” he cried.
The salvation of all of humanity hung by a thread. Could Jesus endure this suffering, this torture, with his human strength destroyed, all without sinning? It was imperative. This is why he sweat blood at Gethsemane, his humanity warring with his God-nature. Creation held its breath. Could he redeem us and the groaning created universe?
Yes! Not his will, he prayed, but God’s be done. He could. He did. He was victorious. Jesus overcame.
This is why we fix our minds and our eyes intently upon “Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).
Have you ever wondered how Christ could love us that much? How he could endure human life, leaving aside his heavenly dwelling to dwell instead with us? How he could endure the pain, humiliation, and agony of betrayal and crucifixion, so that we could be his?
The author of Hebrews expresses deep compassion and tenderness for Jesus and, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reveals Jesus’ emotions while gaining our salvation. Rarely is Jesus’ emotional state mentioned elsewhere. Therefore, this letter has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding that Messiah Jesus was motivated by his deep and abiding love for us. We were the joy set before him, as was faithfulness to God and service in fulfillment of God’s plan for our redemption.
The reasons, the whys, and the results are shown clearly in these verses:
“SINCE the children have flesh and blood, HE TOO shared in their humanity SO THAT by his death he might break the power of 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. . . FOR THIS REASON he had to be made like them, fully human 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. BECAUSE he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18 NIV).
The word “children” in this passage is an endearing term for small children, toddlers, babes in arms. We feel protective toward little ones. We are drawn to them with tenderness. This is how our Savior regards us. We are his children.
To free us, his babies, from slavery to sin and the fear of death he had to become human, so that he could be our merciful and faithful high priest and satisfy God’s justice in order to obtain his mercy and forgiveness for our sins. Jesus’ tender affection demonstrates God’s love for us in the purest form. Messiah’s loving sacrifice reveals to us God in the flesh.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV).
Jesus has compassion and sympathy for us, for he was tempted as we are. Having lived in human flesh, Jesus understands and has personally experienced our deepest emotions. He is able to relate to all of our life experiences, knowing that we are in need of his grace and mercy during times of hardship and temptation. Because of his kind empathy, we can cry out to him with confidence, for he knows exactly how we feel. Call on him.Because of Jesus' kind empathy and ability to relate to all of our life experiences, we can cry out to him with confidence, for he knows exactly how we feel. Call on him. Click To Tweet
“Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:1-2 NIV).
Like every other high priest who went before him, Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, to be stuck in the confines of a human body in awful circumstances, yet Jesus never sinned, nor did he give way to these temptations. Still, he felt them. His compassion for us in these moments empowers him to deal gently with us in our ignorance as we go astray.
Because Jesus conquered sin by the power of God, he is able to represent us before God and to offer himself as the final sacrifice for sin. He succeeded in living a sinless life where the first Adam had failed. He empowers us to resist sin. Through his Holy Spirit within us, we can draw on his strength.Jesus succeeded in living a sinless life where the first Adam had failed. Jesus empowers us to resist sin. Through his Holy Spirit within us, we can draw on his strength. Click To Tweet
Therefore…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1b-3 NIV).
Jesus scorned the false accusations, hanging naked before a crowd, and every other awful detail inherent in crucifixion, which was designed to bring embarrassment, severe pain, exposure, and public humiliation. Though he could have called legions of angels to take him down, he stayed right there on the cross, treating all the horrific details of crucifixion as if they were nothing compared to the importance of gaining our salvation.
After dying and then resurrecting, he appeared to hundreds, he came and he went for weeks, leaving a clear and indisputable trail of forensic evidence of his resurrection, and then he ascended and sat down at the right hand of the Father. Nothing more needs to be done to attain our salvation. He did it all. Now we await his return.
The author makes clear to us the intimacy of Christ’s emotions. These wrenching and endearing considerations enable us to appreciate and to understand the Savior’s personal sacrifice. These are some of Scriptures most captivating words, inspiring a deeper love and appreciation for Jesus.
With that groundwork established, the author calls upon the first-century readers who suffered their own persecution to be habitually willing to suffer and to sacrifice, to throw off everything that hindered them and the sin that so easily entangled them, to run with perseverance the race marked out for them, and to fix their eyes on Jesus. The author calls them and also calls us to continual intimate fellowship with the One who suffered for us.
How can we pursue that fellowship? How should we now live?
“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, [continually] go to him outside the camp, [continually] bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking [continually] for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the [continual] fruit of lips that openly [and continually] profess his name. And do not [continually] forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is [continually] pleased” (Hebrews 13:11-16 NIV). [I noted the words that indicate continual action in the original language.]
When the Jewish nation wandered for forty years, bloody offerings and sacrifices were made outside the Israelite camp in the wilderness, a lonely place. And so, Jesus suffered outside the city wall of Jerusalem, and thus, “outside the camp,” crucified in the garbage heap of the city, in order to make us holy through the sacrifice of his blood.
In doing so, he made us citizens of heaven, awaiting his return and a city to come. Since that is our destination, our eyes and our dearest goals are to be in line with his, continually seeking how he would have us to step “outside the camp” to bear the disgrace that often comes with being a believer who marches to the beat of a far, far different Drummer, One who speaks the truth when no one wants to hear it, who stands up for the disenfranchised, the hungry, the poor, the refugee, the prisoner, and the weak.
So, let us go to Jesus outside the camp, outside our societal norms, outside our comfort zones, and toward those who, like us, need the love of God. Let this be the habit of our lives.Let us go to Jesus outside the camp, outside our societal norms, outside our comfort zones, and toward those who, like us, need the love of God. Let this be the habit of our lives. Click To Tweet
How do these intimate truths about Christ impact you? How do they, will they, or can they shape your life?
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