Lesson 3: Jesus Is Better, But Was Humbled

The author had demonstrated the superiority of Jesus to the angels by appealing to how the Old Testament Scriptures contrasted the nature of the Messiah with that of angels (Hebrews 1.5-14). And if Jesus is clearly superior, then we are under obligation to heed His word, words which were confirmed by His messengers and by the Father Himself! (Hebrews 2.1-4). But all of this raises a question: if Jesus is so superior to the angelic host of heaven, why was He humbled and made to live as a man?

2.5-9, The Reality of Jesus’ Exaltation

Before giving an explanation of this text, we need to answer a couple of questions:

  1. What is “the world to come” (vs. 5)? “The Greek expression (hē oikoumenē hē mellousa) can be understood in various ways, as for instance (i) of the afterlife, (ii) of the new order inaugurated by Jesus Christ, i.e. the fulfillment of the looked for ‘age to come’ which was now come in the present kingdom of God, or (iii) of the end of the present age. There may be truth in all three, but the second seems to be brought most clearly into focus by the context. It is worth noting that the word used here for ‘world’ is not kosmos (the world as a system), but the world of inhabitants (oikoumenē).” (Donald Guthrie, TNTC).
  2. Who is the subject of the quotation: Jesus or mankind? Psalm 8 is not an explicitly Messianic Psalm and the references to both “man” and “son of man” is likely an example of Hebrew poetry where both phrases mean the same. Some commentators think they Hebrew writer is speaking of man, pointing out how all things are not subject to man, even though they should be. With this interpretation, Jesus’ current exaltation (vs. 9) is contrasted with man’s current state (vs. 8). However, it seems more natural and more likely that the quotation is in reference to Jesus, which is how we will interpret the passage.

The passage begins with yet another contrast between Jesus and the angels: the Father did not subject “the world to come” to the angels, but He did subject it to His Son. Psalm 8.4-6 is given as confirmation of this fact. Significant in the passage is the fact that the “son of man” was “made for a little while lower than the angels” (vs. 7). This phrase is picked up in vs. 9 and shows that while Jesus was temporarily humbled, that was not His ultimate state; He is now “crowned with glory and honor”! Yes, He was humbled and it seemed as if all things weren’t subject to Him. But the Father “has left nothing that is not subject to Him” (vs. 8).

Of equal significance is what vs. 9 says about why Jesus is now crowned with glory and honor. His exaltation was because He suffered death… and He did so for everyone. There was a reason why Jesus was humbled and became a man, and those reasons are the focus of the next section.

2.10-18, Why Jesus Was Humbled For A Little While

The humbling of God’s Son, Jesus living as a man, occurred because God desired it and He purposed it. Thus, the passage begins by saying “it was fitting”. The incarnation wasn’t an accident or an alternate plan; Jesus’ life on earth was to fulfill the divine purpose of “bringing many sons to glory”. The author goes on to detail just why it was so important that Jesus be humbled:

  1. Jesus was “perfected” by suffering (vs. 10). Jesus is referred to as the “author” of our salvation in this passage. The term could also be translated as “pioneer”, “leader”, or even “champion”. “The term was used for both human and divine heroes, founders of schools or those who cut a path forward for their followers and whose exploits for humanity were rewarded by exaltation.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary). The idea is that Jesus paved the way for our salvation, and of course that meant suffering was involved. Since man suffers as a result of sin, and has done so ever since the Fall, God’s Son would also have to suffer so that He could save us. It is in this sense, and without any reference to moral perfection, that Jesus was “perfected” through sufferings; His suffering is what made Him the author of our salvation.
  2. Jesus can now call us brothers and sisters (vss. 11-13). The NASB reads “He who sanctifies and those are sanctified are all from on Father” (vs. 11). Note that “Father” is supplied and not in the original text. The idea is that Jesus and mankind all come from the same source. Since Jesus’ human existence is under consideration the idea would be that we share a common human lineage, going all the way back to Adam. Thus, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters! An appeal is made to Psalm 22.22, a Messianic psalm which recognizes the kinship between the Messiah and His “brethren”. However, note the distinction that is still made: we may be brethren, but only He can declare God’s name (i.e. His whole character) to us.
  3. Jesus could die, saving others from death (vss. 14-16). Humanity, children of God and descendants of Adam all “share in flesh and blood”… it was how we were created. As such, we are subject to physical death… and worse (Genesis 2.17; 3.17-24). Creation and the Fall seem to be in the author’s thoughts, and if so he was also mindful of God’s promise to one day defeat Satan:  “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”” (Genesis 3:15, NASB95) Jesus, born of a woman, became flesh so that He could die, and in death could free us from the devil and from fear.
  4. Jesus can now serve as our high priest (vss. 17-18). Jesus’ position as high priest is the subject of much of this letter, but is introduced here in connection with why Jesus had to be humbled. As we will see, the high priest served the role of intercessor between God and the people. For Jesus to be our high priest, He had to become like us, to share even in the experience of being tempted. Jesus, because He was humbled and became a man, can be merciful; He can truly come to our aid! And since He is God’s Son, He is “faithful… in things pertaining to God. One such matter is singled out in the passage: making “propitiation for the sins of the people”. Propitiation “relates to putting away the divine wrath” (EBC). Man, because of sin, is deserving of God’s wrath, but Jesus’ sacrifice and His ongoing work as our high priest saves us from God’s righteous wrath. He truly comes to our aid.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: