Christ Our Brother | Hebrews 2:10-18
Brian Hedges | October 22, 2023
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 2. We’re going to be looking at Hebrews 2:10-18.
Years ago, I read the story of a brother and a sister, and this little girl, unfortunately, had leukemia. She desperately needed a blood transfusion. It was a rare type of blood, but her brother was a match. So they asked this little boy, “Would you be willing to donate a pint of your blood to your sister?”
He said, “Let me think about it.” So they gave him time to think this over, and he did. He very sincerely said, “Yes, I’m willing to give my blood to her.”
So they hooked him up, they began the transfusion, they took the blood, and as he was lying there on the gurney, he looked up at the doctor and said, “Doctor, how long is it before I die?” He had misunderstood; they were not asking him to give his life, he was only giving a pint of blood. But with deep love for his sister he was willing to make that sacrifice.
Now, I don’t know whether that’s a true story or not, but it certainly demonstrates the true heart of a brother. This morning we are looking at the heart of Christ our brother, who actually did give us his life. He gave us everything.
It really is a passage that is all about the true humanity of Christ and why it was necessary, as this text says, it was fitting for him to be made like us and to partake of flesh and blood and to be made perfect through suffering. The whole passage is really laced with this thread of the true humanity of Christ our brother and why it was necessary to share in our human nature.
It’s easy for us sometimes to forget just how foundational this truth is to the Christian faith, and how the church has sometimes been threatened by deviations from this truth throughout history. The first several centuries of the church were really all about hammering out the biblical teaching of the person and work of Christ, both the true deity of Christ—which we’ve already seen together so strongly affirmed in Hebrews—and also the true humanity of Christ, and his humanity in that he not only had a human body, but also that he had a human soul.
It was one of those great Cappadocian fathers, Gregory of Nanzianzus, who, countering the teaching of Apollinaris of Laodicea that Jesus only had a human body but not a human soul, said in a letter (these are the words of Gregory), “That which he has not assumed he has not healed, but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved.”
That, in just a word, summarizes why it’s so important that Jesus was a true human being. If he didn’t assume a true human nature, a human body and a human soul, then he could not have redeemed us. That’s what this passage is teaching us this morning.
We’re going to read it together as we continue this wonderful letter to the Hebrews. We’ve been seeing that “Jesus Is Better” and that this wonderful book in the New Testament gives us a key to interpreting the Old Testament, it shines a spotlight on the glory of Jesus Christ, and it sounds to us an urgent warning to hold fast to the faith and to listen to the gospel and pay attention to what God has said to us through his Son.
Today we’re going to read this next passage, Hebrews 2:10-18. As we read, just notice all of the underlined words and phrases on the screen. All of those are somehow related to the humanity of Christ, Christ sharing in our human nature as our brother. Here’s Hebrews 2:10-18. The author says,
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
‘I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’
‘I will put my trust in him.’
‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
This is God’s word.
This passage shows us four reasons why the divine Son had to share in our humanity in order to save us. We might think of these are four complementary portraits of Christ our brother, of Jesus our brother.
1. Jesus Is Our Trailblazer
Here’s the first: Jesus is our trailblazer. Now, I know most of us, when we hear the word “trailblazer” we think of a vehicle. But before it was a vehicle a trailblazer was another name for a pioneer, for someone who literally blazed a trail through the words or through the wilderness to make a way for others to follow. That’s the meaning of the word that is used here in verse 10, translated in the English Standard Version as “founder.” Look at these verses, Hebrews 2:10-11.
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.”
You might have the old King James version, where he is called the captain of our salvation. Some versions use the language of a pioneer, the pioneer of our salvation. That’s a good translation. Or the leader or author or even the champion of our salvation. But I like the word “trailblazer” because it carries the idea of one who goes before us and who makes a way for us in the wilderness.
A few months ago, when I was in New Mexico, I spent a lot of time hiking. I was hiking trails that someone else had blazed before. I was going on trails with my brother and his family.
One day we went on a trail that was actually pretty steep. There was quite a bit of climbing—I mean, this wasn’t like climbing rocks where you had to be roped or anything, but you certainly had to watch your step. You had to know where to put your foot, you had to know where to get a foothold. There were places where you were almost scrambling on your hands or knees to get up six or eight feet of rock up to the next part of the trail.
Of course, I was just watching what my brother and his family were doing as they were going before. They had been on this trail many times. But someone was the first person to blaze that trail, and that’s the idea of what Jesus, as the pioneer of our salvation, has done for us. He has blazed a trail which we might call the trail of sanctification. That’s why verse 11 says, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source—” that is, they all have one nature. They all share in one nature. Christ, in his humanity, is the sanctifier who sanctified our humanity in his human nature, and now he is the one who leads us in the way of sanctification.
I want to read a quotation to you from perhaps my favorite living theologian—many of you have heard me quote him before—Sinclair Ferguson. He’s a Scottish theologian. Unfortunately, I can’t speak this in a Scottish accent. That would make it all the better. But you can hear these words and see how he explains this important Greek word that is translated as “pioneer” or that I’m calling “trailblazer.” It’s the word archegos. Ferguson says,
“In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as the author, captain, or pioneer of salvation. [Then he gives the references where this takes place.] The word archegos (or author) is notoriously difficult to translate into English. In the case of Jesus, especially in the context of Hebrews, it seems to convey the twin notions of primacy and origin. Jesus is the author of our sanctification in the sense that he creates it for us. But he is also its pioneer, because he does so out of his own incarnate life, death, and resurrection. He is the pioneer of our salvation because, as the hero of faith, he has endured the cross, despising its shame and the opposition of sinners, and is now seated at God’s right hand. He is the first and only fully sanctified person. He has climbed God’s holy hill with clean hands and a pure heart. It is as the lead climber that he gives the sanctification he has won to others. As pioneer, Jesus has himself gone ahead of us to open up the way to the Father. By doing so, he brings to the Father in similar obedience all those who are roped to him by grace and faith. Christ is our sanctification. In him it has first come to its fulfillment and consummation. He not only died for us to remove the penalty of our sin by taking it himself, he has lived, died, risen again, and been exalted in order to sanctify our human nature in himself for our sake.”
Do you see it? He is the trailblazer, the sanctifier, the pioneer of our salvation, the one who has gone before and has won, redeemed, sanctified human nature, human nature made whole. He has won it for us.
If this is so, we should ask ourselves this question: Are we walking in the footsteps of Jesus our brother, our trailblazer, the one who has gone before? Do we tread in the path that he blazed for us, the path to glory that is marked by suffering?
That’s what this passage tells us, isn’t it? “It was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The way Jesus got to glory and achieved glory for us is through suffering.
So we should ask ourselves, are we living in the same pattern, that pattern of a sanctified, cruciform life? What does that mean? Most simply, it means that we learn to daily die to sin and live to righteousness. Just as Christ died and now lives, he died for our sins on the cross and he was raised in the power of glorious resurrection life, and now we are called to die to sin daily and to live in the newness of life that he came to bring.
But it also means that we are to live in daily self-denial, as we take up our cross to follow him. Jesus says that if we do this, this is the path to life. We lose our life, but then in him we find it.
This, of course, gets expressed in a hundred thousand different ways as we learn to deny ourselves to show kindness to another. We deny ourselves in order to give to another. We take up our cross daily and die to self so that, instead of living for our own pleasure, our own fulfillment, our own satisfaction and seeking that at all costs, we live in order to give ourselves to others, to love them, to serve them, to minister to them.
Start with your own family. Husbands, is it part of your daily walk with Jesus to deny yourself and to take up your cross and die to the sin of selfishness and love your wife with unconditional, servant-hearted love? Wives, ask yourself the same. Do you love your husband and your children that way? Siblings, ask yourself this: Do I die to my own wishes in order to love my brother or my sister?
As we think about our service to one another in the church . . . we serve one another this way in the church, dying to ourselves so that we can live in the power of Christ and love for others.
This is what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ our trailblazer. He is the brother who blazes the trail for us, the pioneer of our salvation.
2. Jesus Is Our Worship Leader
Secondly, we see that Jesus is our worship leader. I know in a very real sense we have worship leaders who lead us every week in worship, and I’m so thankful for our worship team and the wonderful job they do in leading us to praise and worship God; but I want you to see in this passage that the chief worship leader in the church is not any one of us, it’s actually Jesus himself. Look at Hebrews 2:11b, where it says,
“That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying [and now it’s a quotation from Psalm 22:22],
‘I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’
“And again [now quoting Isaiah 8],
‘I will put my trust in him.’
‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’”
The author here is taking Old Testament passages of Scripture and attributing them to Jesus, attributing them to Christ. Both are instructive. Psalm 22, as many of you will probably know, is one of the most profound Messianic psalms to be found in the Old Testament. It is that psalm that begins with the cry of desolation: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Those are words that Jesus spoke on the cross.
Then, when you read the psalm, it is a heartrending description of someone’s suffering, which when you read closely seems that it could only be fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. That’s the thrust of this psalm. But when you get to verse 22, after twenty-one verses of suffering, twenty-one verses of lament, twenty-one verses of pain and trial and abandonment, in verse 22 it all changes, because now this sufferer says, “I will tell of your name; I will proclaim your name to my brothers, and in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
The author here is putting those words into the mouth of the Lord Jesus, showing us that Jesus is the one who, having suffered for us, now leads us in worship to our God.
I love the words of John Calvin on this. He says, “This teaching is the very strongest encouragement to us to bring yet more fervent zeal to the praise of God when we hear that Christ heeds our praise and is the chief conductor of our hymns.”
Christ is the one who conducts our worship. Christ is the one who calls us to worship by his word. He is the one who gives us the reason to sing.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Christianity is a singing religion? Not every religion in the world sings, but Christianity is a singing religion. We come together and we sing; we sing hymns and we sing songs of praise and of worship to the Lord.
We should ask ourselves, then, do we rightly value and prize the role of singing in our Christian lives? Think about our corporate worship. How do you approach corporate worship? Do you view the singing part as just kind of the necessary preliminary to get everybody warmed up for the sermon? Or do you view it as a crucial part of our worship and our praise to God?
When you gather each week for singing, is your focus on this great truth that Christ himself is in the midst of us, as this passage says, leading us in the praise of God? Or are you distracted with something else? Maybe you don’t like certain things in worship, and it’s easy for us to kind of let our preferences and opinions about worship get in the way of actually praising God.
Have you recognized how crucial worship is as one of the weapons in our arsenal of spiritual weapons in our spiritual warfare? We fight the enemy through worship and through song.
Do you remember the great story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20? Before going out to battle, he puts at the front of the battle singers, those who are worshiping God, they are praising God. Why? Because our strength is not in ourselves, it’s in the God whom we worship and whom we praise.
I’ll tell you a funny story. A number of years ago, one of our kids—all of our kids have been into music and they’ve enjoyed music. They got that from Holly especially. We have musical children in our family. One of our kids one night was listening to music, and it was too late. It was after bedtime. It was after nine o’ clock. Everything’s supposed to go off at nine o’ clock. So Holly confronted him. “Aren’t you supposed to turn your music off by now?”
This is what he said. This was Matthew; I don’t think he’d care if I told you this. Matthew said, “Well, you know, Martin Luther said that music drives the devil away.”
To which Holly replied, “Drive him out by nine o’ clock.”
But Luther was right! This is one of the ways in which we fight our battles, is by praising our great God. We do that in the presence of Jesus our Savior, who in the midst of the congregation sings the praises of God, and then who models for us trust in God.
Just as Isaiah and his children which were given to him as signs of God’s faithfulness—that’s the context of this Isaiah 8 passage—Isaiah says, “I will trust you in the face of apostasy, when all others are forsaking you, I will trust you. Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
And now Jesus Christ says that as well to his Father: “Behold, I and these fellow children that you have given to me to redeem.” Jesus is our worship leader.
3. Jesus Is Our Deliverer
Number three, we see that Jesus as our brother is also our deliverer. Look at Hebrews 2:14-15.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things [then he gives us the reason], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Those words get right to the heart of the most serious existential crisis that every single one of us will face, and that is our mortality. You’re going to die. Death has come into the world because of sin, and all of us have to face this. Most people either don’t think about death—they ignore death, they pretend that death is never going to touch except for those rare occasions in our lives when we’re touched by it personally—until, all of a sudden, we’re confronted with our mortality. Maybe we get a surprising diagnosis, maybe a sickness that will prove eventually to be fatal. But it’s just reminding us of what is true of every single one of us: that death is a reality that all of us will face. Yet so often we face it with fear, don’t we?
It’s fear, fear of the unknown. You remember how Shakespeare’s Hamlet spoke of the dread of something after death, “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” We don’t know what’s beyond.
Maybe you feel like Christian in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Remember when he gets to the end of journey, and the last thing before he can enter into the gate of the Celestial City is he has to wade through a river, and it’s the river of death. You remember how Christian is there with Hopeful, and while Hopeful is full of confidence, Christian is fearful and afraid. He feels overwhelmed. He can barely keep his head above water; he can barely feel the ground beneath his feet at the bottom of the river, and he’s horrified with these terrors of death, and his sins are haunting him as he thinks about all the sins he committed before he became a Christian and all the sins that he committed after he became a Christian. He almost loses his way, but Hopeful says to him, “Be of good cheer. Jesus Christ makes you whole.” And with that Christian breaks into a loud voice, and you remember what he says? He says, “Oh, I see him again, and he tells me, ‘When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee, and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee.’”
I wonder where you are this morning. Do you find yourself fearful of suffering, fearful of death? This passage tells us that Christ has come to deliver us from that fear.
How does he do it? How does he deliver us from the fear of death? He does it by defeating the one who had the power of death, which is the devil. The devil in Scripture is often spoken of as the god of this world or the ruler of this world, and the one who, in some limited sense, holds sway over this sinful world after the fall. But Jesus, in his death on the cross, defeated the devil. He destroyed him, which doesn’t mean he annihilated him, but he rendered his power inoperative. He took away the power of death, so that Jesus now holds the keys to death and to Hades. Through his death he has defeated death.
I love the title of that old book by the Puritan John Owen: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. That’s what we see in this passage.
I wonder if you are able to live in that freedom, freedom from the fear of death, from the fear of dying, from the fear of suffering; freedom from fear because you know that Christ has gone before and that Christ will be with you every step of the way. Can you sing the words of that wonderful hymn?
“No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny!
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from his hand;
Till he returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
Jesus is our deliverer, our Savior, the one who rescues us from death and from the fear of death.
4. Jesus Is Our High Priest
There’s one more picture we need to see. This is in Hebrews 2:16-18. Jesus is our high priest.
Once again, we see that his humanity was necessary to his priesthood. You see this verse 16. “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.”
That word “helps” is a strong verb that often in the New Testament carries the idea of taking someone by the hand. In fact, the church fathers viewed this as signifying something much more than helping. They viewed it as Christ taking to himself, seizing, laying hold of a human nature, so that he shared our human nature with us.
The author here says that he helps not angels, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense, but it would make sense to say that he doesn’t take the nature of angels, because angels were not to be redeemed. Instead, he takes the nature of Abraham.
The mention of Abraham here reminds us of the covenant, the promise that God had made with Abraham. “Through you and through your offspring I’m going to bless all the nations of the world.” I think what the author is telling us is that Jesus Christ, in taking our nature, taking the nature of his brothers and his sisters, sharing in flesh and blood with us, brings to fulfillment the covenant promises made to Abraham.
Then look at verse 17. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that [here’s a reason] he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.”
Our brother is our priest! This is the first mention, directly, of the priesthood of Christ, in Hebrews or actually in Scripture. It’s only in the letter to the Hebrews that Christ is called our priest, although the imagery of priesthood is often used of Christ. We’ve already seen that in Hebrews. But here Jesus is directly called our merciful and our faithful high priest in the service of God, and we see that he does two things for us.
First of all, he makes propitiation for the sins of the people. We could say that he suffered for us. This is a description of the atoning sacrifice of Christ for our sins. He made propitiation.
The word that’s used there could carry one of two senses, and probably both. It could mean either that he removes our sins from us (expiation and the forgiveness and pardon of our sins), or it could mean that he placates the wrath of God against us, which is the meaning of the word propitiation. It seems that the best scholars say that both of those things are implied. Christ both removes our sins from us, and in doing so he thereby also removes the wrath and the judgment of God. In fact, he took that judgment upon himself. Of course, Hebrews will have much more to say about that in later chapters.
The passage says not only that he made propitiation for the sins of the people, but also in verse 18 that “because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” It’s not only that our priest suffered for us, it’s also that our priest suffered with us, and that because he suffered in his testing and in his trials, in his temptations, because he suffered with us, he understands. He can help us.
It prompts this question: are you learning to lean on the one who suffered for you and with you in your trials and temptations? I know that you’re tested, I know that you’re tempted, I know that you’re tried. I know that some of you face daily trials—maybe physical trials, maybe medical problems, maybe a body that as you age is breaking down, and you live with constant pain every day—and sometimes you just feel tempted to throw in the towel. This passage tells us that Jesus understands and he’s able to help you.
Some of you live with the ongoing, unmitigated stress of difficult family situations. Maybe it’s a very difficult marriage, maybe it’s children who have broken your heart. Maybe it’s unsaved family members whom you pray over and grieve over day after day after day, and you live with that constantly. I want you to know that Christ understands.
It may just be the daily pressures of life, the busyness that confronts us, especially, it seems, in middle age. You’re trying to raise kids, you’re trying to make a living, you’re trying to make the ends meet. You’re just trying to keep everything going, all the plates spinning, and sometimes it can just wear you down. But even in those situations, Christ understands. This passage tells us that he’s able to help us in our testing, in our trials.
In World War I there was a soldier who became a Christian, and he had seen all of the horrors of that trench warfare in World War I, men being mowed down by the machine guns. In response, he wrote a poem called “Jesus of the Scars.” One of the things he says in this poem is this:
“The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has scars, but Thou alone.”
This is the God we serve. This is the Lord we serve, the one who has become one of us, Jesus, our brother, our fellow sufferer, the one who is our high priest and who has borne our griefs and our sorrows.
Why was Jesus’ humanity important? Do you see how crucial the humanity of Jesus is? He’s truly God—yes, we affirm that 100 percent—but he’s also truly man. It was so important because of all that he accomplished in it, as he blazed the trail through suffering to glory for us, as he delivers us from the power of death and the fear of death, and as he suffered with us and for us as our high priest, and as he gathers us into a congregation of his fellow brothers and sisters to sing the praise of God.
If you think through this passage again—I encourage you to read it, read it devotionally again—what you’ll see is all of the key elements of Christianity are right here: Christmas, the incarnation, because he shares our nature; Good Friday, the crucifixion, because he went to death for us; but then he went to glory, there’s resurrection and ascension. It’s all right there! The whole gospel, right there in this passage.
You say, “How is this relevant to my life?” I’ve already tried to show you some of the ways. But I want to end by reading something to you that I think could be deeply encouraging to you. The reason this is relevant to us is because he did it for us.
I want to read to you something that’s somewhat modernized from the Puritan author Lewis Bayly in his book The Practice of Piety. There’s a place in the book where he imagines a conversation between your soul and Christ, the Lord. The soul is asking Christ questions and Jesus is responding. This is just an excerpt of some of what he says, somewhat modernized. Listen to it and imagine this as your conversation with Christ, the questions you ask and the answers he gives.
“Soul: Lord, why would you begin your passion in a garden?
“Christ: Because it was in a garden your sin first began.
“Soul: Lord, why would you be bound?
“Christ: That I might loose the cords of your iniquities.
“Soul: Lord, why would you be crowned with thorns?”
“Christ: That by wearing thorns, the firstfruits of the curse, you might see that I take away the sins and the curse of the world and crown you with the crown of life and glory.
“Soul: Lord, why would you have your blessed face defiled with spit?
“Christ: That I might cleanse your face from the shame of sin.
“Soul: Lord, why would you be so cruelly scourged?
“Christ: That you might be freed from the sting of conscience and the whips of everlasting torment.
“Soul: Lord, why would you be falsely accused?
“Christ: That you should not be justly condemned.
“Soul: Why would you be lifted upon a cross?
“Christ: That I might lift you up with me to heaven.
“Soul: Lord, why would you have your arms nailed wide?
“Christ: That I might embrace you more lovingly in the everlasting arms of mercy.”
You know why this is relevant to you? Because he did it for you. Because he’s your brother! Christ our brother. He’s done all that is necessary for our salvation so that he could bring us to himself. Let’s pray together.
God our Father, we thank you for Christ our brother. We thank you for what he has done for us in his suffering and in his death and resurrection to rescue us, to redeem and deliver us and save us from our sins and from death and from our enemy, the devil, from the power of death, from all the things that threatened us, to show us the way to live a true and authentic, God-honoring human life, the way through suffering to glory. We thank you.
Father, with Christ our brother this morning, we rejoice to worship you and to sing your praise as your congregation, as your children, and as brothers and sisters together. We ask you, Lord, to seal these words to our hearts by your Holy Spirit. We ask you to burn them deeply into our memories, that we would carry them this week through all of the trials and temptations and tests that we face. Help us, Lord, look to Christ, our brother and our high priest, for strength and help in our time of need. Help us now as we come to the Lord’s table to come with faith in Christ, trusting in him with all of our hearts, trusting in his finished work, accomplished on the cross, verified in the resurrection. We ask you, Lord, to draw near to us as we draw near to you. May you meet us through your Spirit as we gather at the table. So help us, Lord, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.