#HeIsGreater Series
  • What was once a time to celebrate the birth of God's gracious rescue of this world has become a frantic few months of consumerism, depression, conflict and stress. Sadly, we're often so busy with what Christmas has become that we've forgotten what it truly is. We've forgotten the story. The book of Hebrews points its readers, both in the 1st century as well as in the 21st century, towards Jesus. He is the reason for the season. He truly is greater than anything we imagine!
5. Greater Than Only Christmas Day [Hebrews 2:11-18]
  • Jesus became man in order to bring us to God. He was born to die so that we may live!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • In the plan of salvation, Jesus is fully identified with humankind by having taken on humanity Himself. (Hebrews 2:14, 17)
  • Jesus the Son of God stands before God the Father with all those He has redeemed. (Hebrews 2:11-13, 17)
  • In Jesus' suffering is our salvation. (Hebrews 2:14)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How has Jesus identified with you in your own humanity?
  • What is your relationship with God the Father in light of Jesus' as your Savior and brother/sister? 
  • How does Jesus' having suffered death for you help you in your day to day living and troubles?
Talk It Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – what is the text telling/showing us?
  • Who is the sanctifier? Who are the sanctified?
  • What does it mean to be sanctified?
  • Why is Jesus not ashamed to call us brothers?
  • Why is it crucial that Jesus “partook” of flesh and blood? How did He do that?
  • How was Jesus “made like his brothers in every respect?” (Hebrews 2:17)
  • How did Jesus destroy death, and what does it mean that He destroyed death?
  • What is the overall relevance of Jesus becoming a “merciful and faithful high priest?”
  • What does it mean to say that Jesus “suffered when tempted?”
  • Implementation – What should the listener's response be?
  • What does it mean to you that you are sanctified?
  • What does your sanctification have to do with your everyday life? With your eternal life?
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother/sister?
  • Does death have any power over you? Why not? Are you afraid of death?
  • Have you been set free from the slavery of sin? How?
  • What does it mean to you personally that Jesus is your merciful and faithful high priest?
  • How are you helped by Jesus in terms of being tempted (whether tempted to sin or tempted to treat spiritual things less than seriously)?
Sermon Teaching Notes (As prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)

In verse 10 of chapter 2, the author initiated the point, hinted at in the very end of verse 9, that Jesus, the One who is greater than the angels, is the “founder,” the author of salvation, the implication being that the angels did not and could not do that and therefore Jesus is greater. Verses 11 through 18 continue this point and give more depth and substance to it; they move further the narrative of just who this Jesus is and what did He do, all of which is relevant to the state and circumstances of the readers of this book. The sum and substance of the narrative is that Jesus carried out the plan of salvation by becoming a man to identify fully with humankind in their sin, to defeat death and the devil himself and bring humans back to God as brothers with Him in God's family. This narrative, then, serves the greater and main point of the book, namely that Jesus is greater and should be followed without a doubt.

So, what did Jesus do exactly? How did He carry out the great plan of salvation in which He had a hand before time as we know it began? The answers to these two questions are that He voluntarily took on humanity on Himself, was tempted to sin as a human, died as a sacrifice for all sin, and brought believing humans into full fellowship with God and adoption as His children. Jesus thus became humanity's champion, their Savior, their mediator and representative, and their helper. He who was Himself holy made them holy. The author starts right off in verse 11 by saying that “he who sanctifies” (i.e., Jesus) and “those who are sanctified” (i.e., those who put their faith in Jesus for salvation) “all have one source” (Hebrews 2:11). In other words, both are in the same family and have the same Father. “Sanctifies” means sets apart, or makes holy. Thus, Jesus, who as God is indeed holy, was able to make holy those who believe in Him. No one else could do that except Jesus because He is God. But He didn't just make the believer holy; He actually calls them brothers (implying sisters, too), and is not ashamed to do so before the Father (Hebrews 2:11b & 12). The author again turns to the Scriptures to buttress his point, quoting first Psalm 22:22, and then Isaiah 8:17 and 18 (still using the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint with which his readers were intimately familiar). And the way the author presents these verses is to set them out as if Jesus is speaking to the readers directly. Notice verses 11 and 12 read, “That is why he not ashamed to call them brothers, saying ...”) The “he” means Jesus, and thus it is Jesus, the “sanctifier” who speaks “in the midst of the congregation” (i.e., with human believers), telling the Father of these humans who are made righteous in Himself and singing their praises, and then with those who are the “children God has given” to Him, says verse 13, putting trust in the Father. In these three quick verses, then, the author has forcefully stated that Jesus and those who follow Him constitute one family of the Father, that Jesus' followers share in His holiness, and that He stands with them before God the Father. The author doesn't have to say it, but it is clear he means that angels did not do this; no, salvation was brought about by Jesus!

But the author then circles around and restates what he has just said but with more detail. Starting at verse 14, the author says that Jesus “partook” of flesh and blood in becoming human. The word “partook” means He voluntarily took on something which was not His (namely, humanity; or, flesh and blood) in order to become one with humanity, in a sense. And the verb tense indicates that his partaking of humanity is a continuing condition; it was not just for a time, but for all time once He was incarnated. But why did He do that? The verse goes on to give the answer: He did it so that by dying (which is what happens to flesh and blood), He could destroy (some translations read, “render powerless”) the one who holds the power of death over humans, namely the devil (Satan), and deliver all who were afraid of death and who were held captive as slaves by death (Hebrews 2:15). Therefore, in one fell swoop, Jesus defeated “the three great powers that enslaved human beings since the Fall – sin, death and the devil.” (Ben Witherington III in Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians @ pp, 156-57) No wonder Jesus is greater than anyone and anything, including angels. And the author makes just that point as well in verse 16 by saying, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham,” referring to Abraham because the Jewish people are descendants of Abraham. Jesus didn't die for the angels; they did not need salvation. The angels are servants but do not have central place in God's great work of salvation. In fact, they are on the outside looking in, and do not (not yet, at least) fully understand the extent of this great work of God. (cf. I Peter 1:12-12)

In verse 17, the author makes another circle to move the argument along that Jesus is greater. He reiterates that Jesus “had to be made like His brothers in every respect.” (Note, that by stating it this way, the author makes the point as well that Jesus is fully human, an important and foundational doctrinal belief.), but moves to a further truth, that Jesus did so in order that He could be a “merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) Why bring up the concept of Jesus as high priest? In part because it is something to which the author is going to turn later in his written sermon. But also because his readers are Jewish and they understand the concept and role of the high priest in Judaism, and now they are being told that Jesus is their high priest in God's service as God's Son who brings salvation. The high priest in Judaism was the one who was the representative of the Jewish people before God, the one who was in charge of the sacrificial system and who made intercession on behalf of the people, and the one who once a year (on the Day of Atonement. See Leviticus 16) offered the sacrifice of atonement in the holy of holies in the Temple to take away the sins of the people. Thus, Jesus has become God's high priest before God as it relates to the sin of humankind, and it is His sacrifice that made atonement for sin, a concept that the author will return to later in the sermon. The author uses the word “propotiation” which means the turning away of wrath by an offering, and in the matter of human sin, means satisfying God's wrath and judgment on sin by the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus. The act of propitiation by Jesus is one out of mercy (the giving of undeserved favor) and faithfulness in carrying out the plan of salvation. No angel could accomplish this, much less any human; only Jesus could, and He did, and therefore He is greater! Moreover, because Jesus Himself suffered temptation, He is the greatest high priest because He can help those who are His children who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18) By saying thus, the author is linking what Jesus did in salvation and in being the great high priest to the present situation of his readers, namely their persecution and suffering. He is saying to them that Jesus has been there, that He was faithful through His own suffering, and carried out the plan of salvation. Therefore they can follow Him with confidence.

What a wonderful reality that Jesus, the “founder” of salvation, sanctifies us, calls us brothers (and sisters), and is with us in everything, the firstborn of many in God's family. And thanks be to God that His Son destroyed death and the works of the devil, and delivered us from the slavery of sin and death, having taken care of God's righteous wrath by His obedient death on the cross. And finally, thanks be to God that because of what He did, Jesus is able to help us who are being tempted to stray or drift. He is great, He is worthy, and He is faithful and true; He is Jesus, and He is indeed greater than anything and everything! Praise Him, the One crowned with glory and honor.