Like One Of Us
We live in a cultural climate that is eager to validate any and every religion. And while we must certainly respect the freedom of every individual to choose for him or herself what is to be believed in, it would be a mistake to extend this into thinking that all ideologies are equally tenable, or that all ideologies are really different manifestations of a single principle.
Even with a cursory study of some of the other world religions, we should be immediately struck by the uniqueness of the Christian faith. The uniqueness of Christianity is, perhaps, most evident in the assertion that the Creator of the cosmos came to live on this earth as a human being with the express purpose of suffering at the hands of those whom He created as a means to securing their forgiveness.
Let that sink in for a minute. The Creator of the Universe came to live on this earth as a human being and was prepared to suffer at the hands of those whom He created in order to secure their forgiveness.
This combination of the Incarnation and the crucifixion of God, in Christ, sets Christianity apart from Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. And I submit to you that those who would suggest that ‘all religions are basically the same’ have not spent much time studying world religions.
What God has done in Christ is without parallel. The fundamental nature of Christ is without parallel. The Westminster Divines have said it well, “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.”
You just don’t see that in the other world religions.
I have no doubt that the Westminster Divines drew from the deep well of the Book of Hebrews on this subject. The author of Hebrews spends the first chapter establishing for us the supremacy of Christ, presenting Him as equal with God the Father (1:3). And then, as the purpose of Christ’s death is explained, the author of Hebrews presents Christ as being like one of us.
What a blessed mystery! On one level, the eternal Son of God, the One through whom the world was made, is nothing like us. But now, since His Incarnation, there is a level on which the Son of God is very much like us.
In verse 11, the author testifies that the One “who sanctifies”—namely, Christ—and “those who are sanctified”—namely, us—“have the same origin”.
Initially, it may not appear obvious which origin is being referenced. Is the author talking about our shared connection to God the Father, or is he talking about our shared connection to humanity through Adam? The most prudent approach to resolving this interpretive dilemma, or any interpretive challenge for that matter, is to let the context of the passage govern us. That is, we look at the verses that closely precede and follow for help. As we do this it becomes manifest that it is the human connection that is being spoken of here.
More than that, the author of Hebrews wants us know that our connection to Christ is not a superficial or a tenuous connection. Having first established the supremacy of Christ over all things, the author of Hebrews now declares Christ’s solidarity with humanity. Having become fully human, we are now told, “for this reason (Christ) is not ashamed to call (us) brethren” (2:11).
In my mind, this is one of the most comforting texts in all of Scripture—the Creator of the cosmos, the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ is “not ashamed” to call me “brother”! Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call you “sisters” and “brothers”!
I think back to my childhood as the youngest of three children. I am eight and ten years younger than my two siblings and I remember occasions when they would have friends over and I would arrive on the scene wanting to be included in the gathering. As an eight-year old, however, I lacked the social skills to effectively mingle with my teenage siblings and their friends. And what I sometimes found, was that they were “ashamed” to have their misbehaving little brother around.
I think now of how I’m getting on in this world as an adult. Once again, I find myself trying to belong, but this time it is the favour and acceptance from God that I am longing for. And, yet again, I am aware of my unbefitting behaviour. I want to please God, but I recognize that I’m doing things, and failing to do things, that God requires of me.
But then I come to Hebrews 2:11 and I read that Christ “is not ashamed” to call me “brother”.
As human beings we long for solidarity, we long to fit in with those we respect and admire. And with some people, no matter how hard we try, we are excluded from their ‘inner circle’. Thankfully, our relationship with the Creator of this Universe is different. Our longing for friendship with Christ is all that is required. If we turn to Christ, in spite of all our shortcomings, He will not be ashamed to call you “friend”.
What kind of friend is Jesus, anyway? He is the best kind of friend. In my mind, the first line of the great hymn is unmatched by the subsequent verses,
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
Or, as the author of Hebrews puts it, “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, (Christ) Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver (us) who through fear of death were subject to slavery all (our) lives” (2:14, 15).
The sense is that our salvation could not be procured any other way. The eternal Son of God, clothing Himself in the fullness of humanity, is presented as being essential to the saving process. This point is emphasized in verse 17, “Therefore, (Christ) had to be made like His brethren in every respect, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.”
In other words, the combination of Christ’s Divinity and His humanity was the perfect configuration to save us from sin, death, and the devil. As God He possessed the power to save us from these things, and as man He could ably represent us and substitute for us.
This is solidarity of the most profound kind. According to the author of Hebrews, apart from Christ, humanity is enslaved by a fear of death. Look around in this world and that is not hard to see. In addition, not only were we enslaved by a fear of death but we were like a ‘dead men walking’ as the phrase goes for those who have been issued a death sentence. But then along comes the Son of God, “made like (us) in every respect” except sin. And though we are tainted by this sin while Christ remains sinless, He nevertheless is unashamed to call us “brothers”.
Friends, if you have turned towards Christ, the Scriptures assure you of your solidarity with the One who holds the keys to heaven and hell (Rev. 1:17, 18).
The authors of The Heidelberg Catechism understood this blessed assurance and gave it prominence in Question One of the Catechism:
What is the only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.
Would that be our answer? Is your solidarity with Christ and His benefits your only true comfort in life and death?
Practically, I don’t know if I can answer that in the affirmative. I don’t know if my lifestyle appropriately reflects an affirmative answer. But I can tell you that I desperately want that. I want Christ to be ‘my only comfort in life and death’. I am also convinced that I desperately need that. I am convinced that my ultimate happiness hinges on my connection to Christ.
Now, how do I get there? Well, first, I need to be convinced that this is possible. And, I’m sufficiently encouraged out of the starting gates as I read here that Christ is for me. Christ is not ashamed of me. Christ is committed to me and has demonstrated that in the most profound way possible—with His very life. So, there is no question about Christ’s commitment to me. If I’m not connected, that’s my doing, not His. I grant then that what I desperately want and need is possible. I can see myself ‘heartily willing . . . to live unto Him.’
Secondly, I need to prepare myself for some serious obstacles. If you haven’t figured it out already; being a Christian in this world of ours is not easy. Temptation rages on every side, and the competition for our devotion is fierce.
Such are the challenges to our faith that we consider: ‘Even if I come to Christ, ready and willing, how do I stay the course?’
The author of Hebrews provides some encouragement in this regard, “since (Christ) Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18).
We find a similar message in chapter 4, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).
The Son of God knows, first hand, the struggles human beings face. Jesus is acquainted with our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses. And, marvelously, we are promised more than just His sympathy—we are told, “(Christ) is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (2:18).
Are you struggling with sin? Do not fear; Christ is able to save you. Are you struggling to overcome the challenges to your Christian faith? Are you struggling to live for Christ as you ought? Then, I implore you to call upon the One who is willing and able to help you.
Draw close to the One who, in spite of all your failings, is not ashamed to call you “friend”.
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there. Amen.