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In our previous lesson, we looked at the extent of Jesus’ humanity and ended with more questions than answers! After all, how can Jesus be God and then die like an ordinary man? We still need to go deeper in our study and search for the missing pieces of the puzzle. So far, we have established that Jesus DID become a man and that his doing so was NO ACCIDENT! In this lesson, we will seek to discover more details so that we can know WHY he became a human.
There are many passages in the Bible that discuss reasons why Jesus came to the earth as a human, but perhaps no other mentions so many reasons in one place as does Hebrews 2:9-18.
“9 For a short time Jesus was made lower than the angels, but now we see him wearing a crown of glory and honor because he suffered and died. Because of God’s grace (kindness) Jesus died for every person. 10 God is the one who made all things and all things are for his glory. God wanted to have many sons to share his glory. So God did what he needed to do. He made perfect the one (Jesus) who leads those people to salvation. God made Jesus a perfect savior through suffering. 11 The one (Jesus) who makes people holy1 and the ones who are made holy are from the same family. So he (Jesus) is not ashamed to call those people his brothers and sisters. 12 Jesus says, ‘God, I will tell my brothers and sisters about you. Before all your people I will sing your praises.’ 13 He also says, ‘I will trust in God.’ And he says, ‘I am here. And with me are the children God has given me.’ 14 Those children are people with physical bodies. So Jesus himself became like those people and had the same experiences people have. Jesus did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death. That one is the Devil. 15 Jesus became like those people and died so that he could free them. They were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. 16 Clearly, it is not angels that Jesus helps. Jesus helps the people who are from Abraham. 17 For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way. Jesus became like people so that he could become their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins. 18 And now Jesus can help those who are tempted. Jesus is able to help because he himself suffered and was tempted.”
Please read this passage through several times and think about what is being said here. Notice that there are at least eight (8) different reasons given why Jesus HAD to become a man. Let us go through them one at a time.
FIRST. Verse 9 of this passage tells us, “Because of God’s grace (kindness) Jesus died for every person.”
The important fact that this statement brings forward is that Jesus died. If we recall what we learned about Jesus’ origin from our previous lessons, we realize that this is saying that God died! This brings a very interesting question into our study. “Does death have any real meaning in the life of God?” It does not if we are speaking of the EXPERIENCE of death because God cannot DIE. It also follows that if he cannot know personally what it feels like to die, then he cannot know what we humans FEEL when we die.
In many ways, his situation is like that of a man who witnesses his neighbor’s house burn to the ground. He can have sincere PITY for his neighbor because he can see that his neighbor is hurting. He can see the tears of the family as their life’s possessions go up in smoke, and he can feel the heat from the flames. However, he cannot KNOW what the neighbor is FEELING INSIDE because it is not his house burning. Unless his own house should burn down, he cannot say, “I KNOW what you are feeling!”
Since God cannot die, his personal experience with death is similar to that of the man in the story. God can see us enduring pain and suffering and he can see our fears. He can detect our increased heartbeat as the moment draws nearer, but he cannot really KNOW what death is like—because he cannot die! (This same point can also be made concerning other areas of our humanity—like temptation, weakness, illness, and the like!)
When Jesus (who is also God) became a man then we can say that God was finally able to experience the pains of humanity firsthand. In other words, when Jesus gave up his equality with God and became human, it was as if he set his own house on fire so that he could know what it felt like! Because of this, God now KNOWS, through Jesus, what being human feels like!
Now the point here is very easy to understand. The only way that Jesus could have experienced death was for him to become human—just like us!
SECOND. Verse 10 of the passage tells us that God made Jesus perfect “through suffering”.
Perfection was a fact of life for Jesus. Almost everyone will tell you that Jesus was perfect in every way. Artistic representations of him all portray him as having a “halo” around his head—signifying his perfection and sinless life. The Bible clearly upholds the fact that Jesus was perfect and without sin. However, many people misunderstand these statements to be saying that Jesus was perfect BECAUSE HE WAS GOD. This is NOT what the Bible says. In fact, the point here in this verse stresses the fact Jesus was not perfect just because he was God. Perfection came only after hours, days, months, and years of blood, sweat, and tears. Human perfection is not at all easy. We know that all too well! Jesus had to become perfect through suffering and to accomplish that, he had to become a man and so he was sinless because every time he faced a temptation he made the correct freewill choice!
For a closer look at the kind of human existence Jesus struggled through, please read Hebrews 5:7-9. Note how it stresses that Jesus LEARNED OBEDIENCE through what he suffered. This was part of his human experience!
THIRD. Verse 11 states that Jesus came to, “set us apart as his brothers”.
The way Jesus sets people apart as being special for God is through his dying on the cross for their sins. That was one of the more important reasons why Jesus came to the earth. By dying, Jesus made it possible for all men to be set apart from the rest of humanity as his brothers in the family of God. Since the only way for him to accomplish this was to die, and since God cannot die, then the only way this could have been possible is if he became a man.
FOURTH. Verse 14 says Jesus, “became like those people and had the same experiences people have”.
In order for Jesus to share in every aspect of our humanity, notice how verse 17 indicates that he had to be made like us IN EVERY WAY. This is perhaps the most significant piece of evidence in our study for this lesson. It would seem that there is no difference between Jesus’ existence and our own existence. How could this be said about Jesus unless he truly gave up everything that made him equal with God and then truly became one of us—in every way?
FIFTH. Verse 14 also states that Jesus became a man and died, in order that he might, “destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil”
This one is amazing once you think about it for a few minutes. A question we might ask is, “Why would Jesus have to become a man in order to destroy the devil?” We know that Jesus was God before his incarnation in Bethlehem. We also know (hope) that God is more powerful than Satan. Right? Couldn’t Jesus have defeated the Devil while being equal with God? Of course, he could, so, why do we find this strange statement?
In heaven, Jesus is God. He has the power to do anything he wants. He can, with the simple touch of a finger, destroy Satan. So, why then did he have to come to earth as a man in order to destroy the devil? Consider the following reasoning very carefully.
If we survey the whole Bible, we can see a definite ranking of power in the universe. God reigns supreme at the top and everyone else occupies various positions of power and rank below him. Considering the point of the writer, here in Hebrews chapter 2, we can see something like this…
God and Satan have had their struggle against one another from some time back into eternity. God seems to have come out victorious because he is the one in control of everything, instead of Satan. How they settle their disputes is between them. However, from examining the Bible, we discover that they are in competition with one another over the loyalty of mankind. God desires man to choose him while Satan desires man to be loyal to him. Considering how serious is the outcome of their contest, why doesn’t God do something to eliminate Satan? That would be a great help to us!
The situation is a little complicated. We know that God COULD eliminate Satan. However, if this were to happen, then Satan would definitely complain that God had acted unfairly and that, had the contest been allowed to run its natural and just course to the end, he would have emerged as the winner! He might even be so bold as to charge that the people do not really love and respect God and that God is being blind to the truth... Does this kind of reasoning sound familiar to you? It should. We can picture this type of response from Satan because these are precisely the matters he raised in the case of JOB, in the Old Testament.
(Please stop here and read Job 1:8-12 and then Job 2:1-6.)
Isn’t this interesting? What do we learn about God and Satan from these encounters? There seems to be a definite concern among them over the matter of “fair play”. Satan accuses God of bribing Job for his affections and God is concerned that Satan will simply kill Job! Therefore, we might say that they came to an understanding about “fair play” in their contest over the soul of Job. This idea of fair play extends to all of us as well.
If fair play is an important issue with God then this might help explain the statement back in Hebrews 2:14. God may not be able to use his position of power to intervene and remove Satan from the game. That would not be fair play. However, what if God were to become HUMAN, and then compete with Satan? Once a man, he could then fight against Satan and Satan could not complain if he lost. He could not complain because he would have had the advantage during the contest. (Remember that SATAN is higher in rank and more powerful than MAN!)
Satan would welcome a challenge like this because he would have a powerful advantage. This also brings up a very important matter. What risks would there be for God if Jesus were to do battle against Satan as a man? What IF Jesus were to lose? (We will discuss this possibility in our final set of lessons, but for now let us focus upon the possibility of victory!)
If Jesus should win under these conditions, he would gain a very meaningful victory. He would have reached up, from a position of weakness and pulled down a more powerful adversary! This would be the kind of a victory that the angels up in heaven would celebrate! On the other hand, if God used his finger to defeat Satan, then Satan would be gone. However, would there be anything to sing or boast about in that kind of victory? Not really because we would EXPECT that result! After all, if God cannot defeat Satan then we all are in trouble, right? But what if God were to become a MAN and then defeat Satan? Now… If that were to happen, all the books of the world could not contain the songs and stories that would be written about such a victory, and what about the angels in heaven? One can only imagine the celebration they would have. To beat Satan at his own game, and to do it from a position of weakness, would be something indeed!
Surprisingly, this seems to be what actually happened! Jesus became a man and defeated Satan in the game, and the angels in heaven had a very great celebration! And best of all, here is the important part. The defeated Satan cannot complain about any violation of the “fair play” rule because HE had the advantage during the contest!
How does all of this relate back to our study of verse 14 of Hebrews chapter 2? The only way that Jesus could have accomplished this kind of victory is IF he became a man—just like us in every way. He could not have come here as God disguised as a man because he would still have all of his Godly powers and advantage during the battle with Satan. Then Satan would have complained about losing! Jesus had to win as a real man! Isn’t this amazing?
SIXTH. Verse 15 of our passage says that Jesus freed us from the fear of death.
Jesus’ victory over Satan was also a victory over death. Satan had Jesus in the tomb and perhaps thought he had won. But Jesus was raised from death by the Father and that assured him of his victory. Death could not keep him. His being raised up from death was also important for us because for the first time all people have proof that a man can rise from death, never to die again! Before Jesus rose from the dead, no person had any real proof that there really was a “resurrection to eternal life”. In the past there had been people who had died and been brought back from death, but they eventually died again. Even Jesus himself was afraid of death! The fear of death was like a prison in which all of us were being held inside. However, now that Jesus has risen from the dead, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT THERE IS A RESURRECTION and eternal life! We know this because Jesus rose from death never to die again. The writer says that Jesus has set us free from our slavery. The only way that this could be possible is if Jesus’ resurrection was the same one that we are also waiting to experience. His could not be a resurrection BECAUSE he is God. We would expect a God to be immortal. That would not help us in any way. However, if a fellow human were to be raised up, never to die again, then that would be important to us! It would prove, once and for all, that eternal life is real and that there is a resurrection! Because Jesus became a man, died, and was raised, we now KNOW that we no longer need to be afraid of death. If Jesus had not become a man—just like us in every way, then this would not be possible!
SEVENTH. Verse 17 of the passage says that Jesus became human so that “he could become their merciful and faithful high priest”.
From studying through the Old Testament, we learn that a priest is someone who stands between God and the people. He had to be dedicated to God, but at the same time close to the people. By becoming a man, Jesus learned about being human. He became very close to us. The writer here describes Jesus as having to become like us in every way! We also learn that his becoming human also helped him to become more merciful towards us. How could this happen if he did not become a man?
EIGHTH. Verse 18 tells us that Jesus is “able to help because he himself suffered and was tempted”.
For a more detailed explanation of this important point, please read Hebrews 4:15-16. The writer indicates that Jesus is not someone we need to be afraid of because he knows about our struggles and he sympathizes with us. Why is he this way? Because he was once one of us and knows what it is like to face temptation and weakness. He faced these things when he was alive on the earth. However, the only way the points made by the writer of Hebrews will make any sense to his readers is IF Jesus really did become a man—just like us in every way.
Because of all the things Jesus gained, suffered, gave up, experienced, did, and did not do during his human existence, he became, for us today, a most powerful friend and protector! A friend who CAN HELP US!
Aside from the points brought out in Hebrews chapter 2, there is a NINTH very interesting reason why Jesus had to become a man and live his life on the earth like us in every way. Please consider the following scenario:
“It is Judgment Day and a very bad man is brought before the Father who is seated behind his great Judgment Seat. Because of his evil behavior, it is not surprising when the man is sentenced to eternal punishment. In reaction to his sentence, he begins to accuse the Father of being unfair. He shouts that God has no right to send anybody to Hell because he himself never had to suffer and struggle against temptation and sin the way we humans did because he was always immune from such things! He continues his cries of criticism, to no avail, as he is dragged away to the Pit!”
The above story is not meant to cast insult toward the Father in any way. The story is told with the desire of focusing on the man who was judged. Think very carefully about his “complaint”. Of course, he has no basis for complaining because it wasn’t God who forced him to do all the bad things that caused him to be sent to the Pit. Only the man himself can be blamed for that! But what can we say about his point? We have already seen that God does not EXPERIENCE human temptation and weakness as we do. Therefore, it IS possible that some might complain, IF THE FATHER IS THE ONE WHO SITS IN FINAL JUDGMENT!
With this thought in mind, please read and consider the following passages, which speak about Jesus and the Judgment Day.
John 5:22-30 gives a vivid picture of the Judgment Day. Notice how it states that the Father gives the task of judging to Jesus. It also says that Jesus will judge in a fair way.
Acts 17:31 echoes this same idea by stating that the Father will judge the world THROUGH the Son. Notice how it also states that doing this will make the judging fair. This is an interesting point because it relates back to our judgment situation above. Jesus in the judgment seat will put fairness in the process because no person can say that Jesus lived using special powers, or that he does not know what it is like to live as a human. Jesus knows what being human is like and he will judge everyone in a fair way.
Romans 2:16 is another passage that states that God will judge the world THROUGH Jesus.
Another detailed account of the Judgment is found in 2 Corinthians 5:10.This one states that all people will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. It also states that the basis of the judgment of Jesus will be the actions of each person’s life. Therefore, we have a fair judge who also will judge us only by what we alone have done.
Another passage that speaks of Jesus as the judge is John 12:44-50.This one adds a little more explanation to what we learned above. The actions of our lives should be patterned after the things Jesus taught. The judgment will be a fair process. Jesus will use those teachings he received from the Father as the measuring stick to compare against our life actions when he makes his judgment. Since we know this, we should study the teachings of the second message carefully and follow them each day of our lives. This is the best way to prepare ourselves for judgment.
If we summarize these passages, we see that God has made a fair plan for judging the people of the world. He has decided to let Jesus be the one to do this and he had assured that Jesus will be fair by sending him down to the earth to experience humanity. Because Jesus experienced humanity—remember that he was just like us in every way—he is perfectly qualified to judge every person. Jesus will judge each person according to the teachings he received from the Father, taking into consideration his own experiences as a man. No person will have a reason or a right to complain!
It must be noted that the only way that this fairness in judgment can be achieved is IF Jesus actually did come down and live as a man—like us in every way.
As we conclude our study about the earthly side of Jesus, let us go back over the main points we have learned about the INCARNATION.
1 The word “holy” comes from a Greek word which means to take something and set it apart as being “special”, as opposed to something that is ordinary. The idea here seems to be that Jesus “sets us apart” as “special” for God.
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