Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.Hebrews 2:14-18 NIV
For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Earlier in Hebrews, the author had made the point that Jesus was the divine Son of God; high above the angels. From there he moved into Jesus’ humanity; his suffering and death; and his identification with the children God had given him. In this passage, the author makes the point that Jesus’ humanity was more than just skin deep. But that he was human in every way.
Twice in these five verses, Jesus is said to be human. In verse 14 the author shared that Jesus shared in our humanity. Then, in verse 17 he said that Jesus was made fully human in every way. What does it mean that Jesus was fully human in every way? I discuss this more fully in the article about the Person of Jesus, part of which is quoted below.
He was born (Luke 2:7) and developed physically and mentally (Luke 2:52). He knew hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), had human emotions (John 11:35), was limited in knowledge (Mark 9:11; 13:32), and grew weary (John 4:6). Jesus died (Matt. 27:50) and was buried (Matt. 27:59-60). And his disciples claimed to have seen and touched him (1 Peter 1:16-18, 1 John 1:1).The Person of Jesus Christ
It is not uncommon to find people who will attribute Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and know what people were thinking to his divinity. But I believe that is incorrect. Jesus lived among us as fully human. It was the Holy Spirit working in and through him, that enabled the miracles, his knowledge, and his words. Apart from his birth, death, and resurrection, there is little Jesus did that others in the Scripture did not also do. And he told his disciples that they would do even greater things than what he did (John 14:12).
I believe we sell the humanity of Jesus short when we explain away his life and work by saying that he was also God. Indeed he was fully God. But he was like me in every way. The mystery of the incarnation.
The Reason for Sharing Our Humanity
This passage gives us four reasons for Jesus sharing in our humanity.
To Break the Power of Satan
Jesus became human so that he could die. And in that death break the power of the devil, the one who holds the power of death. The power of death is the fear that it holds for us. It is a journey into the great unknown. Or, as many believe, into oblivion. No matter how bad life gets, the vast majority of people will cling to life, trying to delay death as long as possible.
Jesus’ death on the cross appeared to be a defeat. And that is certainly what both his followers and his enemies believed as he hung on the cross. But it was not. Jesus’ death was actually a triumph. In his death he defeated Satan. More commonly we understand Jesus’ resurrection to be his victory. And indeed it gave evidence of his victory over death. But the author of Hebrews here says that it was actually his death that gave him the victory.
Jesus’ death, and victory over the devil, frees us from our slavery to the fear of death. The one who holds the power of death is defeated. And now those who place their trust in the one who defeated Satan have been released from their fear of death. It is true that many still have an unwarranted fear of death. But there is no reason for that now. The Son has set us free.
To Become a Faithful High Priest
These next two reasons are closely related, both being concerned with our atonement. Jesus was made fully human in every way so that he might become our high priest. Hebrews 5:1 says that “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” The Jewish high priests were human and they represented us before God. So Jesus became human in order to be our perfect high priest, representing us before God, and offering a sacrifice for sin.
The author of Hebrews will have much more to say about this in the chapters that follow. Jesus as the high priest is a significant element of his theology of Jesus.
To Make Atonement for Sin
Jesus became fully human so that he could be our high priest. And so that, as the high priest, he could offer the atoning sacrifice that we needed. But Jesus was not just the high priest offering the sacrifice. He was also the sacrifice that made atonement. This thread will also be developed in much greater detail in the chapters to come.
Able to Help Those Who Suffer
“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” This is not directly connected to the statements about Jesus becoming fully human. But it really fits within that context. Jesus became fully human and experienced temptation. This further emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. James tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil (Jam. 1:13). But Jesus, as fully human, was clearly tempted to disobey (Matt. 4:1-11).
And, not only was he tempted, but he suffered in that temptation. The temptations that he faced were hard. No better example can be found than in the garden prior to his arrest and crucifixion. In Luke 22:39-44 Jesus expressed his human desire to not go to the cross. But he resisted that temptation and submitted himself to the Father’s will. But doing so cost him great anguish. So much so that he was sweating. And that sweat fell to the ground like blood. He suffered intensely during that time of temptation.
When someone is experiencing temptation it is common to try and offer advice on how to deal with that temptation. And sometimes we might actually have good advice to offer. Advice that is helpful. But all too often we fall short. However, there is one who can, through his own experience, help us through whatever temptation we might be facing. He has faced every challenge we do (Heb. 4:15). He does indeed know the temptations we face. And he has overcome them. Because of that, he is able to truly offer help and counsel to those who are facing any temptation.
It is for the descendants of Abraham that Jesus became human in order to defeat death and become our high priest. It might be tempting to understand Abraham’s descendants as referring to ethnic Jews. But I believe that is an incorrect understanding. Certainly, there are some who have physically descended from Abraham that could fall into the category of Abraham’s descendants. But there are many who might be able to trace their linage back to Abraham who are not his descendants (Rom. 9:8). At least in the sense that it is being used here.
In Hebrews 2:9 we are told that “Jesus tasted death for everyone.” His death was not just for ethnic Jews. It was for everyone in the world. And all who place their trust in him are considered children of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-29). And heirs of the promise made to him.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)