“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death.
For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)
How deeply did God want to identify with his creation? So much so that he chose to “be made like (us) in every respect.” In our last study together, we discussed how he shared in our humanity to the point of suffering death. We often think of Jesus as being “superhuman,” but rather than being superhuman, Hebrews teaches us he was fully-human. He chose to be like us in every single detail.
Now, before you go and object saying, “Yeah, but he could perform miracles of healing, walk on water, and do all sorts of things that I’m not able to do,” consider that he chose not to use that ability until he was 30 years old. From age 12 up until age 30 we have not one account of what he did, other than the testimony of his own townspeople. Listen to what they say, and their indignation at the thought that Jesus should think he deserves any greater respect than they:
“‘Where did he get these ideas? And what is this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these miracles that are done through his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And so they took offense at him.” (Mark 6:2b-3)
Jesus was so ordinary to his own neighbors, that they couldn’t believe he was able to teach with superior wisdom, much less that he was able to perform miracles! For 30 years he’d chosen to live a quiet life and be just like them in every respect! He’d worked as a carpenter alongside his father (Matt.12:55), until he evidently passed away, and then continued plying his trade among the members of his small village, possibly going with them to work at the nearby city of Sepphoris that was being constructed by Herod Antipas at the time. Whatever the case, they’d seen him use a saw, plane a board, drill a hole, and drive in a peg with a mallet so many times that they couldn’t get the image of the “ordinary” man out of their minds. He was “like (us) in every respect.”
Why did God choose to do this? Why did God choose to live as a man in a small village in Nazareth of Galilee 2,000 years ago? Sounds crazy when you look at it in print. Sounds even crazier when you say it out loud, but the author of Hebrews tells us plainly, “so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.” Wait a minute! How does God “become” anything? I thought he just IS! He’s the I AM, the eternally present divine, all-powerful, all-knowing God! Remember the three “omnis” we’ve learned about in Bible classes or heard used from a pulpit: omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent? While the terms are no-where used in Scripture, they are evident everywhere! So, people came up with adjectives to describe these attributes of God.
Now, back to my question, if these things are true and God IS the I AM, then how did God “become” anything? When Moses asked him at the burning bush who he was to say sent him to the Israelites, God simply said, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). When Jesus claimed to be the I AM, the Jews were so angry with him they picked up stones to stone him and he had to slip away from them and get out of the temple (John 8:59). All of these passages speak to God being eternally present, all-powerful and knowing. So, how does God “become” anything?
Let me propose an idea: could it be there are certain aspects of God’s creation that he chose to know experientially? I’ll give you a less-than-perfect analogy: an engineer designs and builds a sports car. He can either choose to have someone else get in the driver’s seat, or he can choose to get in the driver’s seat, take it out on the road, and experience all the twists and turns from the perspective of what it’s like to be inside the car. I’m saying God chose to do the latter. Rather than using his infinite wisdom and understanding to know what it’s like to be human, he chose to become human. He got in the driver’s seat and experienced for himself all the twists and turns of life. In so doing, he accomplished three things:
- He “became” merciful.
- He “became” faithful.
- He made atonement for our sins.
God’s mercy, faithfulness, and forgiveness were all dependent upon his willingness to fully experience the human condition.
Now, back to the “omnis.” How could God be merciful before he became human? His “omni” nature. How could God be faithful to fickle, sinful human beings before he became human? His “omni” nature. How could God forgive sins before he became human? His “omni” nature. As we move forward in Hebrews, the author is going to begin using a word that is generally translated into English as the phrase, “once for all,” or “once for all time.” He’s going to begin using this phrase over and over as he discusses the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice for sins and its implications for our forgiveness.
For now, let’s draw a conclusion from the concepts we’ve considered: God Almighty lives in an eternal present as the “I AM,” therefore he chose to experientially know his creation, humanity, for the purpose of being merciful, faithful, and forgiving.
Personally, I’m astonished that God so wanted to know us that he became like us in “every respect.” The older I get, the more I realize my own frailty — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Why would God choose to know me that well? I can’t answer that for him, but he did, and one day I want to be able to thank him.