In my last post about the incarnation of the Son of God, I stated that God became a man so that he might share in our suffering. I received a bit of pushback as if this was where I was going to leave the story… Jesus merely came to suffer. Far from it. Unfortunately for those readers, this point goes hand in hand with the last one. We must venture beyond the fact that Christ came to share in our suffering by looking to the fulfillment of that suffering on the cross.
Yes, Jesus came to share in our sufferings, to feel our woes and our pain both spiritually and physically, emotionally and mentally. He suffered just as we suffer. But he did not come merely to empathize or sympathize with our sadness, to learn a good lesson, and to depart back to heaven. No, he came to experience our suffering to its fullest conclusion, an agonizing death and the rejection of God himself.
I want to point us back to Hebrews 2 and to verse 14, not the usual Christmas text I know but this passage puts it quite plainly does it not? Jesus Christ partook of the “same things”… what “same things”? Nothing less than flesh and blood. To what? For what? “That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death.”
Death, the knowledge of death, the fear of death; these things bring with them a sort of bondage do they not? They bind humanity with cords of fear and anxiety. There’s not one person who has not contemplated the reality of death. We do not like to be confronted with death and we have a certain reaction that is almost universal to humanity that we experience when some who is close to us dies don’t we? Denial. Men are especially notorious for this. We somehow think that if we just separate ourselves from the reality of the situation long enough and strong enough… it will just go away. We want to ignore it because we want nothing less than to look in that casket and see our own fate as well. Sure, the dirt on the casket brings a kind of heart-breaking finality to it all, but it also tells us what God has already told us, “from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” And we don’t like it. So we what? We drown it out. We look the other way and we ignore the reality. We try to soften the phraseology using phrases like, “passed away,” and “passed on,” instead of the definitive, “died.” Psychologists and Psychiatrists tell us that some of this is even healthy as long as it is the first in a long line of other stages that deal with death in a healthy manner. But we do see in this stage of denial a certain fear of our own death that causes us to try very hard to separate ourselves from the situation. That is the author’s point in Hebrews 2:15. Humanity, through the fear of death, is subject to lifelong slavery. Slavery to what? Slavery to nothing less than sin, death, and Hell.
But we know that this isn’t the full story don’t we? And the author of Hebrews reminds us of such saying that Jesus did not come merely to die as some sort of vilified martyr, but in dying, he destroyed the one who has the power of death, namely Satan, the accuser. Before even venturing to the resurrection, we must understand that in the death of Christ, death itself died for death no longer has the last word. But how is this destruction of death possible?
We know that although death is the fruit of unrighteousness and the “wages of sin,” it is the just and righteous condemnation of Almighty God that sinners should die both temporally and physically as well as eternally and spiritually in Hell. Because of your sin, because of my sin, God owes us nothing more than a quick death here and an eternity in Hell? “Why?” We ask in disbelief. We might get by in comparing ourselves to the Adolf Hitlers and Charles Mansons of the world, we might look pretty good compared to the stranger down the pew from us living in sexual sin… but before a righteous and Almighty God in whose presence sin is simply burned up and consumed, our sin is blatantly obvious and even our righteousness, as Isaiah said is, “filthy rags.” So if our plan for salvation is to bring all of our goodness to God and try to claim it for salvation, we must take the blinders off and look down… all we’re holding is dirty, filthy, vile, disgusting rags… “these for sin cannot atone.”
But God himself has opened a fountain in the house of David, a fountain that flows deep and wide. In this fountain, those filthy rags become meaningless to you as you are clothed in the spotless perfection of the Son of God. How? By faith!
The author goes on in Hebrews 2:17 to show how this was the work of a high priest. Jesus comes, not as an earthly high priest who is unable to feel our sufferings and pain, but he comes with the full weight of our pain and suffering. This perfect high priest enters the Holy of Holies by his own righteousness. He brings no offering of his own for he is sinless. There, in the most Holy of Holies, the very throne room of God, Jesus tears his flesh as the veil was torn and thereby opens the way to God forever to all those who will enter by this death.
We must die for our sins. We deserve to suffer the rejection of God and the torment of Hell one way or another. We may either be united by faith to Jesus Christ who has already suffered those things in our place, or we may experience them for ourselves in eternity. Jesus came to taste death and by tasting it for us, to destroy its power over us. By faith in him, we are united with him in a death like his. Sin, Hell, and the grave no longer have a hold over us. What is more, there is no more wrath from God left for those who are in Christ. It was all spent on him there at Calvary. God became a man so that he might die our death in order that we, in him, might live his life. “O glorious exchange!”
To Read Part I of “Why Did God Become a Man?” Click Here.