Daily Thoughts from Hebrews: Angels Can’t Be High Priests and Satan Needs Destroying

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18, ESV)

There are three reasons why Jesus “had to be made like his brothers,” that is, share in their flesh and blood, become a human being:

(1) We are human beings.  For God to fully enter into our plight and danger He had to become one of us.  And in order to be the atoning sacrifice on our behalf he had to be able to die.  And so the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, took on human nature.  We call this the incarnation, the taking on of flesh.  Jesus became a “bag of bones,” gave up glory for a cross, chose to experience suffering the way we do.  This does not mean God does not suffer, for He does, way more than we ever have.  But Jesus suffered the way we do, in a body that is subject to death.

(2) Satan needs destroying.  Satan has the power of death over us, not an absolute power, which only God has, but a relative one under God’s sovereignty.  God tells him he cannot kill Job (Job 2), but apparently he could have engineered that if he chose.  Satan’s greatest power with reference to death, however, is the fear we have of death.  He uses that fear to encourage us to pursue all kinds of false paths to immortality, and in the long run as we realize we cannot escape, he moves us to despair that anything can ever change and our slavery becomes lifelong.

(3) Angels can’t be high priests.  Our author is still showing Jesus’ superiority to angels.  Jesus didn’t become an angel to redeem angels.  He became a human to help the “offspring” of Abraham, those who truly believe like Abraham did (Genesis 15:6).  And Jesus couldn’t be a sympathetic high priest unless he was a human.  Jesus, as high priest, is both offering the propitiatory sacrifice (a sacrifice that satisfies the justified wrath of God against us for our rebellion) and he is the propitiatory sacrifice.  This the high priest of Israel could not do.  And Jesus understands our temptations and is able to sympathize and, more than that, help.  The author of Hebrews will go into greater detail about that as he goes.  Suffice it to say that here he is bridging to his next point in the argument designed to bring this erring congregation back to reality.  Jesus is superior to the priesthood of Israel, including Moses the leader-priest and Aaron the high priest.

Many a little boy and some girls have taken some delight in killing ants in their anthill.  Why not, they are little and unimportant creatures.  Some people feel God looks this way on us.  But Jesus’ incarnation is like us becoming an ant to show the ant the way from death to life.  Why would He do this for us unless we were anything but unimportant to Him?  He didn’t die for angels.  He died for us.

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