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Christ Tasted Death for You

Oct 07, 2018

Passage: Hebrews 2:8-11

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Pentecost


Text: “8bAt present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. We are now leaving the letter of James with its stupendous life-application for the Christian walk; and moving on to the marvelous epistle of Hebrews which is really a long sermon. If you ever think that a pastor’s sermon is long, just read all of Hebrews and then you will encounter a long sermon (with-the-exception of a brief letter at-the-conclusion of Hebrews 13). By the way, there are too many pastors who want desperately to be people-pleasers and treat sermonizing as dealing with juvenile attention spans. Don’t worry, I don’t think that way. Indeed, if we can pay attention to a 2 ½ hour-long movie or – on average (I checked) – 3 hours for a Major League Baseball Game or National League Football Game (though this time is certainly redeemed if one is rooting for the Dodgers or Raiders), then a 17 to 20 minute sermon is a walk in the park, especially given the fact that the subject matter is infinitely more important than how many homeruns the Yankees just finished hitting this past year (setting an MLB record) or the fact that Drew Brees [who is quite open about his faith in Jesus Christ] is about to break the all-time NFL record for passing yards tomorrow night. Indeed, if the sermon is based on the Word of Christ (which is always the standard for what a sermon should be) then that sermon will keep you alive; that sermon will keep you in the faith…and only the Word of Christ can do that.

In all seriousness we need more time in the Word of Christ, we need more sermons that give us Jesus, because the world is giving us way too much of things that just get us down, get us angry, and get us divided, for example – and what is far-more important than sports – the hearings for the latest Supreme Court nominee. Let that settle in your soul (regardless of your position) and you will be sifted like wheat, you will be agitated, and you will perpetuate the angst within our culture; and you will not know peace. We need the Word of Christ.

Verse 8b (or starting with the second full-sentence of verse 8): “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”

This is an important word because it reminds us that God is fantastically real with us and He connects with us and is considerate to why things are hard for us. That is, He gets it. He understands what we go through. Life is hard. I just read an article this past week of how to always successfully engage a person (and of course a Christian will not do this superficially, but genuinely): treat the person with compassion as if in the background they have a serious problem going on. The article didn’t say to try to get into the person’s business, but just treat them with compassion as if you knew they had a serious problem, because half the time, they do (even if they aren’t acting like it). I liked this article because we live in a world with sin and we live with sin in us, which is to say we really do have – constantly – serious problems! And when people are treated with compassion, they are more likely to respond positively to the one who treats them with compassion. And Christians, we want that, because we want to share Christ who is compassionate to us all.

The point, however, is that life is hard! And I know that it sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but it is an obvious thing that we don’t like to talk about very much and yet, it has a tremendous bearing on our outlook.

Why do we have this outlook? Hebrews 2:8b: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”

The people who originally received this letter needed to hear this as they were probably living during the time of the Roman Emperor Nero who conducted a persecution against Christians. [This persecution was more local to Rome (A.D. 64), but it fomented or was at least was a sign of times of fomenting that later knew the Jewish rebellion (A.D. 66-70) against Rome (in all this, Christians were not the favorite people of either Romans nor Jews).

Those Christians knew – like us – that they should live in faith, but they struggled as we struggle because we don’t see with our physical eyes the results of the victory of Jesus Christ. Instead, we see hard times. And because we don’t see the relief and victory of Jesus for our lives right here, right now – the way we want to see these things – then we struggle. We doubt, and we don’t live in our faith the way we should.

We just don’t SEE everything in subjection to Christ. Therefore, the writer to the Hebrews is very interested later in his sermon to carefully define faith, Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith informs us that Jesus really is in control of all things in our lives even if life may seem to be out of control (see The Lutheran Study Bible, p 2106).

But we struggle because it doesn’t seem like the LORD has everything under control. “If God has put everything under the feet of his Son, how is it that ‘we do not yet see everything subordinated to him’? Why does the congregation not experience his glory and theirs as co-heirs with him?” (Kleinig, John W. Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture: Hebrews, Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2016. 130) Important questions written by John Kleinig.

The answer is certainly that God is teaching us about faith, but it isn’t just learning about faith itself, but is much more importantly, learning about what faith is holding to. What does faith hold to? As we live in faith, we hold to what is most important…and this the world does not do. The world focuses on what is here today and gone tomorrow. That’s not what faith holds to. We hold to what is lasting. We hold to Christ and His saving death and what followed that saving death!

“Still, [many Christians] will object because the world simply seems a far cry from being spared of Satan’s deception (Rv 20:3). However, sometimes human expectations preclude theological comprehensiveness. Martin H. Franzmann warned, “Those who cherish and foster the millennial hope…need to ask themselves whether the desire to have and enjoy a visible victory before the final victory of the Crucified is not a subtle and unconscious form of objection to the Crucified…He has promised to be with His church, under the cross, ‘to the close of the age.’ (Matt 28:20) (Franzmann, 1968: 133)” [Espinosa, Alfonso O. The Apocalyptic Anxiety of American Evangelicalism…, England: The University of Birmingham, 2009. 77-78]

And that’s it: just when we feel justified for our lack of faith, what comes out is that we are just not trusting in God’s answer: that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But this is God’s answer. When we are feeling how hard life is: God is calling us to hold to Jesus who died for our hard lives!

Verse 9: “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

So here Christians is our answer to our hard lives. It is God’s answer and there are three things in this one verse, verse 9 that are God’s answer. If we ignore them, then we will drown in our misery, but if we hold to them, then we will find help throughout our lives! Here it is:

  • The Incarnation of Christ: “him who for a little while was made lower than the angels.”
  • The Exaltation of Christ: “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death,”
  • Our Salvation: “so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

It has been said that “Jesus’ death has drained the cup of sin and death that poisoned every person (cf Rm 5:12-17).” (The Lutheran Study Bible, 2107) 

But we have-to take into consideration, “WHO tasted death for us and drained the cup of sin and death that poisoned every person?” You see, Christ’s humiliation and exaltation in this text are treated as two things of a single event rather than two successive acts. (Kleinig, 116)

The One who tasted death for you Christian is the one fully vested with glory and honor. THE High Priest who deals with sin and death (the source of all your problems in this life). When this One tasted death, this word “taste” in Scripture is treated as partaking of food or drink in a literal sense. (Kleinig, 118). In Scripture at Psalm 34:8 – and still teaching what becomes a part of you when you taste – we read about what Christians taste:

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

St. Peter at 1st Peter 2:3, also confirms the Christian experience:

“if indeed you have tasted that the LORD is good.”

What we taste is inside of us. It defines our lives.

If you taste the goodness of the LORD. You have the LORD.

Let’s get back to Hebrews on Jesus now: He -- the one crowned with glory and honor -- tasted death. He ate death. He consumed death. Death entered Him. That is where death is. Death became a part of Jesus, because He tasted it; He consumed it. But since death entered the One crowned with glory and honor, it is not the One crowned with glory and honor who has the big, fat problem, but the one with the big, fat problem is death. It entered the LORD of Life crowned with glory and honor. Uh oh…death just got its posterior kicked and then some! Death met its own poison in Jesus who tasted it. Death got its death warrant. Death got flat-lined. Death died, so that for the people of God, it no longer has lasting power over them…it cannot hold them…it cannot imprison them…it cannot end them…it cannot take their eternal life…and this means that all who die in Christ who tasted death FOR THEM are yet fully and magnificently still alive!

Yes, the LORD permits what must play out do to sin that entered the world. That’s called a consequence.  

But here in Hebrews 2 it is teaching that Christ came to share with us the consequence. So verse 9: Christ was made lower than the angels (for a little while); verse 10: His being called “founder” in the ESV is like being called “leader” or “champion”…one who is like those He leads or those He in among, and on their behalf (our behalf, your behalf, my behalf) is a champion as a real human being (and also God); and verse 11 teaches He shares “one origin” with us. That is, the LORD got in your boat and is flesh and blood just like you (remember His incarnation)! All these descriptions mean that He came along side of us to join us in our dying, so that He – for all of us – would taste death…so that after this temporary, weak, and feeble physical death (the backdrop to all our problems perceived), we would know that Jesus tasted that!

And its all because He became like you and me and tasted death. When we confess the Creed, there is a point in the Creed in which you can celebrate what I’m saying every time. When you get to the part of the incarnation: “came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man”…it is appropriate (if you feel so moved) to bow your head, because this dear friends is the basis for all your misery being dealt with: God became your brother and killed the one thing that to this day raises fear in the hearts of people: death.

As William L. Lane puts it, “The purpose of Jesus’ abasement to the human condition is expressed by…that he might taste death… ‘for everyone’… ‘by the grace of God,’ has in view the gracious disposition of God who addresses man’s failure to achieve his destiny by the provision of a redeemer through whose death many will be led to the experience of sonship and glory…”. (Lane, William L., Word Biblical Commentary: Hebrews 1-8, Dallas, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1991. 49).

And Christians, Jesus is fully qualified to do this for you! According to verse 10 God made your Champion Jesus “perfect through suffering” … that means that through suffering, His saving mission for you was completed. His tasting death for you was accomplished. The result of His mission! PERFECT! FINISHED!

And now here’s the best part: Christ having conquered death is in all glory and honor presently keeping you sanctified…so you literally stand in the presence of God as sharing the glory and honor of your Savior and LORD Jesus Christ and in this way – and let this soak in – the LORD, the Champion, the One with all glory and honor as the text says at verse 11:

“… is not ashamed to call [you] brothers.”

“Jesus therefore takes pride in publicly recognizing those he sanctifies as his brothers.” (Kleinig, 120)

Our Lutheran Confessions teach this in the Epitome of The Formula of Concord, Article I, paragraph 5: “Therefore, [Christ] did not receive a foreign nature, but our own flesh in the unity of His person. In this way He has become our true Brother.”

One Lutheran teacher writes, “Jesus is not ashamed to call a person whom we might consider the most hopeless sinner His brother.” (Buls, Harold H. Notes on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Fort Wayne, IN: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1987: 10) Amazing! And true! This is the glory of the gospel that humbles us beyond words…no matter how low, no matter how weak, no matter how much you struggle…this tasting of death, this victory in all glory and honor…is yours and the LORD sanctifies you/makes you holy in the sight of God and calls you “brother” (a word that means in this case, any person -- male or female -- devoted to Him). Even if we struggle and are weak and heavy laden, and yet have the faith the size of a mustard seed, then He is not ashamed to call you “brother” and He wants you to know beyond all doubt that the source of all your cares (death itself) He tasted. His glory and honor He now shares with you.