The following is a lightly edited transcript.
Hebrews has one main point, setting the stage here for the rest of the book: Jesus is not an angel. Jesus is worshiped by angels. Let it be known to all Jehovah’s Witnesses, he’s not Michael, and he’s not Gabriel, they’re on their faces this morning before the very God, Jesus Christ. Still the God-man, and he will always be the God-man.
Jesus is not an angel. He is God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). That’s what Hebrews 1 is about. Superior to angels, worshiped by angels, and we’re drawn in into Hebrews 1:6–8. Now, worship with this angels this Son who was given all those descriptions in verses 1–3 — upholding the universe by the word of his power, and the heir of all things, and the exact representation of the Father, and making purification for sins, and sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
Don’t Drift Away
We’re left with the sense that we’re supposed to be stunned at the Son of God. And then in Hebrews 2:3 says, “Don’t neglect such a great salvation.” You have a great Savior. I’m about to tell you in 13 chapters what the salvation is that he has brought. Don’t neglect, don’t drift. This book is written for churches.
I don’t know your church very well, but every church has seasons where this is their danger. This book is written to drifting churches — churches whose hands are starting to flag, whose knees are going down, who ought to be teachers and now must be taught the basics. They are drifting. The way drifting works is things start to become ho-hum at church. Devotions and Christ is ho-hum. Then, you become a drifter, and your Christian life is not aggressive, it’s not vigilant, it’s just kind of floating, and when you float, you go downstream and not upstream towards God.
“Neglectors don’t escape. They fall under the wrath of God. Don’t play games with your faith.”
You become indifferent. And if God doesn’t stop you, you become ice-cold, and then, hell. This is serious business. Don’t neglect a great salvation. Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Neglectors don’t escape. They fall under the wrath of God. Don’t play games with your faith.
Don’t play games at church. Get serious about this great salvation. So that’s the effect that chapter 1 is supposed to have, as he moves now into what the great salvation is.
A Promise of Glory
And what he focuses on in Hebrews 2:5 is drawn from Psalm 8:1–5: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
That text is about human beings first. Now, we’ll have to ask the question, “How does it relate to Jesus?” That’s what this text is going to do. It’s about you, and it’s about Jesus as you. That’s what we’re going to deal with.
Psalm 8 is a promise that all of you who know Christ will one day be crowned with glory and honor, and all the universe will be put under your feet. I know you don’t feel that way right now, neither do I, but that’s what it says, which creates a problem.
Some of you in this room have very serious diseases that will bring you to the grave quicker than you had hoped. That’s us, that’s everybody. It’s kind of ironic. We can put a man on the moon, we can knock out Polio, we can chase down a comet fro ten years, and then put our little filet on the comet going 80,000 miles an hour, and yet we can’t solve our problem of death or disease.
So what’s with Psalm 8? Crowned with glory and honor, ruling over the world. Oh you humans, that’s why you were made! And here you are being ruled by the world. The futility of the world is ruling you, bringing you to the grave, and in many other ways. So that’s the issue here.
About You and Me or Jesus?
In Hebrews 2:6–8, he quotes Psalm 8: “It has been testified somewhere [Psalm 8], ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.’ Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At the present time, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
This is a difficult text, and I’m going to propose that “him” right here is not yet Jesus — that’s the man, “What is man, that you are mindful of him?” That’s you and me in Psalm 8. We don’t yet see everything in subjection to man. Man is in subjection to this fallen world.
And then he says in verse 9, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus.” Get the flow here, if I’m right about this, you need to test it. He’s just quoted Psalm 8, which everybody reads Psalm 8 about human beings, and only secondarily we have to ask, “Now, how does it relate to Jesus?” But it’s about human beings, it’s about us. And he just quoted it.
Glory, honor, and subjection of creation, but we don’t see it. We don’t see him, this human being, this glorious vice regent, vice president of the universe joining with God in ruling the world. We don’t see it. So what do we see? Hebrews 2:9: “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.”
What we see is not man, but the man. Not every son of man, but the Son of Man — the representative man. The one who would come and join us under the futility of the world, under suffering, under disease, under persecution, and live out his life, and then move out and lead us to glory and the honor of Psalm 8. That’s what I think he’s saying here. “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” (Hebrews 2:9).
‘Bringing Many Sons to Glory’
So the great salvation now, that’s starting to emerge, is that the reality of Psalm 8, where human beings would have the destiny of ruling the universe, ruling creation, all things under our feet, crowned with glory and honor — not now a reality is being made a reality by God’s Son, becoming man and through suffering, leading us into glory. That’s the great salvation that’s here.
Look at verse 10 to see where I’m getting this leading-us-to-glory idea. “For it was fitting,” we’ll come back to that word in a minute, “that he,” this is God the Father, “for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory. . . .” What glory? The glory of Psalm 8. Crowned with glory and honor, and we’re not there yet.
It was fitting that God would bring us there that in doing so he should make the founder, forerunner, captain, representative, leader, perfect through sufferings. So the reason he came and he suffered was to make sure that Psalm 8 would happen for God’s people. He’s going to bring many sons to glory — that’s what’s happening here.
So don’t neglect such a great salvation. It may not feel very great right now. That’s one of the mysteries of Christianity. God is the kind of God who moves into the brokenness, into the suffering, into the dying of the world, and right there lives it out with us. And then he dies and conquers it, and he’s crowned with glory and honor as our forerunner, our founder, our representative, and he brings us with him through death to glory and honor.
God’s Way Is Fitting
And we can wish he’d do it another way. They fully expected him to do it another way when he came the first time. Like, “What’s with this dying stuff? This getting crucified. This doesn’t look like victory, this doesn’t look like honor, this doesn’t like glory. What’s becoming of all those promises of Psalm 8?” And Jesus said, “Just trust me. This is the way we’re going to do it.” Now, is that a good way to do it? Through sufferings of the Son of Man, to bring all the sons to glory. Is that a good way to do it? It is. And the reason I say this is because of the word “fitting.”
“It was fitting,” that’s a strange word. It set me straight years ago. God is God and he can do whatever he wants. Why does he even talk about finding God to have done what is fitting? He’s God! He does what he wants. He’s the definition of fitting. To which I think the writer to Hebrews would say, “Yes, he is the definition of fitting, so why wouldn’t you want to know how everything fits?”
It is remarkable to me that he would say it was fitting for God to do it this way. So he just described in verse 9 that through suffering and death, he’s bringing many sons to glory, tasting death for them all. For, verse 10, “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.”
I have to kind of close my mouth instead of saying, “That’s a weird way to talk.” This is God. You don’t talk about his word that way. Every time I see something in the Bible that jars me or makes me question it, my mind submits, “This is God’s word, this is God’s way.” It’s fitting.
What is another word for fitting? Suitable, appropriate, beautiful? Everything fits, it’s right, it’s good. That’s the way God does things. So I’m just going to assume that now. I’m going to go to the Bible, if God says, “I’ll do it this way,” I’ll say, “That’s fitting. That’s appropriate, that’s right, that’s beautiful,” whether I see it or not is another question.
And then, my next lifelong task is to see it. See it! I think that’s what the Lord wants to happen in this room, because the reason you will walk out of here wanting not to neglect your salvation, if you’ve seen something of the beauty of it, if it’s still boring when you walk out and say, “Ho-hum, he did it that way, big deal,” you won’t be vigilant, you will neglect your great salvation. But if you see the fittingness of it, then you won’t neglect it. So that’s why it’s here. It was fitting. So the rest of this message is this: three things I see in the text that make it fitting.
I am looking for reasons for why it’s fitting, because he says it’s fitting, and I assume he wants to see why it’s fitting, because he said it’s fitting, beautiful, appropriate, suitable, right, beautiful. God does things well. I just want to see, why do you do it this way? Why do you bring many sons to glory in fulfillment of Psalm 8 by having your eternal son become a human being, live a life of perfection, die, rise, and through that suffering, bring many sons to glory? Why that way? It sounds like a myth.
And his answer is, “It’s fitting to do it that way.” And I will say, “Okay, I totally believe you. Would you just tell me why?” Here’s the three things that I say, and I’ll bet there are more here than these three.
How the Son Is Perfected
First, I think he is saying that it’s fitting to do it this way because they are a means by which God perfects his Son. Let’s read verse 10 again: “For 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.” That’s why it’s fitting.
This way of doing it through suffering makes the founder perfect through suffering, which is an unbelievably jarring statement. How can you make perfect, perfect? Or are you saying the Son of God starts imperfect, flawed, sinful, and by suffering he gets fixed and now perfect?
That’s what it sounds like. Now, why do we know that’s not what he means? Made perfect meaning he starts sinful, ends sinless. Now he can be a Savior. End of his life, he can be a Savior, beginning, not so good. Wrong!
“God is the kind of God who moves into the brokenness and suffering and lives it out with us.”
We know it’s wrong because of numerous texts in this book. This book of Hebrews, more than any other letter in the New Testament, protests — demonstrates — the sinlessness of Jesus. You’re familiar with one of them. Hebrews 4:15: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s the message of this book. Zero sin in Jesus. Never had a sin, never did a sin, never will have a sin, which fits him to be our founder, sharing our sufferings, when he doesn’t deserve to share our sufferings.
So we know this writer is not saying “he was perfected through sufferings” means he starts as a sinner, ends sinless. What does he mean? Hebrews 5:8–9: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Now, what this text adds is “made perfect” parallels “learned obedience.”
He learned obedience through what he suffered, and was thus made perfect. Now, think about learning obedience. Must you disobey to learn obedience? No. So here he comes, he’s the eternal Son of God, living with the Father forever, eternally begotten, never having a beginning, and by there raised within covenant to save mankind. He comes into the world and takes on human flesh, and for the first time in eternity, he suffers.
Will he succeed where we failed? You know what you all do when you suffer? Murmur, murmur, murmur! Complain, complain, complain! That’s sin! “Do all things without murmuring” (Philippians 2:14). We all sin when we suffer, every one of us, every day, I dare say.
Now, how will he do? He’s never suffered before. He’s taking on the potential of pain when he takes on a human nature. I’ll bet when he came out of that womb there was things about it that didn’t feel so good. And at every stage in life, new pain, new pressures, new rejections, new trials. No doubt he hit his thumb when he was practicing carpentry!
How did he do? He learned obedience perfectly. Every test he passed, A+. So, if you’re a teacher, and you have a student, must they get some F’s before their A’s are A’s? No. They can make all A’s. They really can, if they’re good enough. And as they’re learning algebra, or learning grammar, they’re learning it, and they’re scoring perfect!
It’s not like he has to have mistakes in order to learn. We do, because we’re all falling. Jesus, that’s what’s unique about him. He learned obedience, and in this sense, he was perfected. He moved from untested obedience to tested obedience, he moved from unproven perfection to proven perfection. That’s my understanding of this.
Now, what it says is that’s why it was fitting that God saved sinners this way, because had he come, joined us in our suffering and failed like we have failed, there would be no salvation. None. So it was fitting then bringing many sons to glory, that he do it that way, and succeed. That’s the point.
It was fitting that he be perfected through sharing our nature. Had he failed in sharing our nature, and become a sinner like us, there would be no resurrection, and there would be no salvation. So it was fitting that God saved us sinners by a shared suffer, because this shared suffer was made perfect through his suffering, unlike us who are made angry, and bitter through our suffering. And we need a Savior like that. That’s the first reason why it’s a beautiful salvation. It glorious to watch how God is doing it.
To Gather a Family
I think the second reason that it’s fitting for Christ to lead many sons to glory through suffering is that one of the great aims of God in this whole drama of his Son coming into the world, living, dying, rising, bringing of people together — to gather a family. This is breathtaking. We use phrases, “children of God, sons of God,” so lightly. Remember what John said? “Behold.” Why would he even start like that? That’s a weird word. It’s not a religious word. Why would you stick that in a letter?
“Behold what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” Behold” (1 John 3:1). You got to use a word like that to wake people up. Behold what kind of love have we received — you, fallen, sinful, hell-deserving people.
You are in the family of God! It’s just off-the-charts spectacular! That’s the purpose. That’s the purpose of sending his Son, “I’m going to have a family,” and Jesus is going to be a brother. Not just Lord, not just Savior, not just Creator, all true — Brother.
Romans 8:29: “He predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brothers.” My Brother, Creator of the universe? My Brother? Big Brother? I love having a big Brother! I never had a big brother! Give me a big brother! Nobody messes with me on the playground anymore! If they do, they’re going to get it. And they will, believe me. They may kill us, but our big Brother lets nothing slide.
Now, that’s one of the goals of the incarnation and redemption — to gather a family with a big brother. Now, what would be a fitting way to do that? Fitting. And evidently, in God’s infinitely wise mind, he looks at this and he says, “You know? All those people I want to adopt, and have in my family, who deserve hell right now, have suffered. They’ve all suffered. I subjected the creation to futility. I designed suffering. If they didn’t suffer, then none of them would turn to me. They’ve all suffered.”
Would it be fitting for the big brother not to have any suffering? And I think his answer was, “Nope, that wouldn’t be fitting.” God can do what he wants to do. Right? He can just do it his way, but what he thinks is, “No, I want the kind of family in which the one who is the God-man, and therefore very different, also be very like them.”
And one of the ways that will be most like us is he will suffer like us. Some of you have big sisters, big brothers, or maybe big families. My wife has 10 children in her ... She’s the oldest of 10. What if every one of the children God ... some had hereditary disease from their parents, and one didn’t? How would that empathy go? How would the unity be at the family gatherings? Everybody is connecting, everybody understands, everybody knows what it feels like, but Joe doesn’t because he got skipped. And God, whether he thought of that kind of illustration, I have no idea, but he looked at the possibility of a great brotherhood, lots of similarities, but suffering, that’s not one of them. And he said, “Nope, we won’t go there. Suffering. That’s going to be one of the ways.” And I see that in the connection between verses 10–11. Verse 10 says it’s fitting for him to be perfected through sufferings, and then verse 11 begins with “for.”
“For” both “he who sanctifies,” now that is Jesus, and I know that because of Hebrews 13:12: “Jesus suffered outside the gate to sanctify the people.” So Jesus is the Sanctifier. “And those who are sanctified are now . . .” There they are, “for both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified,” that’s us, the brothers, “are all from one,” from the same source I think, have the same Father. “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise’” (Hebrews 2:10).
So that’s given as a reason why it’s fitting, in verse 10, for God to do it through suffering, because the one who sanctifies, and the one who is sanctified are one, and they share in nature, and they share in suffering.
To Glorify God as the Supreme Satisfaction
Third and finally, God has created the universe, upholds the universe, runs the universe in order to magnify his glory and self-sufficiency and infinite worth. Perhaps the best way for a human being to display the worth of God, the beauty of God, the glory of God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Upholder of the world is for that person, through suffering, to obey and be satisfied in God above everything he’s losing on this earth.
Now, I’m just setting up before I read the text, so you can see how I think the argument’s going to go. God does everything for his glory. One of the ways human give him glory, I think probably the most awesome way, is that through their suffering, they never turn on him. They love him, they’re satisfied in him.
God’s brightness shines most brightly because the Son of God became human, suffered, and never sinned.
“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still.” I’m going nowhere! “You have the words of eternal life, though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” I think that moment is the most beautiful moment in the world for a human being. The prosperity gospel doesn’t get that. The prosperity gospel preaches that God’s glory will shine most brightly when you prosper and drive your big car and stay healthy and your wife never miscarries and you never get cancer and you always have a perfect job. Doesn’t God look great?
My answer is no! Prosperity looks great! Gifts look great! Not Giver. But you take that same person, and his wife miscarries four times, and his farm goes through a famine, and his car is wrecked and no insurance will insure him anymore, and he loses his job, and you come to talk to that man, and he is radiant in his trust in God, and his love for God. You say, “That’s not human. That’s off-the-charts supernatural! That’s beautiful!” And he thinks it’s supernatural to be happy when you’re driving a car, and your wife is perfectly healthy, and you have a great job, and everything’s going well. Zero supernatural is needed for that kind of joy.
But you start losing stuff in your life, your health goes, your job goes, and your reputation goes, and maybe your children go, then what do you value? And if God is it, he’s just it! People will say, “That’s a great God. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.”
Now, is that the argument of this text? It’s in the text! Did God do it? Did God bring Jesus into suffering so that Jesus’s allegiance to the Father would show the greatness of the Father precisely through his suffering? Is that why he did it that way? I’ll show you where I saw this. I didn’t make this up. Hebrews 2:10: “It was fitting for him, God the Father, for whom and by whom all things exist,” now just capture that little phrase “for whom.” “All things exist for God, the Father.” Everything.
You exist for God. Your job exists for God, your clothes exist for God, your house exists for God. Everything in this city exists for God — to show him to be God, worthy, infinite, beautiful, powerful, satisfying, greatest treasure over all! That’s what it’s for! That’s why all things exist, to show the greatness of God. That’s what that little phrase means, “for whom are all things.”
Now, the sentence goes on, “It was fitting for him,” precisely him, “for whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” Get the connection? He’s the kind of God for whom all things exist, and therefore it’s fitting that one who will bring many Sons to glory must suffer.
You’re going to say, “Why?” And I just tried to explain why, namely, when you suffer and still hold on to God, he looks great. Well, there’s another verse in this book that tipped me off about how Jesus is doing this:
Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2)
So here he is identifying with us in our suffering. He must succeed where we failed. How will he succeed? By what emotional means will this human’s God-man not become bitter? Be able to pray from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,” be able to take Peter back after he denied him to his face, “I don’t know him, I don’t know him, I don’t know him,” and then says, “Do you love me, Peter?” “Yes.” “Do you love me, Peter?” “Yes.” “Do you love me, Peter?” Yes.” “Feed my sheep. I love you.”
How does a human being do that? Answer: “For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross.” So as he suffers, what are we supposed to see? We’re supposed to see something all-satisfying is sustaining Jesus. What’s that joy? He’s going to sit down at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). He’s going to sit down at the right hand of the Father, and he’s bringing many sons and daughters to glory.
We’ll be surrounding him, we’ll be saying, “You are awesome!” And Jesus will receive it, he’ll hand it all to the Father, and the Father will be seen as “for whom are all things.” If Jesus failed, if Jesus had suffered and not been carried by joy, or if he had not suffered, the Father’s glory would not shine so brightly.
So my argument is that one of the reasons we have lights everywhere at Christmas time is that we want there to be brightness. The brightness of the glory of God shines most brightly because the Son of God became a human being, took on our suffering, and never sinned under the burden of it, but constantly, for the joy set before him, kept reminding himself, “I’m going to make it.” And, “By the grace of God I’m going to make it, I’m going to be restored to the Father, and the Father’s glory will shine more brightly because it sustained me in my sufferings, and that’s what I live for.” John 12:27: “I have come to this hour, Father, glorify yourself.”
So those are my three reasons for why I think this is a fitting way to save sinners. This is a glorious salvation that is glorious all the more because of a threefold fittingness. And I’ll bet some of you could take those verses and see more than three. There’s more there than just three, which means we have a bottomless treasure in the Bible, to help us not neglect our great salvation.
So I pray for your faith that you would not be among those churches that begin to drift, and start coasting, “Ho-hum, go to church, sing a song, here’s a sermon, go back watch the football game, ho-hum, everything’s the same.” Your future will not be bright if that’s the way you live. And the whole Bible labors to help you not take it for granted.