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5 reasons for the fear-destroying death of Christ

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April 10, 2020

Hebrews 2:10-18 explains Hebrews 2:9, which states that Jesus tasted death for everyone. Specifically, this passage answers the question, “Why did Jesus taste death for everyone?” And there are at least five answers to that question found in verses 10-18, which should give us hope when we face trials like the coronavirus pandemic.

First, Jesus tasted death to be made perfect through suffering (v. 10). 

What does it mean to say that Jesus was “made perfect through suffering?” 

Those familiar with Scripture are probably thinking, “Jesus is already perfect. He is without sin. How could he be made any more perfect than he is?” And, of course, Jesus is sinless. He is morally perfect. But moral perfection is not what this passage is referring to. Instead, the focus is on Jesus’ obedience as the incarnate Son of God. 

In a very real sense, while Jesus was perfectly holy from the time of his conception by the Holy Spirit, Jesus needed to be tested and tried in his humanity. His obedience as a man needed to be brought to completion, fulfillment, or perfection, as this verse states. This becomes clearer when we read verse 18, which states that Jesus can help us in our temptation, because he himself was also tempted. He understands our temptation because he was tempted too, but he did not arrive on earth with such understanding from the perspective of a human being. 

When the Son of God took on flesh and became a man, whom we call Jesus, God experienced something that he had never experienced before, namely, a man. There were experiences and sufferings that Jesus had to endure to be able to fulfill his role as our Great High Priest, and these were things that he had not yet experienced as the Son of God before his incarnation. So, Jesus tasted death. He endured suffering in order to be made perfectly fit for his role as a sympathetic and merciful High Priest.

Second, Jesus tasted death to identify with us in suffering (v. 11-14). 

Verses 11-14 makes this point clear, which is related to the last point. Now, though, the focus is on how Jesus’ suffering relates to us as sons and daughters of God. The author of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8 to highlight the role of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. He endures suffering and trusts the Lord for vindication in his suffering while “bringing many sons and daughters to glory.” By Jesus, we are returning to the glory that we all fell short of in our sin (Rom. 3:23). And the means of our being brought back is through the sufferings of Christ. 

As C.S. Lewis put it, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” In other words, Jesus became like us in order to redeem us. He didn’t just phone our salvation in. He came to us in our weakness and need, and took on that same weakness in order to redeem us from it. Because Jesus became like us, we can become like him, in the sense that we can be children of God. The author makes this point explicitly at the beginning of verse 14, stating, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.”

Third, Jesus tasted death so that he might destroy Satan and deliver us from fear of death (v. 14-16). 

At first, you may not see the connection between Satan and fear of death. Your first thought might be, “Well, if I die and I am not a Christian, shouldn’t I be afraid of God. Isn’t he going to be the One who judges me? What power does Satan have at my judgment before God?” God is the judge before whom we will stand and give an account. So how does Satan wield the power of death? Satan wields the power of death through accusation. He is our accuser. He is the one who rattles us as we are facing the prospect of standing before the judgment seat of Christ. In Revelation, Satan is described as “the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10).

As the founder of our salvation, Jesus is perfectly equipped to sympathize with us in our struggles, free us from fear of death, and empower us in the midst of our temptation. There is no one else to whom we can flee for salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our hope.

So, what are we going to do? The author of Hebrews realizes that humanity has a real problem when it comes to death. In Hebrews 9:27, the author writes, “For it is appointed unto man once to die and then comes the judgment.” Do you realize that judgment is coming? That we will be held accountable? How will you stand before God one day? Well, according to this passage, your only hope is found in Jesus, the founder of our salvation, who destroys the devil and the fear of death. 

But you might be asking, “Ok, great, Jesus defeats the devil and strips him of the power of enslavement to fear of death. But how does this deal with my guilt and my sin?” This leads us to the fourth reason that Jesus tasted death. 

Fourth, Jesus tasted death to satisfy God’s wrath toward us (v. 17). 

We need to see and understand the relationship between our freedom from fear of death and the work of Jesus as our High Priest. This verse uses a glorious word: propitiation. Propitiation refers to the work of Jesus Christ whereby he absorbs and satisfies God’s righteous, holy, and just wrath toward our sin. 

In God’s holiness, someone must be held accountable for our rebellion. Someone must do the time for the crime. Someone must be punished. It would be unrighteous for God to clear the guilty without retribution. And that is the devil’s point in his accusations against before God. We are guilty. We have sinned. We deserve to die eternally for our sin. We deserve the wrath and judgment of God. Therefore, when we hear these accusations, we are terrified. We are enslaved. 

So, what is the solution to our plight? What is our hope in this seemingly hopeless situation? It is that Jesus was made like us in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for our sins. Our hope is found in that fact that Jesus took the penalty and punishment that we deserved. The wrath and judgment that should have fallen upon us, fell on Jesus Christ. When the hammer of God’s justice dropped, it dropped on Christ, who willingly, for the joy that was set before him, took our place. God’s wrath is satisfied toward those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, the threats of the devil are empty. They have no power because Jesus’ death and resurrection have stripped them of their power. Sin and death have no ultimate power over us because Jesus has died and rose again in our place.

Fifth, Jesus tasted death in order to help us in temptation (v. 18). 

Jesus suffered in our place in ways that we will never suffer. Jesus overcame temptation in the midst of suffering, so that when we are faced with temptation, we might endure and resist by trusting our Heavenly Father as Jesus did in the midst of his suffering. He helps us not as one who does not know what we are going through, but rather, as One who was made perfect through suffering and is able to carry us through our temptation.

In conclusion, as the founder of our salvation, Jesus is perfectly equipped to sympathize with us in our struggles, free us from fear of death, and empower us in the midst of our temptation. There is no one else to whom we can flee for salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our hope. 

As we face the temptation to despair in the face of the coronavirus, we must place our hope in Christ. Our salvation from earthly disease and disaster is found in the One who took on flesh, dwelt among the decay that sin has brought, and delivered us from it through his life, death, and resurrection. As you contemplate your own mortality in the face of disease, turn your eyes to Jesus, the One who, through death, destroyed the one who has the power of death—the devil—and delivers us from slavery to the fear of death.

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough is lead pastor at Copperfield Church in Houston, Texas, and a Ph.D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs regularly at www.CaseyHough.com. Casey and his wife, Hannah, have three sons and two daughters.  Read More