Hebrews Series: Jesus Is One of Us
“What if God was one of us?” (from song by Joan Osborne) - a slob, a passenger on a bus – a somewhat irreverent idea. But it also contains a profound kernel of truth and that may even need a certain level of irreverence to get at – that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity did in fact become one of us. He didn't just resemble us or appear to be like us, rather he joined to his divine nature a real and true human nature – in every way he became like us yet was without sin.
This reveals Jesus' glory and provides us with comfort – 3 points:
- Jesus shares our humanityPoint of previous week – Jesus is superior to the angels. Angels were seen as those who conveyed the law to OT Israel. Writer is saying someone greater has come – a greater communicator, a greater message, a greater messenger, greater and superior to the angels. He anticipates the questions of the audience – how can Jesus be superior to the angels if he is human? The writer uses the fact that he is human to prove that he is superior to the angels. He uses Psalm 8 – a psalm about humanity. He explains it first in the way that the hearers would expect, but then says that it is about Jesus - “made for a little while lower than the angels.” He characterizes it as a Messianic psalm, and that Jesus so identifies with humanity that what is true of us is true of Jesus – that he shares our humanity. Jesus is humanity par excellence - he is the new Adam.
- Jesus makes us familyThe preacher uses 3 familial terms – a) we share the same father; b) we are Jesus' siblings (Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters); c) we are his children (as intimate as a parent and a child) – we are family.
- Jesus delivers/saves/helps his familyTwo benefits – a) Jesus delivers his family from death and the fear of death. Our fear of death enslaves us and makes us do dumb things with our lives. b) Jesus delivers his family from sin (from ourselves). Jesus became one of us to save us from our sins – in one divine/human person you have both priest and sacrifice. He gives himself to deliver us from sin. “You do for family” - Jesus loves us so much he lowered himself for a time to become like us in order to deliver us. In the movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Arnie's and Gilbert's mother risks embarrassment to demand that the police release her son. Jesus did the same for us – he came for us, he despised the shame – and demanded the release of his children. “Give me my children!” That is our hope and our joy – Jesus is one of us.
Thoughts on Devotions – LD24
Q. 62 Why can't the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with Him? Q. 63 How can you say that the good we do doesn't earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next? Q. 64 But doesn't this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
Kevin DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “Achieving Low Self-Esteem” and tells a story about a young man attending one of his first AA meetings and talking about the things that others did to cause his situation and how he will now turn his life around. A more seasoned member says, “ I used to feel that way too until I achieved 'low self-esteem.'” DeYoung's point is that it is part of sinful human nature to think that we can do something to gain points with God towards our salvation. The Gospel is such wonderful news because we have zero chance of achieving God's favor through our efforts. The only thing we have that we contribute towards our salvation is sin. This is a totally depressing thought unless we grasp God's promise that he has given us complete redemption through what Christ has done – what he has accomplished once and for all. He points to works (as does James) as a confirmation of our faith and the Spirit's work in our lives when we are “in Christ” – faith, fruit and gratitude. First, true faith works - “saving faith is not mere intellectual assent but a firm trust, played out in real life” - we start to “step out in faith” if we believe. Second, a good tree bears good fruit – our lives begin to change and begin to be transformed because of God's Spirit is alive in us. Finally, grace leads to gratitude. Our thankfulness and gratefulness for God's great gift must show itself in how we live and act towards others. Nourishing ourselves on God's Word (and other materials that reshape our thought life), spending time in prayer and fellowship with other Christians are vital if we expect to grow in these ways. If we show little interest in the things of God we will not grow and, ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether we belong to Christ.
Monday: Failure is the result if we attempt to meet God's standard of righteousness and add to our salvation.
Leviticus 19:1-2 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the whole congregation of the Israelites and tell them, ʻYou must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
I Peter 1:14-16 Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”
Tuesday: Jesus challenged a rich young ruler to be a “good Samaritan” to everyone in need, all the time. This, like the law, is meant to show our inability to meet God's standard – we must cast ourselves on the mercy of God – on the gracious gift and his solid promise of redemption through Christ's work.
1 John 3:16 We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.
Matthew 5:48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Wednesday: Deuteronomy 28:47 states that God's curse is on those who do not serve him with joyfulness and gladness of heart - “Because you have not served the Lord your God joyfully and wholeheartedly with the abundance of everything you have, instead in hunger, thirst, nakedness, and poverty you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. They will place an iron yoke on your neck until they have destroyed you.
Isaiah 64:6 We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind. No one invokes your name, or makes an effort to take hold of you. For you have rejected us and handed us over to our own sins.
Isaiah 53:6a All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path,
Thursday: There are promises of reward in the Bible for those who live for God and please him. Our ability to live for God is only due to his Spirit within us, and the good works that we do are gifts of his grace. That is why in Revelation John sees the crowns given as rewards are placed before the throne of the lamb.
Hebrews 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Revelation 4:10-11 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!”
Friday: As long as the Gospel has been proclaimed people have twisted it – either not trusting that it is a gift freely given, or going in the opposite direction thinking that if Christ has done it all and we cannot add anything, then we can live any way we like. And some fear that if we do not have to work to maintain our salvation, we will not even try to be good. People asked the apostle Paul the same question. His answer was that we are slaves to what we obey – if we willingly continue sinning, it shows that Christ is not our master. The catechism answers the it is impossible for someone who is in Christ to be indifferent to good works.
Jude 1:4 For certain men have secretly slipped in among you - men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe - ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.
Saturday: Jesus described our connection to him like a vine and branches. If we are truly connected to him in faith, we will produce fruit of good deeds as a result. The catechism says that it is impossible for those grafted into Christ not to produce fruits of gratitude. The fruits do not earn God's blessings, instead they are an expression of gratitude for God's gifts to us.
John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him - bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.
Reading between the lines...
Concluding the Sermon on the Mount (SotM), Jesus describes 2 ways with various illustrations – 2 trees, 2 paths, 2 houses. In each one is the path to life and the other the path to destruction. It is easy to conclude that the right way is the way of doing good and the wrong way of doing bad. But in context of the sermon it isn't that simple. The rejected way throughout the SotM has been less about unrighteousness and more about self-righteousness. Jesus calls us to a new path – not unrighteousness and not self-righteousness, but Christ-righteousness. It is the path that Jesus himself trod – only Jesus can ultimately walk this road. If you try to follow the narrow path to heaven on your own you are as likely to succeed as a camel going through the eye of a needle. The narrow path is very narrow – the disciples ask who then can do it? Jesus replies that for men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Jesus is the only one who can, and successfully does, walk the path from earth to heaven – once he walks the path he becomes the path, the door, the way. The straight and narrow is not about moving from unrighteousness to righteousness, but about moving from self-sufficiency to dependence, from sinking sand to rock, from self to Christ. Jesus doesn't just point the way or inspire us – he is the way and he carries us home.
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matthew 19:24-26 Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”
In the Lord's prayer Jesus teaches us that we have a Father in heaven and an enemy on earth. When evil shows up “in the flesh” it does not look evil, it looks good. The greatest servants of Satan look like servants of God – they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Who are the wolves ready to devour the flock? They are religious leaders and teachers. In Jesus' day they were the scribes and Pharisees. They specialized in outward righteousness. Jesus says that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must have righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. They are not in the Kingdom, but they set the bar high. They have a form of godliness, they we see more and more in the SotM how false that form of godliness is – they are unclean. The problem is what they are inwardly – they are wolves. A prophet is meant to feed the sheep with the Word of God; a false prophet feeds on the sheep while masquerading as good. All it takes to tear a flock apart is for a false Christian to preach a false Christianity. Do we take false teaching seriously enough? It is life and death – for the Word of Christ is the difference between life and death. Recognize that the danger is not “out there”, it may be very close to us.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheepʼs clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
How can we defend ourselves from wolves in sheep's clothing? Jesus says to look closer – he tells us to examine the fruit. It is detected in the living – corrupted creeds are the issue, but they show themselves in corrupted deeds. We can't fix our being through our behavior – a bad tree will produce bad fruit. New works are not the answer; only a new birth will do. The fruit will reveal the tree; a life over time will reveal one's nature. If a “life of Christ” is not coming out of a teacher, alarm bells should start ringing. A teacher's authority comes from their life; their life should be open to examination. It is false teaching which destroys people; it is sound teaching which brings life. Yet while we are in this world our flesh will continue to sin, even though by the Spirit we are in Christ. We must do what the false teachers do not do, returning again and again to our true life source - Jesus - confessing our sins and receiving his life and fruitfulness.
Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him - bears much fruit...”
Jesus is the fulcrum on which all things turn – ones' fate will be determined according to our connection to him. He is the Lord, the Judge, the centerpiece of all creation. Everything revolves around him. He is the rock that survives the storm – everything else is sinking sand. Everyone, wise or foolish, experiences the storms of life, but Jesus is the rock we can rely on. What does the sinking sand represent – the context of the verse points to false foundation. Building on sand is like trusting false religious confidence if we don't actually know Jesus. Matthew 8 gives a clue – the leper approached Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.” He flees to Jesus and Jesus embraces the unclean penitent. By nature we are unclean – we build on sand. We too can come to Jesus and say “if you are willing you can make me clean” and Jesus is willing to embrace us as well.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ʻLord, Lord,ʼ will enter into the kingdom of heaven - only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ʻLord, Lord, didnʼt we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?ʼ Then I will declare to them, ʻI never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!ʼ
Matthew 8:1-2 After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus' teaching involves dramatic reversals – those on the outside are brought in, those on the inside are cast out – into outer darkness – an image of hell. The insiders considered that they would have heaven as their inheritance, but through faith the furthest from the kingdom are brought in. If you don't want Jesus, you don't the light of the world. To reject Jesus is to prefer darkness. Those who seek will find; to those who knock it will be opened.
Matthew 8:11-12 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, andJacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth – refers to bitter lamentation and anger (gnashing of teeth). Outer darkness is a place of violent fury. When we see melancholy and murder in our own hearts we see hell. Cain, Saul and Jonah show the self-pity and self-righteousness associated with this state. If we have not laid our sins on Jesus we bear the burden on ourselves and it is too much to bear leading to violence and fury – but that is just in this life. At the final judgment the result is immensely worse. Hell is a continuation of the slavery of this life, We cannot bear our own sins, we cannot atone for our own guilt – one thing we can do is free ourselves by laying it on Jesus.
How can anyone suggest that a person needs to be born again? It might be rude to say this to a new born, but it seems impossible to say it to an adult. “Born again” is misunderstood in several ways – Nicodemus misunderstood it as a physical rebirth; some Christians see it as a brand of Christianity. Jesus, however, is talking about a new birth. Flesh gives birth to flesh – we cannot heal or fix our problem; we must be born again – or born from above – a spirit life. The flesh is always trying to raise itself up through morality and good works, but we cannot “climb the ladder to God,” but Christ comes down. He follows the way of the Spirit. The way of the Spirit is to come down, the gift of God – ultimately to take on our flesh, to become one of us. He wraps up all flesh-life in himself and puts it to death – he was put to death in the flesh, but raised to life in the Spirit. On Easter morning Jesus pioneered the new birth and becomes the source of new birth for all of us – he says I've taken your flesh, let me give you my Spirit. We must look away from our away from our flesh. Don't look at your badness; don't look at your goodness – look to Jesus and he will give you his Spirit and you will share in his new birth. You must be born again, you can be born again – trust in Jesus and you are born again.
John 3:3, 7 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Do not be amazed that I said to you, ʻYou must all be born from above.ʼ
John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ʻYou must all be born from above.ʼ The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory - the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.
1 Peter 3:18 Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.