The glory of the incarnation is seen in the purposes of the incarnation…

One of my favorite incarnation passages is Hebrews 2:14-18:

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, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 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. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (ESV)

In these words we see the incarnation’s glory in all its splendor – though on first glimpse you might think, “What in the world does this have to do with the glory of the incarnation?” The answer is, “Everything!” Here we learn that what makes Jesus’ enfleshment so glorious is not only the fact of it – that the eternal Son of God partakes of flesh and blood without ceasing to be the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:3) – but also the purposes of it: He was born in order to die; and He was born in order to help.

Jesus Was Born in Order to Die

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death…” Can God die? Even children know that God can’t die! And that’s why Jesus, fully God, had to be born as a human, that He might be able to die. We must never separate Jesus’ birth from His death.

But why did He need to die? This passage tells us: to set us free from sin and misery. In particular, to set us free from the power of Satan (14), from the fear of death (15), and from the righteous anger and wrath of God (17). That last one is foundational to the first two: “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.” Christ became like us in every respect in order to die, and through His death to satisfy the just and holy wrath of God against sin for all His people. Remember Adam and Eve in the garden back in Genesis, when God said, “In the day you eat of the fruit of this tree you will surely die.” The wages of sin is death; the punishment that sin deserves is death. Maybe you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal, all Adam did was eat some fruit.” Ah, in the words of Anselm, the 11th century theologian who wrote Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man), “You have not yet considered the gravity of sin – how great sin is.” In Adam all of us have sinned against an eternally holy God, and so we deserve eternal death. A holy God can’t just sweep sin under the rug, He must punish it; He must be propitiated. There’s the grace & glory of the incarnation – God sent His Son into the world to take on human nature, in order that He might die and suffer the punishment due to our sins, freeing us from God’s wrath and anger.

And having been freed from the guilt and penalty of sin, we are freed from all the power of the devil and from the fear of death itself – “…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” The word “destroy” has the sense of “render powerless” – the one who seduced Adam and Eve to sin, the one who was a murderer from the beginning, the one who stands as our great accuser, has been bound by Christ’s incarnation and death. Because Christ has appeased the wrath of God for us, Satan has no evidence to use against us. Jesus was born in order to rescue us from Satan’s tyranny, and from the fear of death. It’s exactly what God prophesied in Genesis 3 – the seed of the woman – a human! – has come to have His heel bruised by Satan, but in being bruised, He has crushed Satan’s head. Our kinsman redeemer, through His death, has purchased our freedom from slavery to sin and Satan and death!

Do you see what this means? If you trust in Jesus, who was born in order to die, God is no longer angry with you; Satan cannot accuse you any longer; and you have no need to be afraid of death any longer – because now not even death can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! It is but our portal, our path, our passageway, into the full glory of Christ’s presence.

Jesus Was Born in Order to Help

His death was what He did for us in the past – and though certainly it has present effects, as we just mentioned, yet this passage tells us that Jesus’ birth has a more direct consequence for us now in the present: He was born as a human so that He might help us in our weaknesses now. Look at verse 16 – “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.” And what sort of help does He provide? Well, we just saw in verse 17 how He appeases/propitiates the Father’s wrath for us. Now look at verse 18 – “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” He is one who has known temptation, and He has known suffering in the midst of those temptations. Indeed, in 2:10 the author to the Hebrews can say that God has perfected “the author of our salvation through sufferings.” And in 4:15, he declares again, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” So because He has been made like us in every way, tasting suffering and sorrows and temptation, He can help us as we suffer and are tempted.

Jesus became a man in order that He might share our weaknesses. He is still fully human; and though He is no longer in a state of humiliation, yet He has not forgotten what it was like to suffer and be tempted. He is a merciful and faithful high priest, who doesn’t only offer Himself as a sacrifice, but who comes to our aid and assistance. He comes to our aid as the Suffering Servant, who does not break a bruised reed. He comes to help us as one who is gentle and humble of heart, who doesn’t say, “Are you still struggling with this temptation? Are you asking for help again? Have you still not figured out how to put sin to death? Do you really need me to help you?” He’s never bothered or put out by our pleas for help; He’s never too busy to help us; He’s never frustrated that we are needy. He’s everything that I’m not and long to be as a father. He helps us by supplying us the strength of His Holy Spirit to combat temptation, to say no to ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live righteously, godly and sensibly in the present age. He helps us as we cry out to Him in prayer. So let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:16).

Glory may not be the first thing that come to your mind when you think about the birth of Jesus – what glory is there in a pregnancy out of wedlock, a birth to a poor family, in circumstances so humble his first baby bed was a feed trough? This isn’t glory, this is humiliation & shame. And to be sure, there is a very real sense in which Jesus in His incarnation left His heavenly glory to dwell with us as a man of sorrows. Yet John can write in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Do you know the glory of the one who was born to die, and born to help? Have you trusted in His life and death? Do you cry out to Him for help?

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