The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:18 (Hebrews 2:18)

Such power of sympathy Christ, by undergoing human sulk. ring and temptation, acquired. For in that (or, wherein ) he hath suffered himself being tempted (or having been himself tempted in that wherein he hath suffered ) , he is able to succor them that are tempted.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:11-18 (Hebrews 2:11-18)

Jesus our Brother.

Here the writer expands the statement of Hebrews 2:10 , and confirms it by suitable arguments. This closing paragraph of the first section of the Epistle emphasizes the fact that Jesus, the Son of God and the King of angels ( Hebrews 1:1-14 ), is also as Mediator our brother Man.

I. THE BROTHERHOOD OF CHRIST . First, stated abstractly ( Hebrews 2:11 ). Next, illustrated from Old Testament Scripture ( Hebrews 2:12 , Hebrews 2:13 ), the Messianic passages quoted being Psalms 22:22 ; Psalms 18:2 ; Isaiah 8:18 . Then, verified from the facts and events of the Savior's earthly life ( Isaiah 8:14 :—18). This endearing brotherhood is:

1. A brotherhood of nature. "All of one" ( Isaiah 8:11 ); of one nature, of one race, of one Father. He "partook of flesh and blood" ( Isaiah 8:14 ); i.e. he became man. He took his place as one of "the children" by being born. He had a human body, Subject, like ours, to pleasure and pain, to hunger and thirst, to suffering and death. And he had a human soul, which thought and felt, loved and hated, was joyful and sad, and which acknowledged its dependence upon the Father of spirits.

2. A brotherhood of condition. "In like manner" ( Isaiah 8:14 ); i.e. in a manner almost similar. Jesus had no nimbus round his head, such as the painters give him. God sent him "in the likeness of sinful flesh;" for, though his human nature was perfectly pure, it was exposed to those infirmities and sufferings which in all other sons of Adam result from sin.

3. A brotherhood of experience. "It behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren" ( Isaiah 8:17 ). So he actually passed through a complete course of pain and trial and temptation, which ended only with his death. He traveled over the entire range, and fathomed all the depths, of human suffering. "He himself hath suffered, being tempted" ( Isaiah 8:18 ). He went through every human experience of poverty, toil, pain, disappointment, insult, persecution; through every sorrow which arises in a pure mind from constant contact with sinners; and through every form of Satanic temptation.

4. A brotherhood of love. "Not of angels doth he take hold" ( Isaiah 8:16 ), to help and save them: then what a wonder of grace it is that he became the Redeemer of mortal man! It was from love to us that he "partook" so readily of "flesh and blood," that by this means he might raise humanity to a higher pinnacle of glory than any on which the loftiest angel can set foot. It is because of this love "beyond a brother's" that even now he does not disdain "to call us brethren" ( Isaiah 8:11 ).

II. THE PURPOSES ACCOMPLISHED BY CHRIST 'S BROTHERHOOD . Some expressions in the passage state these generally.

1. To expiate sins. ( Isaiah 8:17 ) By his death in our nature he has offered to God a perfect satisfaction for the sin of the world. The perfection of his sacrifice is due to the fact that he who suffered is the same glorious personage who is described in Hebrews 1:1-14 . as the Son of God, the eternal Jehovah, the Creator and Possessor of the universe.

2. To deliver/rein death and Satan. ( Hebrews 1:14 , 15) "The sting of death is sin;" but death is powerless to harm the new life of those who are cleansed with the atoning blood. Sin was introduced at first by the devil, and death through sin, and so death is associated with the devil's usurpation; but Jesus has "bruised the serpent's head," rendering him impotent in relation to "the children" who are to be brought to glory. They are emancipated by their elder Brother from death's power and fear.

3. To enable him to sympathize with his people. (Verses 17, 18) He passed, as our Brother-Man, through every variety of trial and sorrow, that we may learn to have confidence in him, as being fully able to sustain and cheer us amid the darkest experiences of affliction ( Hebrews 4:15 , Hebrews 4:16 ).

4. To " bring many sons unto glory. " ( Hebrews 1:10 ) Jesus is our Moses and Joshua. He became our Brother that he might be our Leader through the wilderness of this world up to the heavenly Canaan. Had he not "partaken of flesh and blood," there would have been no inheritance for us. "The humanization of God is the divinization of man."

LESSONS.

1. The native value of human nature, as seen in the fact that Christ has assumed it, to redeem it.

2. "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable Gift?

3. How great the madness of the man who rejects Christ's offered brotherhood!

4. The necessity of union with Christ by faith, if we would have him claim us as his brethren.

5. The comfort of knowing, in our days of trouble, that the God-Man cherishes for us the love of a brother.

6. The duty of loving our brethren in Christ ( Hebrews 13:1 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:17-18 (Hebrews 2:17-18)

Our great High Priest—his functions and qualifications.

"Wherefore in all things it behooved him," etc.

I. THE FUNCTIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST .

1. To make atonement for man as a sinner. "A High Priest … to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." Various are the renderings of this clause. Revised Version, "to make propitiation;" Alford, "to make expiation;" Ebrard, and Stuart also, "to make atonement." Ebrard says, " ἱλάσκεσθαι comes from ἵλαος ἵλαος denotes, not the internal disposition of God towards man, but the actual, positive expression and radiation of that feeling which first becomes again possible towards the redeemed; and ἱλάσκεσθαι means to make it again possible for God to be ἵλᾶος , i.e. to make a real atonement for real guilt." Whence arises this need of atonement? Not because God was indisposed to forgive and save man. It has been well said by Delitzsch, "As the Old Testament nowhere says that sacrifice propitiated God's wrath, lest it should be thought that sacrifice was an act by which, as such, man influenced God to show him grace; so also the New Testament never says that the sacrifice of Christ propitiated God's wrath, lest it may be thought that it was an act anticipatory of God's gracious purpose, which obtained, and, so to speak, forced from God, previously reluctant, without his own concurrence, grace instead of wrath." The death of Jesus Christ for us was the expression of the love of God towards us, and not its procuring cause. Why, then, was the sacrifice of the cross necessary to the forgiveness of our sin and the sanctification of our being?

2. To succor man as a sufferer. Man needs a High Priest who "is able to succor them that are tempted." The word "tempted" is used in two senses in the Bible.

II. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST .

1. He must share our nature in order that he might make atonement for us as sinners. The perfect obedience which our Lord rendered to the holy will of God, the painful sufferings which he patiently endured, and the terrible death which he voluntarily submitted to, could not have constituted an atonement for us had he not previously taken upon himself our nature. "Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren." It was morally necessary that he should share our nature if he would efficiently serve us as our High Priest.

2. He must share our trials in order that he might succor us in our sufferings. Our High Priest must be "merciful," so as to feel compassion for suffering and tempted men. He must be "faithful," so as to elicit and retain the confidence of those whom he represents before God. He must himself suffer temptation, that he may efficiently help the tempted. Both classes of temptation assailed him. He was tempted by satanic suggestion and argument and inducement. He was tried by severest physical pains, and by spiritual sorrows which grew into the great overwhelming agony. "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.... Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Hence he is able to succor them that are tempted. He can not only feel for them, but with them. By his personal experience of our sufferings he has acquired the power of sympathy with us in them. "As God, he knows what is in us; but as man, he feels it also." "Sympathy," says Burke, "may be considered as a sort of substitution, by which we are put into the place of another man, and affected in many respects as he is affected." Thus our great High Priest sympathizes with his tried people. "In all their affliction he is afflicted." He succors as wall as sympathizes; he inspires with courage as well as regards with compassion; and in our weakness he makes us strong in himself "and in the power of his might." Having such a High Priest, let us trust him heartily and at all times.—W.J.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:17-18 (Hebrews 2:17-18)

Christ's humanity the result of his desire to be more than a Savior from sin.

The climax of the argument for the consistency of our Lord's humanity. Observe in exposition:

1. That "reconciliation for the sins of the people" is not the central idea of these verses. That has already been dealt with. Here we have a new thought—Christ's ability to succor the tempted.

2. That our Lord's humanity could not make him a merciful and faithful High Priest. He was that already, but thus he proved himself to be this.

3. That the word "tempted" here is not to be confined to the meaning of solicitation to sin.

I. CHRIST , IN THE ENDURANCE OF TRIAL , WAS MADE IN ALL THINGS LIKE UNTO HIS BRETHREN ; that is, he passed through every class of human suffering.

1. There were the sufferings which came through human frailty. Christ had no sin, but he experienced those forms of suffering to which innocent human nature is exposed, such as poverty, weariness, dependence, pain, fear of death. We get through our trials more easily because we do not foresee them; but Christ foresaw his, and they were intensified as he drew nearer his end. His life was a conscious advance into deeper gloom.

2. There were the sufferings which came through his holy nature. Thirty-three years in a world of sin must have been continuous pain to the Holy One of God. Suffering in the presence of evil is in proportion to our holiness and our aversion to evil. Christ not only saw a world wandering away from God, but he knew what was in man; he not only saw the malice on men's faces and the guilt in their lives; he read the thoughts and intents of the heart. And, still worse, he felt the hot breath of the arch-tempter on his cheek, and heard the whispering of his hateful suggestions.

3. There were the sufferings which came through his love to man. The pain of sympathy. If Love has her deep joys, she has, too, her deep griefs; if she wears a crown of triumph, she wears, too, a crown of thorns. Love is afflicted in all the afflictions of her beloved. What must have been the suffering of immeasurable Love in witnessing the woes of man!

II. THIS ENDURANCE OF OUR TRIALS PROVES THAT CHRIST WILL BE MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL IN HIS POSITION AS HIGH PRIEST .

1. Christ making propitiation holds the position of High Priest. Christ's high priesthood is only glanced at here, stated to rest something on it. As the high priest alone could offer the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, so Christ, offering the one atoning sacrifice, showed himself to be High Priest. And the main idea in that is that the high priest was essentially the mediator between God and man. As God's representative he acted for God toward the people; as the people's representative he acted for them toward God. Christ, then, holds this position. He conveys the Father's gifts to us, and our need to the Father. It depends entirely on him whether we receive the gifts of Heaven.

2. If holding that position, he would deal with us in mercy, all we need is assured. There is nothing he cannot secure for us, if he will. The question depends on whether he has sympathetic feeling towards us in our grief. Is Christ the Mediator compassionate?

3. The great proof of his compassion is that for our succor he endured so much more than was necessary for mere propitiation. Our Lord's incarnation and death were necessary for atonement, but he endured much beside that, going down to the lowest state of innocent human experience. Much of his suffering was an extra burden voluntarily assumed with a view to man's comfort; in sorrow. He cared so much about our griefs that in order to allay them he passed through them himself. We cannot doubt his heart after that.

III. THIS PROOF OF HIS HIGH PRIESTLY COMPASSION IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE TRIED .

1. It enables them to trust his sympathy, for he has experienced their pains. Christ's suffering has not made him more sympathetic. His knowledge and sympathy were perfect before; but it gives us more confidence in going to him for succor.

2. It enables them to expect aid from him, for he suffered that he might aid. Why, his poverty, bereavement, weariness, loneliness, shame, being misunderstood, but that he might succor us! Then, will he not succor us?

3. It enables them to anticipate victory through him, for he conquered in all his woe. Who can aid us in our difficulties, like him who has already trodden these difficulties underfoot? What aid can be more satisfactory than his who wears the laurels of victory over those very evils which assail us? Our foe will fly when he sees his Conqueror on our side.—C.N.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:14-18 (Hebrews 2:14-18)

Here we have stated the sublime results of the incarnation and death of Christ in their influence upon the present temptation and death of believers.

Our Lord did not assume an angelic nature, which would have necessarily set him at some distance from us, since the experiences of those sinless and exalted beings would have been to some degree inconceivable by us. He took hold of the seed of Abraham, and enshrined his Divine nature in human flesh and blood, and felt all the innocent emotions and sensations of our race. He was hungry and thirsty, he was weary and slept, and wept and rejoiced like his brethren. Then he felt the pangs of death, by which he achieved a happy and invaluable change in our views of departure from this world. Death had derived its terror from Satan, who prompted men to sin and then alarmed them with the fear of condemnation and punishment. Under the Law many regarded death with trembling and anxiety; and righteous men like Hezekiah shrank from the approach of the "king of terrors." It was bondage which restrained from enjoyment, and made life like a man wearing fetters from which he could not get free. The death of our Lord seemed the masterpiece of Satan; but it became the cause of his most humiliating overthrow, for ever after those who believe in Jesus may walk with serene confidence, in the light of the Redeemer's victory, towards their eternal rest, and realize the words, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."

"O precious ransom! which once paid,

That Consummatum est was said,

And said by him that said no more,

But sealed it with his sacred breath!

Thou, then, that hast dispurged our score,

And dying met the death of death,

Be now, while on thy Name we call,

Our Life, our Strength, our Joy, our All."

(Sir H. Wotton)

Being made like unto his brethren in the participation of their nature, he made, as a merciful and faithful High Priest, reconciliation for them by his sacrificial death. By his oblation he revealed the Divine displeasure against sin, and made a way for those who were once rebels to become reconciled to the character of God, his methods of salvation, and to the enjoyment of the privileges and hopes of the Christian lice. He passed through a career of temptation in which Satan strove to overthrow him, the world endeavored to turn him away from his work, and his fierce enemies, the Pharisees, strove to frustrate his gracious designs. He was alone in the vastness of the temptations he endured, and carried, without any earthly sympathy, the vast burden of his sorrows. Now, from his vast and painful experience, he is able to sympathize with all who are tempted, and to cheer them with the truth that, should every heart around be unmoved, and every ear closed to their griefs, he feels for them with a vividness and certainty which may awaken confidence, and increase their joy in the Lord.—B.

- The Pulpit Commentary

Hebrews 2:17-18 (Hebrews 2:17-18)

The Incarnation needed for an efficient priesthood.

I. WHEREIN AN EFFICIENT PRIESTHOOD LIES . The high priest is the representative of man before God. There are certain things which, as from God, are directed towards man; there are certain other things which, as from men, are directed towards God. These things are summed up, or rather the most important of them is specified, in the making reconciliation for the sins of the people. The word is the same as the publican used in saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" The thing needed is that these sins should be mentioned before God in their full reality and extent, and some sin offering made exactly correspondent to them. And for all this there is further needed on the part of the high priest two great qualities—pity and fidelity. The priest must pity his fellow-men as sinners, and to do this requires a very special exaltation of the heart. A man might easily pity his fellow-men for their physical pains and weaknesses, who would look with indifference on their alienation from God and the unrest of their hearts within them. Then as to the fidelity required in the priesthood, this is best seen in the elaborate instructions given concerning priestly duties by Moses; a sacrifice in which the least prescribed detail had been neglected was as no sacrifice at all.

II. THE DEFECTS OF EXISTING PRIESTHOODS . It is not exactly said that the long line of Aaron and his descendants had furnished a priesthood lacking in tenderness and faithfulness; but this is at least suggested, and it is certainly true. If, indeed, a merciful and faithful priesthood had been possible without making the humanity of Jesus to intervene, we are sure such intervention would not have occurred, for it is by no means the way of God to supersede what is doing its work efficiently. But the high priest hitherto had been taken from among men, and he was taken with all his infirmities upon him. He might have no due sense of sin. Judged by the state of his heart, thousands for whom he acted might be nearer to God than him. The priest lay exposed to just this peculiar temptation of having a lamentably inadequate sense of the sins of his fellow men. Thus sacrifice became an unreal, perfunctory thing—altogether of the hand, and not at all of the heart.

III. HOW IT WAS THAT JESUS BECAME AN EFFICIENT HIGH PRIEST . Here we must look at Jesus historically. Strange it is to remember, in the light of the emphatic assertions of his priesthood contained in this Epistle, how he never stood at any altar in Jerusalem, never entered the holy of holies. And yet all the time he was preparing for priesthood and for sacrifice. He was declaring, by all his ceaseless words and acts of mercy, by all his faithfulness to truth, his fitness to be the High Priest. For perfect compassion and perfect fidelity, these constitute the vocation to the priestly office. And it must be one of ourselves who shows them. Jesus, as Son of God, had something which every descendant of Aaron had lacked; but until he became in all respects like his brethren, the most sinful of men had something which Jesus lacked. What wonder is it that angelic visits ceased once the humanity of Jesus became demonstrated and glorified! Angels, whatever their desire might be, could never come so close to us as Jesus—could never know as he knows, man like us, looking into our hearts with human eyes and yet with Divine penetration.—Y.

- The Pulpit Commentary