To die for. That is they way people sometimes describe something worthy of the highest possible price. But we exaggerate by that expression, because death really is too high a price for a human being to pay, if you think about it. If Momma's lasagna really was “to die for” and you died – how could you enjoy a single serving because you'd be dead? Ultimately physical death is too expensive a price.
Is there price that is too high for even God to pay? You may be surprised to hear that the answer to that question is 'yes'. A bit further on in today's Epistle we are told ...”it is not angels He helps but Abrahams's descendants”. Why not help angels who sinned? You don't hear any preachers asking that question, but that does not mean it is not a good question. And this is the answer - redeeming fallen angels would be too high a price to pay, even for God.
Why too high a price to redeem sinful angels? Because God designed angels to taste only one kind of death for their sins – eternal death. Remember how Jesus tells us that God created eternal damnation ”for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25.41).
If God were to show His redeeming love for any angels that sinned, and tasted their death, He would have had to be banished from Heaven never to return. You see why that would not be practical as a demonstration of redeeming love on the part of God's Son. The price would literally be too high even for God.
So God created a creature that He could afford to redeem and forgive by paying for their sins Himself. God created us, creatures created capable of two deaths – the eternal death that the devils die, but also physical death – a death that God's Son could taste without Christ having to be forever separated from His Father.
So the author to the Hebrews tells us, “Since the children have flesh and blood (another way of saying human mortality), He too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps but Abrahams's descendants.
For this reason he had to be make like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (verses 14-18).
Notice is says “He had to be made like His brothers”. This is the way it had to be. Realistically, God could not make atonement for the angels that sinned, but He could make and it was fitting to make, creatures for whom He could make atonement and that is what God did.
And as He created us to be redeemed and as He carried out His loving plan to demonstrate His redeeming grace, mercy and love by means of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, the angels of God who had not sinned sang for joy and still find God's demonstration of love toward us endlessly delightful.
Even now, scripture tells us, the holy angels, archangels and all the company of heaven are focussing their praise on the fact that Christ “was slain and by His blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5.9).
Hebrews says to us, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers”.
The author to the Hebrews invites us to contemplate the wonder of the fact that it was for people like us that our Savior came. People powerless over their lot in life. People whose lives are, at times, filled with toil and pain. People who fear death. But people whom the Son of the living God has made to be His brothers through paying the ultimate price.
'...we see Jesus (he writes), ... he suffered death, so that, by the grace of God, He might taste death for everyone.'
How remarkable (by virtue of His incarnation and humiliation) to be able to say of the Son of God, “He understands the taste of death”. He knows what it means to live in conditions that are far below what they should be. And it's not just that He understands from afar, as if He has some kind of intellectual knowledge, almost like a academic analysis of suffering. He's not like some politicians who claim to "feel your pain," when you can bet that they really have no clue.
No, Jesus left the glory of heaven to come and live among human beings as a man. He who created all our material universe by the word of His mouth, became part of this creation, being made "lower than the angels" that He might redeem humans.
You see, He didn't just come here to understand our plight; He came to do something about it. And “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” caused Him to suffer in order that He might be the perfect Author of our salvation.1
He knows suffering. He knows pain. He knows anguish, disappointment, grief, sorrow and rejection. "He was stricken by God, smitten and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:4b_5).
Whatever you have suffered in this life, He knows it. He experienced all that you've suffered and more. For the last time I checked, there wasn't anyone of us who had been whipped, beaten, stabbed, and nailed to a cross for even our own sins, let alone the sins of other people.
Jesus endured all of that so that you might never have to know the eternal agony of hell. Dear brother or sister, you don't have to fear death. You don't have to live as though the current state of your existence is the way things always will and must be. Your Savior wants better things for you. He wants a better life for you. He wants to meet you in His house, at His table, to fill you with Himself, and to give you a peace that passes understanding as a brother would ideally want to do for his brothers.
I know there are times that you don't believe that. I know there are times when you wonder where He is and why He hasn't intervened to rescue you from your circumstances. I know there are times when you wonder if He really cares or if He is even there at all. You feel angry. You feel confused. You feel abandoned. You feel alone. You feel unloved and unwanted. I know you do.
All I can say to you, in the midst of your struggles, is wait. Scripture says: "They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31). God works in His own time, and though it may not seem so at the time, He always comes through. The only question, during any test of faith, is 'will we come through'? And when we don't, God is there to forgive us for our shortcoming, sins and lack of faith.
To comfort us who so often feel alone (unnecessarily I might add) God's word reminds us, “Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those (like us!) who are being tempted”.
This is all part of what you might call the way we live now. We may never know why we suffer the way we do. We can never be sure when to expect the Lord to open His hand of blessing, or for how long. (And certainly, He is not bound to our circumstances. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, He can bless us even if we're still in the fire.) But there are two things we can always count on: 1) nothing in this life ever stays the same, and 2) Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.