Our Big Brother
A sermon based on Hebrews 2:10-18
Thursday, December 24, 2015 – Christmas Eve
Big brothers have a unique relationship with their younger sibs, don't they? A big brother sometimes feels like he can pick on his little brother or sister and beat them up whenever he feels the urge. But if someone else should dare pick on that younger sibling, look out! You'd better be ready for a fight! And is that little sibling ever grateful for big brother who comes to the defense!
This morning we hear the author to the Hebrews describe our perfect big brother, Jesus. He never picks on us or beats us up, but always comes to our rescue. In fact, that's really what we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus came to earth to defend us. He was born that he might became our brother and suffer for us to rescue us. The author to the Hebrews describes our big brother Jesus in Hebrews 2:10-18…
10 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. 11 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. 12 He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." 13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, 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— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made 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. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
I. Was Born to Rescue Us
You know, from the perspective of being a little brother for almost 40 years now, I can tell you that it's not always fun to have a big brother. My brother, Jon, and I get along great today. But that wasn't always the case. When he'd watch the wrestling shows on TV and "practice" the moves on his little brother, it wasn't so fun. When he'd be looking over my shoulder and showing me the "right way" to do things, I was irritated. I thought I was big enough to do thing on my own. I didn't need a big brother to help!
But sometimes don't we act that way with Jesus? After all, he's a big brother that can really look over our shoulders. He knows what's going on in our hearts and we don't always want him in our business. We think we're big enough to handle things on our own. We think we don't need a protector. But how mistaken we are.
Our enemy, Satan, acts like our friend and tells us he can make life more fun than God ever could. He tells us if God really loved us, he wouldn't let us suffer. But you know he's not looking out for our best interests. The devil is like the boy who tells the girl whatever he thinks she wants to hear to get what he wants from her. "There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) And once we fall for his lies, we're enslaved, to sin, to death, to fear.
But in steps our big brother, come to the rescue, and says, "Wait a second! That's my kid sister you're lying to! That's my kid brother you're picking on!" And he saved us from the slavery we were in! How? By suffering for us… by dying for us. "Since the children have flesh and blood, 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…"
Wait a second! Jesus' death? Doesn't that come on Good Friday? Why are we talking about that on Christmas Eve? Well, the birth of Christ can never be separated from the Passion of Christ. The Baby of Bethlehem is the future Victim of Golgotha. In fact, that's the only reason we celebrate Christmas—that Jesus became one of us, real flesh and blood, to rescue us. And Jesus didn't just beat up the bad guy, but took the beating—from God!
The author to the Hebrews writes, "He had to be made 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."
What did the high priest do? He made atonement for the sins of the people. And how did he do that? By offering sacrifices on the altar to God. What a bloody job it must have been! He was really more a butcher than a pastor! How did Jesus rescue us from the devil? He too offered a sacrifice to God. He offered himself.
Notice that Jesus made no atonement for his sins. He didn't have any. And though he is the sinless and holy Son of God, he took our sins on himself, took God's wrath on himself and having made the perfect sacrifice, he rescued us! He destroyed the devil who had us so enslaved. He robbed him of all power! He set us free! From our sins! From death! And from fear!
What a big brother! He became human like us to be our brother! He suffered for us to take our sin away! He fought the bully for us and robbed satan of his power! And what's more, he's not done fighting for us. He was born to rescue us. And though he died to pay for our sins, he lives again! Now our big brother still lives to help us…
II. Lives to Help Us
Big brothers aren't always helpful. A little boy walked into his kindergarten room one morning wearing shoes that were 6 sizes too big. The teacher looked at him and asked "Johnny, who's shoes are you wearing?" Johnny smiled back and said proudly "my big brother's." The teacher, still puzzled asked, "Does your mother know you have your brother's shoes on?" Johnny replied "Yes. She's the one who said I could wear them." The teacher, now thoroughly confused, asked, "Why in the world did your mother tell you to wear your brother's shoes?" Johnny said with a grin, "Because… he buried mine in the back yard!!"
Big brothers have been known to torment their little siblings ever since the time of Cain and Abel. But that's not the case with Jesus. He doesn't rescue us from the bully one minute, just to pick on us himself the next. And Jesus didn't rescue us from satan, death, and hell just leave us alone to struggle with the problems and challenges of this life by ourselves. But Jesus continues to take care of us and will never stop taking care of his little brothers and sisters.
Notice the present tense verbs in our text: [Jesus] makes men holy… It is not angels he helps, but [he helps] –(present tense)– Abraham's descendants (that is, believers). …Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is –(present tense)– able to help those who are being tempted.
Having had our sins atoned for, and having become children of God and Jesus' brothers and sisters, changes not just our future eternity (as if that weren't enough) but has a very real impact on our lives right now. We are free from our sin and free to not sin since we're free from satan's control! We are free from hell and the punishment we deserve. We are free from fear of death and from all fear! (After all, if we're not afraid of death, what else is there to really be afraid of?!) Because of his work in the past, our present reality is so much different.
And our big brother continues to help us in every present temptation. One of the great things about having a big brother is that he went through everything first. What's high school like? How will I know where to go? My brother, Jon, had been going there for two years already and he told me exactly what to expect. Where do I go when I register for driver's ed.? Well, Jon had been there. He could take me there. How do I fill out my first job application? Jon just did that himself not long ago and showed me how. Everything I did, he did first. He knew what it was like. He could sympathize and he could help. That's what a good big brother does.
And that's what Jesus still does for us.
Maybe some think, "I won't take this problem to God. He's way up there. He doesn't know what I'm going through down here." But they couldn't be more wrong. Our brother Jesus has experienced every kind of suffering that we will ever know: Childhood abuse and neglect, abject poverty, being homeless and with very few possessions. He experienced the death of loved ones, including his step-father. He was rejected by his family and by those he loved most dearly. He missed out on marriage and faced the struggles and temptations of being single. He was deserted and betrayed by his friends. He faced injustice from the civil authorities. He endured horrible physical torture. And he didn't just feel, but actually was forsaken by God.
No matter what challenges you face, no matter what pain you endure, Jesus has been there. He's done that. He knows that hurt, the pain, the feeling of rejection and sorrow. And he can help. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
He already became flesh, our brother, just like one of us, so he could die to rescue us from sin, death, and the devil. But he rose from the dead. He lives again! He lives still! And our big brother lives to help us in our every need until God completes his goal of "bringing many sons to glory." And so, because of our big brother, Jesus, we can say with confidence…
He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives, and grants me daily breath; He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare; He lives to bring me safely there.
(CW#152 v.5-6 – I Know that My Redeemer Lives)
In the name of Jesus, our big brother, dear friends, amen!