Summary: the joyful news of the incarnation is that God has come to take on our full humanity and transform it. We have a brother who’s fulfilled God’s plan already and who’s paved the way for us, so that we too can be made perfect and in the end can be brought th
I wonder how many of you watched the documentary on the 2004 Tsunami on Wednesday night. If you did, you were probably blown away once again by the sheer power of the sea as it rolled in with such relentless force. What struck me was the sense of unbelief on the part of the westerners in particular that buildings that seemed so strong and safe weren’t going to protect them. It seemed all wrong that human engineering couldn’t hold back the forces of nature.
It’s something like that that makes the writer to the Hebrews think about Jesus. He knows Psalm 8 well; he’s read these words: "6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet," but he realises that there’s an incongruity between these words and everyday human experience. The human lot is one of frustration and fear in the face of the forces of nature. Humanity is meant to hold the creation in subjection but it’s clear that it’s actually us who are subject to the forces of nature.
We know that well here in Australia don’t we, where just 25 years after the Thomson Dam was built, as the dam that would make Melbourne drought-proof, we’ve got strict water restrictions to make sure it doesn’t run out. Far from dominating the creation we struggle to keep it under control.
But the joyful news of the incarnation is that God has come to take on our full humanity and transform it.
Now there’s one human being who hasn’t had these problems. The writer says "we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death." The first thing he wants us to see is that Jesus came to share our humanity. No, more than that, to reclaim our humanity, to transform it. And how did he go about this task? Well, he says, he did it by suffering. He took on our frail human life and suffered even to the point of death. And that death he died he died on our behalf: "9so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."
One of the things about Jesus been born as a little baby in Bethlehem is that he had to grow up just like everyone of us. As he grew he experienced all the sorts of things that we experience. No doubt there were other kids who played tricks on him. He probably grazed his knees playing the sorts of games that boys play. He no doubt banged his thumb with a hammer when he was first learning how to drive home nails or whatever they used to fasten furniture in those days. And as he got older we have recorded for us his experience of all the intensity of Satan’s temptations; far more intense than anything we experience, yet without failing, the way we do. One of the things you discover as you read through the gospels is that Jesus experienced many of the things we experience day by day. Do you remember the incident when he stilled the storm. Do you remember what he was doing when the storm blew up? He was asleep in the back of the boat, wasn’t he? He’d been teaching the crowds all day and he was so tired he fell asleep on a hard bench at the back of the boat. Well, after last weekend I know just how he felt.
And do you remember the way he occasionally expressed his frustration at the thick-headed responses of his disciples? Like when they’d just come down from the mountain of transfiguration and there’s a boy who his disciples can’t heal and what does he say? "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me." You can here the frustration in his voice can’t you? He knew what it was like to be frustrated with the people he’d chosen to follow him.
So does this matter? Did he need to experience all this in order to bring us back to God? Well that’s what the writer here thinks: "10It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
It’s as though Jesus is taking us full circle. Humanity started out in glory, living in the Garden of Eden, perfectly in tune with God, communicating with him face to face. But then they rebelled against God’s rule and the whole fabric of creation was shattered. Creation now is like one of those ceramic plates where the glaze wasn’t made quite right and now it’s got a crazed pattern all over it. And humanity has been pulled down into that cracked and broken world. In fact that’s what Psalm 8 says isn’t it? "You have made them for a little while lower than the angels." God subjected us and creation to frustration for a time but his plan was always to restore the creation to what it was meant to be. It was always God’s plan to restore humanity to our original place as his sons and daughters.