The author of the epistle to the Hebrews exhorts his audience with a glorious declaration of the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. This exhortation is written to an audience that is in perilous spiritual danger. The author’s response in light of this danger is to turn their gaze upon Christ as their great High Priest.
In chapter one, three stages of Christ’s existence are emphasized. These are Christ’s preexistence (vv. 2–3, 7–12), incarnation (vv. 3, 6), and exaltation (vv. 3–4, 5). These three stages coalesce in Hebrews 2 to form a deeply comforting announcement of the gospel, at the center of which we find the brotherhood of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest. We may examine briefly how the author uses these three Christological categories to bring comfort to believers in their kinship with Christ.
In Hebrews, the author connects the Son’s preexistence with His superiority over the angels (Heb 1:7–12). The author then uses Psalm 45:6–7 as a quote from God concerning Jesus, indicating God’s affirmation of His Son’s divine status: “God, your God has anointed you” (Heb 1:8–9). Next, the author quotes from Psalm 102:25–27, ascribing the act of creation in Genesis to the Son of God, who is the second person of the Trinity (Heb 1:10–12). This sets a foundation in the text for affirming the Son’s ontological equality with God the Father and, therefore, His preexistent superiority to angels. Later in the passage, this superiority is delineated in connection to Christ’s incarnation. The author states that “we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9). The underlying implication of this statement in light of Christ’s aforementioned superiority is that the Son, in His preexistence, was superior to the angels as the God of creation, was then “made lower than the angels” in His incarnation, and has now been exalted above all things (cf. Phil 2:6–11). This does not imply that Christ lost His divine nature at any time, but that in His incarnation His deity was veiled. The Son of God assumed human flesh and thereby emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, not by forgoing His deity.
Christ’s High Priestly role is connected with His identity as our Brother. Though He is infinitely superior to man as the eternal Son of God, He willingly took on human flesh and subjected Himself to humiliation out of love for His brothers. The humiliation Jesus underwent was characterized by the suffering of death but was followed ultimately by His exaltation (Heb 2:9). Christ is the founder of our salvation. He proved Himself worthy of His role as High Priest through His suffering in the likeness of His brothers (vv. 10, 14–17). Jesus displays both the fullness of suffering as well as the fullness of God’s love for us as our Brother and our High Priest by drawing us to the grace of God and reconciling us to God once-and-for-all through His atoning death. We read that this ultimate act of love was done even “while we were enemies of God” (Rom 5:10). Truly, “greater love has no one than this.” Christ laid down His own life for His brothers although we despised and opposed Him (John 15:13).
Christ’s kinship may provide immense comfort to believers in every season of life. He unashamedly declares us to be His brothers, proclaiming the riches of God’s grace and glory (Heb 2:11–12). Knowing weakness, temptation, pain, suffering, and death, He made propitiation for sins, was exalted to the right hand of God, and now offers mercy and grace to His people (Heb 2:17–18; 4:15–16). No tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35–37). “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
Christoph Anderson is a junior at Reformation Bible College.