God's End Game - Part 20

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

March 31, 2019
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

When my oldest daughter, Abbie, was tiny, her favorite TV show was Lamb Chop, you know, the perky little lady with the puppet. Abbie’s favorite song that Lamb Chop sang was the all-time most annoying song ever:

This is the song that never ends.

It just goes on and on, my friend.

Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was.

And, they'll continue singing it forever, just because

This is the song that never ends...

Some may be thinking this is the series that never ends as we yet keep going on the journey through God’s Word to discover God’s End Game, to come to terms with the issue of what God’s up to with us the world, where all this is headed, and how he’s going to fix his good world gone bad.

God’s end game plan revolves around Jesus and has three telescoping parts, one flowing from the other.

It begins with the INCARNATION.

It climaxes with the CRUCIFIXION.

It carries on with the RESURRECTION.

We’ve been focusing on that first part: incarnation.

INCARNATION - God taking on human flesh, becoming a man, and living a life in perfect fulfillment of God’s law.

Put together all the pieces of the puzzle we have so far and you see the way God goes about fixing his good world gone bad is faith. You and I are made right with God by believing in His promises, promises bound up in Jesus, who is God come in the flesh.

John and the other Apostles in the early church believed and taught Jesus was and is God, but they also believed he was a man just like us.

The bottom line is the Bible teaches Jesus was and is 100% God AND 100% man at the same time.

Last week we figured out that just as one man’s disobedience led to the ruin of many, one man’s obedience could lead the glory of many. The first Adam’s failure caused us all to fail. The second or last Adam’s success in keeping all God’s commands made it possible for us all to have a right standing with God. 

Part of God’s plan in sending the Last Adam is having him actually, really, completely live all the laws of God out perfectly.

Jesus, the Last Adam, did what the First Adam could not do. He did what you and I cannot do.

Jesus needed to be 100% man because we needed someone like us to live a perfect life of obedience for us. His obedience is put into our accounts when we place our faith and trust in him when we believe in the promises of God bound up in him.

Jesus needed to be 100%, God, though, because we needed someone to die the death we should have died and pay for our sins. Only God could do that.

That is comforting as it is, but I want to spend one last sermon on the incarnation by taking this a little farther. And we’ll go to the book of Hebrews for that where we’ll see much of what we went over last week mirrored. But it will take us even deeper!

The writer of Hebrews, who was very likely Paul the Apostle, wrote this letter to a group of Christians who were suffering for their faith and needed encouragement. 

Hebrews is rich and sometimes hard to understand, like Romans, and like Romans has so many layers of truth we could never peel them all back. As we look at parts of it many questions will arise.

But keep in mind we are attempting to understand the incarnation’s role in the big picture of God’s End Game plan. So those questions may go unanswered.

But for today, let’s see what the writer of Hebrews can tell us about God With Us.

In chapter one, the supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Son, Jesus, is presented. In chapter 2, Jesus is also presented as the faithful High Priest. Chapter 2 is where we’ll camp out for the most part today.

Hebrews 2:1–18 (ESV) — 1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. 

I think the author has two covenants in view here. The covenant at Mt. Sinai (which, according to Jewish thought was handed down with the assistance of angels) and the new covenant in Jesus secured at Mt. Calvary. 

One brought condemnation to all, highlighting the sinfulness of sin (though it was never intended to save). The other brought the free gift of grace, forgiveness, and a right standing with God. 

Since Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plans for setting us and the world to rights, the message of salvation given through Christ should especially be heeded.

5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 

In other words, angels are not the beings we see ruling the world to come, the new heavens and the new earth. Scripture foretells of us humans wearing crowns in that day, of us ruling with Christ. And, if you think about it, angels weren’t the ones given dominion over the earth in the world that was! That was us too.

Which is kind of crazy when you consider that angels are higher up the ladder than us in more ways than one. Remember that.

6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” 

The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8, where King David was blown away by the glory and honor God ascribed to man (again who is beneath the angels in glory and power) in that he made us in His image and gave us dominion over the earth that was and will give us dominion in the one to come. 

**TEXT**v. 8 Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 

NT Wright explains…

[One point of] this passage is the reflection… on how Jesus has already attained the status which God marked out for humans in general. Here we meet a point which we shall discover to be typical of the way Hebrews understands the Old Testament. The Psalm speaks of humankind in general as set in authority over the world, with ‘everything subjected to him’. But, says Hebrews, this clearly hasn’t happened yet. Humans are not ruling the world, bringing God’s order and justice to bear on the whole of creation. Everything is still in a state of semi-chaos. How then can this Psalm be taken seriously?

The answer is that it has happened—in the case of Jesus. He is the representative of the human race. His exaltation as Lord, after his earthly ministry, suffering and death (in which he was indeed ‘lower than the angels’) has placed him in the role marked out from the beginning for the human race. He has gone ahead of the rest of us into God’s future, the future in which order and justice—saving order, healing justice—will come to the world. The exaltation of Jesus and the fact that we who follow him can celebrate that and live in the light of it is one of the major themes of the whole book.

Now we are about to intersect with what we’ve been covering the last few weeks. Listen carefully and look for connections with the incarnation.

9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he[[God]], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering[[Jesus]]. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he [[Jesus]] is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” 

In verses 12 & 13 the writer quotes 2 Psalms and Isaiah to support his main point in verse 11: "Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

Two questions jump out here…

Who is them? Those who are sanctified or made holy through the work of Jesus. So them is us, human beings, the descendants of Adam. God’s image bearers who have marred that image.

What does it mean that Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us brothers? Incarnation. He wasn’t above becoming a little lower than the angels, like us, to save us. Which takes us back to what we’ve already seen…

Philippians 2:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Jesus is made a little lower than the angels like us; he became 100% one of us which makes him our BROTHER

There’s a layer here I want us to peel back for just a minute, one that will become even more meaningful at the end of the message.

If Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (incarnation), then you could say, in a way he’s our elder brother. He was there in the beginning with God (before us and everything else) and he was God (John 1). Right?

Because of Adam’s unfaithfulness, we all come into the world prone to wander, to make foolish decisions that hurt us and others, to reject our good and gracious heavenly father. Because of Jesus’, our elder brother’s, obedience we have the opportunity to be made right with God. Right?

Hmmm… we are talking about an elder brother, unfaithful (prodigal even) younger brothers and sisters, and a good and gracious father. Where have we heard that before?

Yep. The story of the prodigal son. What did the elder brother do in that story? Reject his good and gracious father just like the prodigal son. But what should he have done? As the elder brother in that culture, he should have been the one to go and find his brother and bring him back.

Adam is the unfaithful elder brother who caused us all to turn to our own way, away from God our Father. Jesus is the faithful elder brother who did what it took to bring us prodigals home!

Let’s keep going…

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things[[incarnation]], that through death [[crucifixion]] he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 

There’s a dual meaning here. Physically the offspring of Abraham are his biological descendants. But remember how Paul talked about the offspring of Abraham are really those who, like him, believe in the promises of God which are bound up in Jesus? Even though we are a little lower than the angels, fallen angels have no savior. Jesus didn’t become like them to save them. But he did us!

17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

This takes us back to the old covenant under Moses where the high priest represented the people before God, sacrificing a lamb for sins. Now Jesus, who is one of us, is our High Priest, representing us before God, making atonement for our sins, and he is also the Lamb slain at the same time!

Here’s v. 17 in a different translation…

Hebrews 2:17 (NLT) — 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.

Here we have an explanation for the incarnation: God becoming man was necessary for our sins to be dealt with. Our savior. The last Adam, the faithful elder brother needed to be 100% man to undo what the first Adam did. And at the same time, he needed to be 100% God in order to pay for the sins of mankind.

CONCLUSION: Now here’s something about the incarnation I want you to see. This is where theology and doctrine become very practical, where they give us hope and comfort.

18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

In his 100% humanness Jesus suffered just like you and me, was tempted just like you and me. In his 100% Godness Jesus was and is able to do something about it.

The writer of Hebrews visited this truth again in chapter 4…

Hebrews 4:14–16 (ESV) — 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the incarnation, Jesus deals with our lostness by him living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died, but he also deals with our daily sins and failures no matter how big or small, and he deals with our lifelong troubles no matter how big or small. Tim Keller pulls this all together in a way I never could…

[The Hebrews passage] says, “… he too shared in their humanity …” Why? First, that he might destroy him who has the power of death, but secondly, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

“… that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest …” Do you know what that means? I suggest to you most of us do not have the resources we could have as Christians to face life in this world because we functionally deny the real and true and full humanity of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us he was completely physical. He was completely and really human, and, therefore, he suffered.

I knew a guy years ago in my former church who was an x-ray technician. He worked in a hospital, and he put people up on the table. I went in to see him because he was in the hospital himself because I think, if I remember correctly, he had a kidney stone. When I spoke to him, he was in the hospital. He was in a lot of pain, and he had just been put on the table by one of his x-ray technician colleagues.

He had just come back to his room, and I said, “How’s it going?” He said to me, “When I get out of here I am going to have a radically different bedside manner.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, I really never knew what it was like to be on the table myself. I will never be impatient with a client again. I will never treat them like a cipher. I will never treat them like cattle, because I know what it’s like. I will never unnecessarily be brusque with them, because I’ve been on the table myself. I’ve been changed. I’ve been on the table. Therefore, I will never treat people on the table the same way.”

Jesus Christ, we’re told, was really human. He suffered. Here’s someone who knows everything we know. Have you been betrayed this year? So has he. Have you been isolated or lonely this year? So has he. Have you been broke this year? So has he. Have you faced death this year? So has he. He has faced pain and rejection and homelessness and misunderstanding and isolation and grief and loss…

If you really practice this, if you believe this, let me show you what would happen to you. First of all, you would go to him when your life starts to break apart. … when I notice somebody who was coming to church seems to have stopped coming to church and if I run into them and I see they’ve started drifting away and I ask what’s going on, so often the problem is problems, troubles, brokenness.

“Terrible things are happening to me, and it makes me feel far from God. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to go …” That’s denial of something. It’s a denial of the humanity of Jesus Christ. What do you want in a counselor? First of all, you want somebody who knows what you’re going through, right? You don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what you’re going through. In fact, even if you talk to somebody about your problems and they’re not hostile or dismissive, but if they just sort of stare at you kind of clueless, it’s an unbearable isolation it causes.

You want somebody who understands, but you also don’t want somebody in the same spot you’re in, right? You don’t just want somebody where you are. You want somebody who has moved beyond it. Jesus Christ was on the table, but he’s not there anymore. He’s risen. He’s at the right hand of God. He is the wonderful Counselor. You have to go to him.

Somebody says, “Well, but when I go to God, I try to have prayers answered, and very often my prayers aren’t answered.” He understands that too. He has suffered in every way as you’ve suffered. He has been tempted in every way as you’ve been tempted. He knows what it’s like to offer up a prayer and have it turned down. “… Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.…” Don’t you see?

You say, “Well, what I don’t understand is why is he letting this happen to me? That’s the reason why I’m not praying. That’s the reason why I’m not coming to church. Why is he letting this happen to me?” I don’t know, but here’s what I do know. For you to be mad at him because you’re suffering is to deny the humanity of Jesus Christ. That x-ray technician does not say, “I no longer will put people on the table.”

Did he say that? He knows as painful as it is for a person with a kidney stone to have to move around, it’ll be a lot more painful if we don’t do something about it. Therefore, what he has promised is he says, “I will never unnecessarily hurt somebody. I will be so gentle. I will be so careful, because I’ve been on the table. There won’t be a single needless jostle. There won’t be a single needless pain.”

All I know, and all we know, is if we’re suffering he has been on the table, and there’s nothing happening to us needlessly or arbitrarily. If you deny that, you’re denying the humanity of Christ. What you’re really saying is, “You don’t understand.” He does. That’s what Christianity means.

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