Christmas II: Christmas and the Death of Death

Hebrews 2:14-18 is a Christmas text because it focuses on why Jesus became a man, taking on flesh and blood. The answer it gives us is that Jesus took on flesh and blood so that He could destroy the devil and deliver the people who were slaves to the fear of death. He did this through death, by having his flesh nailed to a cross and his blood poured out on the ground.

For you to understand the joy of Jesus’ birth, you need to see Christmas and the cross tied together, and this is exactly what Hebrews 2 does. Christmas is wonderful, because God came to be with us, but Christmas doesn’t break the curse. The cross breaks the curse, and Christmas is what makes the cross possible. Christmas isn’t good news without the cross, but because Christmas leads to the cross, we are set from the Devil, set free from slavery to fear, and set free from death itself.

Hebrews 2 answers the question why Jesus took on flesh and blood, but that answer raises new questions: why does the Devil have the power of death? Why do we need a high priest? How can sins be propitiated? What is propitiation, anyway? And as we explore these questions, we’re seeking to understand why the incarnation of Jesus was necessary, and why His victory is so wonderful.

So who put the devil in charge of death? We did. When Adam and Eve listened to Satan rather than God, death came into the world through the tempter’s lies and our sin of believing him. Even though God has no pleasure in the death of anyone, His holiness and justice require that sin be punished, and the wages of sin is death. Satan, on the other hand, was a murderer from the beginning, and enjoys playing the role of the accuser. Death comes by God’s decree, but death is the devil’s delight. Adam’s sin places all of his children under the dominion of death, and that’s Satan’s territory. Not even God can righteously snatch a sinner out of the devil’s grasp without atonement, and that’s where the idea of a high priest comes in.

Verse 17 says that Jesus “had to be make like his brothers in every respect”, that is, He really had to become human, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God. The high priest was a man who stood between God and the people, and offered an atoning sacrifice that covered the people’s sins so that God would not destroy them. When this happens, God’s people do not need to fear death for their sins. This whole process of atoning for sins so that we can enter God’s presence is what the idea of propitiation in Hebrews 2:17 means.

Later on, Hebrews explains just how Jesus serves as the great High priest, better than all previous high priests because His offering is effective, once-for-all, and eternal, because He doesn’t just offer the blood of an animal, but His own flesh and blood, which is the point of verse 14. He has to be human so that He can serve as high priest between God and men, and He has to be flesh and blood so that He Himself can be the sacrifice.

His birth is important, because that’s when He took on flesh and blood so that He could die. His life was important, because that’s where He became and served as a merciful and faithful high priest. And His death and resurrection are of supreme importance, because that’s where He made propitiation for our sins by offering Himself as the sacrifice that reconciles us to God. That’s how Christmas leads to the cross.

And here’s what the birth, life, and death of Jesus mean for you. Are you afraid of death? You should be, and you shouldn’t be. You should be, because all human beings are born sinners, enemies of God, and under a sentence of death and punishment. Even if those who don’t believe in God are still afraid of death, and that fear enslaves them their whole life!

But you shouldn’t be, if you trust in Jesus. The reason Jesus took flesh and blood was so that by dying He could overthrow the devil and set you free. His blood covers you, so that you can walk right into God’s presence and instead of being consumed by the fire of God’s holy wrath, you are welcomed to sit down at God’s table and share a meal with Jesus. Your merciful high priest has made atonement for you, and your sins are forgiven. Because your sins are forgiven, death has no more power over you. Your death is dead, because Jesus came to die for you.

Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2017 by CJ Bowen