Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)
It never ceases to touch me with a sense of overwhelming awe and gratitude when I consider that the Son of God willingly set aside His glory, His majesty and His power for the sake of lost sinners of this world. I can only rejoice, with praise and thanksgiving, at the magnitude of the grace, compassion, and mercy of God, and give thanks for the incredible gift of salvation.
We serve a resurrected, ascended Lord, seated at the right hand of God the Father, clothed in majesty and awesome in His splendour. Yes, He is truly our King, and I celebrate that fact daily. But He has another role, a vital role for His followers who remain on earth – that of our High Priest, our Mediator, our Advocate. There can be no doubt that this intercessory role is also a necessary role. But for Him, we would be sinners still, and but for His blood we would have no other plea but ‘guilty as charged.’
I pray that I will never lose sight of our King of Glory. But I also pray that the Holy Spirit would remind me always that it was His humanity that enabled His ‘ministry of intercession’ on our behalf. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Jesus, on earth, was a man. I’ve heard born again, Spirit-filled believers declare that it was ‘easy’ for Jesus, because He was divine, the Son of God, that somehow His divinity operated during His time on earth in a way that He somehow transcended the suffering He endured for our sins. I think this is one of the saddest statements I have ever heard, because it completely negates the full reality of His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. And it also diminishes His role as High Priest.
This verse from Hebrews reminds us of the truth. Jesus set aside His majesty. He left it behind Him in heaven. He came to earth as a man because He had to in order to become the perfect sacrifice. It was critical that He be born, live as a man, and die as a man, to become the only representative of humanity to work in true holiness before God. Like us, He had the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. But, unlike us, His life was characterised by total obedience to God, by a righteous life, and by walking in holiness. He became the perfect High Priest, and the perfect sacrifice.
Jesus could not have assumed our sin and our punishment in His divinity, because sin cannot dwell in the same place as holiness, and the Son of God in His divine state is holy. He could walk in holiness, as we are called to do, but He could not exist in His divine holiness. It was absolutely necessary that He be man in the fullest sense of the word. As the ‘first Adam’ turned away from God after the fall, so the ‘last Adam’ was required to call upon God to bring salvation and restore fellowship. God crying out to God, which would have been the case had He been more than man, would not have sufficed. Jesus had to be the man who could do what we could not.
Think, for a moment, of His words on the cross: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? This, together with His mental and emotional agony in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest, are the heartbreakingly poignant evidence that the Son of God truly became a man. Note that His cry was not the ‘Abba, Father’ we have the privilege of using through salvation. It was ‘my God, my God.’ At that moment, Jesus was truly man, and He carried the full weight of the sin and punishment of mankind – not just His own generation, but the generations since the fall, and all those who would come after.
It is only because He identified so completely with humanity that He could be the perfect sacrifice, the perfect High Priest, and now become the perfect intercessor. Keep in mind that His role is now intercessor, not High Priest. That was for the cross, where He laid down His own life. He now intercedes as a mediator, for His sacrifice was a once and for all thing. Unlike the High Priests of old, who had to make the sacrifices daily because they were temporary and lacked perfection, His was once and for all, and utterly complete.
The other reason that He had to walk in total humanity was so that He could identify with us in all our emotions, thoughts, fears, weaknesses, and trials. The final reason is that we could identify with Him. It would be wonderful simply knowing that the Son of God sacrificed Himself for me, and that is what He did. But the duality of His existence, the fact that He did it as a man, totally and completely human, reminds me that He understand. Christ knows the full measure of man’s experience because He was engaged in it, He lived it, He shared it, and He endured it, and we can have the assurance that there is nothing that we go through or face that He hasn’t already endured. He didn’t simply lay down His life, although that is a truth that is impossible to fully comprehend. He laid down everything, His divinity included, so that He could show us the way, teach us how, lead us along the narrow road and through that difficult gate that leads to God the Father.
What a comfort this is in times of difficulty and struggle. What a motivation, when we encounter our own weakness and doubts, and when confronted by our own failures and foolish choices. The example we have is not a God so wrapped up in holiness that He is forever unreachable. We have both the humanity and holiness of Christ to hold onto, and a love that exceeds all boundaries, and which we can only really begin to comprehend when we acknowledge the simple truth: Jesus became a man because that was the only way. And that, without doubt, is amazing grace.
Thank You, Jesus, for being willing to set aside everything that is Yours by right as the Son of God and King of Heaven. Thank You for humbling yourself to the point where You could identify completely and perfectly with us, and so accomplish on our behalf what we could never do for ourselves. Help me to always see the full measure of Your sacrifice, and to hold fast to the truth of Your amazing grace and mercy.