As we study the Epistle to the Hebrews together we notice that again and again we are called aside from the main theme of the letter to listen to a word of exhortation, a word of warning. These digressions are called the parenthetical portions of the book. Like red lantern flashes they warn us of danger and encourage us to keep to the King’s Highway, for detours are dangerous. It is so easy to slip away from the things we have heard and drift into the byways of sin. If only we keep the eye on Christ and our ear open to His voice all will be well.
They tell me there are dangers
In the path my feet must tread,
But they cannot see the glories
That are shining round my head,
For ’tis Jesus leads my footsteps,
He has made my heart His own,
And I would not dare to journey
Through this wide, wide world alone.
“For this reason we should give heed more abundantly to the things we have heard, lest in any way we should slip away” (N.T.). You see that vessel moored to the dock, if the anchor should slip it could easily drift to near destruction. Cords of love bind us eternally to our Blessed Lord, but we are responsible to hold fast to the written Word of God. This is the link between our souls and Christ, this is the anchor that steadies us amid the tides and the hidden currents that have carried many people to shipwreck.
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face:
Life with its way before thee lies,
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
In this Epistle, the Epistle of the Opened Heavens, we behold His glory. In chapter One we behold Him as the Son of God displacing all else and filling the scene with His glory. All the holy angels follow in His train serving as the background for the display of His superior excellencies. He is their Lord and the object of their worship. In chapter two we see Him as the Son of Man set over all creation—not a man in Eden as was Adam, but a Man in heaven. How wonderful to see a Man in the highest spot in the universe, a Man in the glory of God! And that Man is Jesus whom we know, Jesus whom we love. Stephen saw Him there; and here on earth he reflected the glory of the Man in heaven. His face shone with heavenly light. Saul of Tarsus saw Him there, and that Man in heaven won his heart that day as he was journeying toward Damascus. What a discovery it was for him to find that the God of glory was the Jesus whom he hated, Jesus whom he persecuted, but Jesus who knew him and who loved him. From that moment his was a captured heart. Wherever Paul went he said, “Have you seen Him, have you heard Him? Oh, how you would love Him if you only knew Him! There He is in the Paradise of God, God’s beloved Son. Hear me,, weary men and women, sinners sad and lonely, there He is in heaven, a Saviour in the glory.” The heavens have received the Man earth refused, the Man who died on the cross for sinners, the Man of God’s purpose.
In Genesis 2 we see a man in all the beauties and glories of an earthly paradise—Adam in Eden. What a lovely sight as Eve, the object of his heart’s desire, the sharer of all he possesses, walks beside him. But the shadows of night creep in upon that scene. Sin entered paradise, and its glories faded all too soon. Man was banished from that garden of delights to wander in the land of loneliness, the distant land of famine. We lose sight of Adam the first as he enters the portals of death, returning to the dust out of which he was taken. And ever since Adam’s transgression, and because of it, this world has been a place where the dead bury their dead.
In Hebrews 2 we are introduced to another Man. He steps out of the darkness of death, having robbed it of its power by submitting to it. Entering its dark domain He comes forth as Conqueror, leading captivity captive. “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.” He takes His seat amid the glad acclamations of heaven’s hosts, in the very highest place, above all heavens. That Man is the center of a vast universe of bliss, the Leader of a great company of men who are His fellows, His companions—
Fairest of all the earth beside,
Chiefest of all unto His Bride,
Fullness divine in Him we see,
Wonderful Man of Calvary.
As we study this chapter together we will gather our thoughts around The Man of Calvary. Again, as in chapter one, we notice a sevenfold glory. First of all:
1. The Man of Calvary Is the Man of God’s Purpose (yv. 5-8)
In the purpose of God there is a future for man upon this earth, a glorious future. The world to come is not heaven, but the kingdom age. Heaven is the scene of Christ’s glory now, in the age to come creation shall bear the impress of His glory. There will be a new order of things, everything will be in subjection to our Lord Jesus Christ, He is the Man set over the world to come. God placed the world that was, in the hands of Adam. He lost the dominion that was committed to him. The present world is in subjection to angels, the world to come will be in subjection to Christ. Jesus is crowned with glory now, and when we too are crowned God’s plans for this world will be fulfilled, and not till then. The crowning day is coming by and by. Meanwhile the Head is glorified but the members are down here in suffering. Christ is sitting at God’s right hand, waiting until His enemies are made His footstool.
Then in verse 9 we learn that
2. The Man of Calvary Is the Object of Faith’s Vision
“We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”
Not now do we see all things under the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ. The banner of rebellion is being carried high today, the flood tide of evil is rising and will soon reach its climax, the forces of evil are surging ahead, but above and beyond the dark clouds the eye of faith sees Jesus. What a lovely sight! What a glorious and encouraging vision!
In the dark days of Valley Forge, when the cause of the Colonies seemed so hopeless, one of the continental soldiers came back from headquarters to his comrades who were sad, downhearted, and thoroughly discouraged. “Cheer up, lads,” he said, “our cause is not lost; victory is sure. I have seen the face of George Washington; we cannot lose with such a leader.”
We see Jesus there in the glory; He is the pledge and the proof of final and complete victory. Behold Him! He is clothed in a seamless robe of beauty, and surrounded by glories secured in the dark hour of His passion and the bright hour of His triumph. As we gaze we read the story of amazing grace, and trace the pathway that led from the lowly manger and the shameful cross to the throne of glory. Where our sins bring us, grace brought Him; and where the glory of God raised Him, grace brings us. in and with Him.
And then the sight of Jesus should separate our hearts forever from the world that nailed Him to the cross. It should change our thoughts and feelings completely by transferring them all to Him who is up there. All we love is there; all our interests are there, not down here. “O fix our earnest gaze, so wholly, Lord, on Thee, that, with Thy beauty occupied, we elsewhere none may see.” We behold Him robed in the garment of spotless beauty, surrounded with the glories secured in the dark hour of His passion and the bright hour of His triumph. He bears in heaven the marks of His anguish, the anguish He endured for our sakes.
Oh, that we may calmly, sweetly, happily, continually gaze on Jesus, thus crowned with glory and honor. Had Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he would not have feared the wind and the waves. Thank God we can walk on the waves when we see Jesus.
Nor can the dark shadows of sin or sorrow dim the light that reaches us. He breaks through the darkest clouds with the light of His grace—He who entered into the dark night of sin and sorrow for us. Where our sins bring us, grace brought the Lord Jesus.
3. The Man of Calvary Is the Captain of Our Salvation (v. 10)
“For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
In man’s thirst for power others suffer. Here the All-powerful One submits to suffering that we, the weak ones, might be delivered from it. He, the Captain of our Salvation, becomes perfect for the office He fills by tasting of the cup of sorrow and trial. He was perfect in power, perfect in love, perfect in wisdom, but He must become perfect in experience also. He never knew suffering in the glory above, but now in that He has suffered being tried He is able to help those who are tried. He has passed through the furnace of affliction, He knows what sorest trials mean, and He saves us now by His sympathy with us and the example He has set before us.
It is not the salvation of our souls that is referred to here, but our lives after we have believed. We sing,
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
He bore the load of our sins when hanging on the cross, He carries our sorrows now, seated on the throne of glory.
The Friend most dear to us is the one who shows us the utmost confidence when everything seems against us. And surely our Lord Jesus loves to have us trust Him even when everything seems wrong. Job could say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” We can surely say, and He loves to hear us say it, “Lord, I know that Thou doest all things well. It seems as if Thou art treating me with most shameful neglect, but Thy cross has taught me Thine utter love, and I know that Thou canst never leave me.”
4. The Man of Calvary and We Are One (v. 11)
Those bound for glory are a united whole, one with their Leader. The One Son and the many sons are all of One. That glorified Man at God’s right hand is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He is not ashamed to call us “brethren.” “Tell it out that earth and heaven may hear!” writes a dear saint of God. Not merely because of His grace, but because of our dignity as the sons of God, He is not ashamed to be found in our company. To Him we are “the excellent of the earth.”
5. The Man of Calvary Leads Our Praises (vv. 12,13)
Moses sang in the midst of his brethren when the children of Israel began their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Our Saviour takes His place as the Leader of song in the midst of His own.
It is with voice of singing we leave the land of night,
To pass in glorious music far onward out of sight.
O children, was it sorrow though thousand worlds be lost?
Our eyes have looked on Jesus, and thus we count the cost.
He sings and we listen to His voice in three quotations from the Old Testament.
The first quotation is from Psalm 22:22. His voice is heard in resurrection. The darkness and loneliness of Calvary is past; how sweet to hear Him sing after the storm. In the upper room there was the song before the sorrow, then that awful cry of Psalm 22:1, “While the sun was enwrapt in night,” and now
He praises in the assembly, now the sorrow all is passed;
His the earnest of our portion, we must reach the goal at last.
Yes, He praises! grace recounting all the path already trod—
We associated with Him—God our Father and our God.
The second quotation is from Isaiah 8:17. It tells of the path He trod. He leads in the pathway of faith. His was a life of implicit trust—cast upon God from the womb—the cross registered the full triumph of that truth. And now we follow where He led the way and “His strength is ours on the road.”
The third quotation is from Isaiah 8:18. Here He anticipates the joy of the homecoming of the many sons. When Cornelia, a noble Roman matron, was asked by a visitor to show her jewels, instead of displaying a store of dazzling gems, she presented her three sons, and said, “These are my jewels.” And we are His! “Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” We sing, “Thou gavest us in eternal love to Him, To bring us back to God.” What a day when He makes up His jewels!
6. The Man of Calvary Is Our Kinsman-Redeemer (vv. 14-16)
To bring us to glory He had to save us. This deliverance involved Incarnation, identification and death. But in death He conquered. Even as David in the valley of Elah grappled with the mighty giant, so our Captain has entered the gloomy cave of death and wrested from the grim jailer his scepter and delivered his captives. For those who follow Him the death march is reversed. Adam led the way from the tree of life down to the tomb. Christ leads the way from the darkness of death to the glory.
7. The Man of Calvary Is Our Gracious High Priest (vv. 17, 18)
To bring us to glory He must keep us all the way. I need Christ for my sins and Christ for my sorrows. He made propitiation for my sins on the cross (v. 17), He has sympathy and succor for all my sorrows (v. 18). “Faithful” to God whose sons we are, we need never fear we will miss the goal, He will bring us all safe to glory. “Merciful” to us, we are assured we will never lack help by the way.
In chapter one, Christ is seen as the Son of God. In chapter two as the Son of Man. In chapter two we look into heaven and see that God has put A MAN there in whom all His purposes will be fulfilled. The Man is the Center of a vast universe of bliss and the Captain of a vast company who are on the way to glory.
Verses 1-4 is a parenthesis. It is as if the writer says, “I am teaching you wonderful things, take heed that you do not let such things fall on a careless ear. We must not be mere scholars. If we are disciples of a living Master in the school of God, we shall have our consciences exercised while we are pursuing our lesson.
Christ is my Preacher in Hebrews. His theme is salvation. God’s salvation is so simple that a little child can take it in; so profound that all eternity will not exhaust it (v. 3).
We have a nautical term here (v. 1). Its meaning can be twofold.
1. Like water from a leaking vessel we are in danger of letting precious truth slip away from us.
2. Like a vessel drifting from its mooring it is so easy for us to slip.
One keyword of the Epistle is, “Let us go on.” Moses said, “We are journeying.”
There are currents that carry us away from the anchorage of faith—the great words that we have heard.
1. That of time. We forget so soon.
2. Familiarity with truth. It loses its power in our lives.
3. Pressure of duties and pleasures of life.
4. So-called Christian work.
5. The opinion of others (2 Timothy 4:4).
In Christ, God’s delight in man is abundantly justified (v. 6).
The habitable world to come is the sphere of the first man, but it is in the hands of the Second Man (v. 5).
God will yet establish a new order of things on the earth; there will be “the world to come.” This is because His death was in behalf of everything as well as everyone.
A Captain is one who initiates and carries to completion. An “originator” (v. 10).
We have here our entire emancipation from our foes and our complete association with the Victor.
Our Captain (1) SINGS; (2) He LEADS in the path of faith; (3) as the Head of a new race, He ANNOUNCES our coming. Thus as we follow our Leader we begin the journey with a song. Then we learn the secret of overcoming all the difficulties of the way. And finally we reach the desired haven where He displays us as His own forever.
The shadow of death is dispelled by the Light of Life descending into it (vv. 14, 15).
The humanity of fallen man was not His, neither was sin with its consequences. Death could have no power over Him except as He might submit Himself voluntarily to it; and this He did.
Temptation to Him was suffering, and only that (v. 18).
The thought suggested in chapter 1 is developed in chapter 2—Christ has fellows.
He the Son is bringing many sons to glory.
He the Sanctifier, and they the sanctified, are all as men in the same nature and position together before God.
He the Saviour redeems a race from destruction to present them in glory.
He the Singer surrounds Himself with brethren of whom He is not ashamed.
He the Succorer maintains a people on the wilderness road.