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20th Sunday after Pentecost
I know people get uppity about putting out Christmas decorations too early. But it was snowing the other night and as I was pondering the portion of God’s word for our meditation this morning, the words of one of our Christmas hymns popped into my head. The second verse of “Now Sing we, Now rejoice” wouldn’t get out of my head. Come from on high to me; I cannot rise to Thee Cheer my wearied spirit, O pure and holy Child; Through Thy grace and merit, Blest Jesus, Lord most mild, Draw me unto Thee! Draw me unto Thee!
In the words of the writer of Hebrews, we see God’s greatest purpose. To draw us to himself, to have many sons and daughters and he did that by becoming our brother. Today we ponder this: that Jesus is not ashamed to be our brother.
This a wonder that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews wants all Christians to see clearly. The whole first chapter of this letter is devoted to speaking about the divine nature of our brother Jesus. He talks about Jesus throne in heaven which endures forever, how he is served by angels, and how all of his enemies have been made a footstool for him.
Then he drops this bomb shell on us – 5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
Part I: He came down to us –
As the verse says, he didn’t come as a powerful angel or some kind of super being. It wasn’t the angels that he honored in becoming one of them. As the words of the text for this morning say, But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while. He became one of us! He took on flesh and blood, not white armor, wings and a flaming sword. No he honored us, human beings, flesh and blood. With no merit or pleading on our part – he willingly said, “I will be a brother to them.”
Martin Luther said that he “willingly laid himself down in the muck of our existence.” Except I’m pretty sure he didn’t use the word muck… How? Why? Who am I that God is mindful of me? Almighty God, who as the psalm writer said this morning – knows how we’re knit together, for he designed it. He knows our thoughts before they leave our lips. He knows all our days, he knows every hurt that we will feel. He knows every temptation that we face. He knows our every weakness. He knows every time I sin.
What is the greater mystery in Scripture? Six-day creation? The doctrine of the interworking’s of the trinity? The dual nature of Jesus? Or the fact that God has, from since time began, had one great purpose founded in his vast love and boundless mercy – to dwell with us – to not be ashamed to be our brother!
Part II: He suffered for us
The inspired writer to the Hebrews says, 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.
Here I take issue with the NIV translation of our text for today because I think it lends itself to misunderstanding. The whole point of a translation is to clear up, or draw out the original intent and meaning of the inspired writer. But this rendering of this verse in particular seems at a glance to not make sense within argument that the author of Hebrews is making. He just got done talking about the Divine origins of our brother Jesus. How from eternity he is God, yet he took on flesh.
The way this is translated makes it sound as though at one point Jesus was not perfect. That some how he had to undergo a process of refinement in order to achieve perfection. At least that’s where our english speaking minds go when we hear a phrase like “make perfect.”
The sense of the original Greek is that not that Jesus was “made more perfect” that makes no sense. Rather, the sense of the verb here translated into English as “make perfect” is more along the lines of that he was brought to his goal, or completed his mission, or do what he came to do – and to the letter – perfectly. A better translation is “…should bring the pioneer of their salvation to his goal through what he suffered…”
Jesus didn’t just come to live with us to learn what it meant to be human. No from day one he suffered humiliation for our sake. He was born of a virgin. He was laid in a food trough for cattle as a crib. Which of you mothers would do that to your own child? Yet this was God the Fathers will! While God almighty, he was subject to our same emotions. He knew what it meant to love and be spurned, his own people rejected him. The creation didn’t recognize it’s creator. While he was the author of life he cried when he saw death.
He was brought through many sufferings in life. The last but certainly not the least of which was his cross. Where the suffering, the punishment, the guilt for all our sin was foisted upon him. And he dragged that eighty pound cross beam up the hill side and was nailed to it – There the pioneer, the initiator, the instigator, the author of life became the author of salvation – having been brought through many sufferings – completed his goal, did what he came to do – why? Because beyond all earthly comprehension, he is not ashamed to be our brother.
Part III: We are in the same Family –
Might it sound odd to you at this point if I said that what we’ve been talking about today, up to this point, is really relationships. Seems like kind of an out of the blue statement, but consider this. Our first lesson for today from Genesis was about the first marriage. What happened after that whole incident? Adam and Eve fell into sin and ate the fruit. Their relationship with God was forever changed. So then, their relationship with each other was forever marred. Can you imagine the marriage fight that took place that evening that they fell into sin?
And so then we saw in the Gospel from Mark this morning, the pharisees questioning Jesus about divorce. They ask Jesus why if God hates divorce, does Moses hand down laws concerning divorce. Jesus replies, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,”
It was because they were sinners. See, our broken relationships the ones that we are oh so familiar with, bitter marriages, divorce, falling out with friends or relatives, disagreements with fellow Christians, brothers and sisters in church whatever – those things are but a shadow of the fact that we are by nature sinners and we have a broken relationship, we are estranged from our Father in heaven.
But it was ever the goal of our brother Jesus to remedy that, to fix that relationship. Not that God would just tentatively tolerate us, but rather that we too would be brought to glory! That God would have many sons and daughters. The author of Hebrews says now that Christ took on our flesh and blood, that he laid himself down in the muck of our existence, that he passed through many sufferings, that he completed his goal – verse 11 – Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
He has compassion on us, he can empathize with us and our condition! What greater thing can a church hear, what greater thing can sinners hear? Cheer my wearied spirit Lord, cheer our spirits wearied by all our broken relationships and the bitterness, and angst that lies in them. Cheer our wearied spirits with the reminder that our relationship with our father in heaven is a relationship of peace and love and joy. Because God the father brought his one and only son through sufferings to his goal on the cross and then raised him in glory – we know he will do the same for us. That we are in the same family! He continually reminds us that we are of the same blood as our brother Jesus in holy communion when we receive his own body and blood. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters! He is not ashamed to be our brother.
So say what you will about Christmas decorations going up early. It is never to early to ponder, and marvel over the Word of God such as our text was for today. Where we are reminded of how our savior became one of us, suffered for us, and is not ashamed to be our brother. How could we ever be ashamed of him?
Now sing we, now rejoice,
Now raise to heaven our voice;
He from whom joy streameth
Poor in a manger lies;
Not so brightly beameth
The sun in yonder skies.
Thou my Savior art!
Thou my Savior art!
Thou our brother art! Amen.