Commentary on Heb 2:14-18
Hebrews continues to emphasise the reality of the Incarnation and Christ’s total solidarity with peoples everywhere.
Jesus shares with us “the same blood and flesh”. In this way, as one of us he could offer his life in death to set us free from the power of death, namely the Devil. It is the power of evil which brings real death to people, a death that separates us forever from the love of God. By his own physical death and resurrection Jesus liberated us from the fear of that death from which there is no escape. That death comes when, through our self-distancing from God, we are caught in a world without life or love.
The Son in his humanity did not identify with the angels. Rather he took his descent from Abraham as did all his fellow-Jews. (And remember that this letter was being written for Christians who were Jews.) “It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers and sisters so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest…able to atone for human sins.” There is one area, of course, in which he is unlike us – Jesus was totally free of doing evil or wrong in any form. It was precisely because of this that, while in every other respect one of us, he could be our intercessory priest and effectively plead with the Father on our behalf. It was only as one of us, though without sin, that he could offer a priestly sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation for all our sin.
And are we surprised at the next sentence? “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” When did Jesus become subject to temptation? We know that, after his baptism, he was tempted by the Evil One in the desert, although these temptations seem to be rather symbols of real testings later on. For instance, after the feeding of the 5,000, the people wanted to make Jesus king when the whole world would have been at this feet. He fled to the hills to pray to his Father. At other times, he was challenged to perform signs and miracles so that people would believe in him (parallel to jumping down from the top of the Temple and not being hurt). And, most of all, during his Passion when he was overcome with such fear that he sweated blood and begged his Father that he not have to endure his Passion. There is even the hint of threatening despair as he hangs on the Cross and cries out, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?” (Matt 27:46). But this is immediately followed by words of total acceptance of the Father’s will – “Into your hands I surrender my spirit.”
Because of these experiences, which Jesus could only have had because he totally shared our human condition, he could empathise with the pain and sufferings which we also have to undergo.
And he continues to empathise with us and, even in our greatest pain, he is not far away and his love is not far away.
Again, the author of the letter is writing this to show his readers that a suffering and dying Messiah, far from being a contradiction, is only a stunning manifestation of the extent of God’s love for us and that Jesus was indeed the Son of the Father. And, precisely because of his humanity, he both suffered as we do but also could be the effective intercessor on our behalf.