Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Following the last section, in which we saw that we are God’s children, Jesus’ brothers and sisters, our author continues with his theme in verse 14. Since these “children” have flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood too, and then we clearly see why. Jesus was incarnated so that He could die, to break the power of the devil, by setting us free from the fear of death. Interesting concept isn’t it? Being set free from slavery to the fear of death, and from the one who holds power over us by our fear of death…
So, how does the author move from the fear of death to Satan holding power over us because of our fear of death? Here’s a thought: If you are a follower of Jesus who lives in a place where following Jesus is not permitted by law, will you follow Jesus or will you follow the law of that land? If the authorities in power there are seeking to enforce their laws, then they will seek to coerce you into following their laws, right? What is the ultimate means of coercion on this earth? Death. If you fear death, you are likely to follow the law. If you have been set free from the fear of death, you are free to follow Jesus. Consider who this letter was written to: Jewish Christians in Rome during the persecution of Nero. The whole book of Hebrews is a persuasive argument to them to hold onto their faith, even to the point of death, a death they have no reason to fear. We also have no reason to fear death, since we know that because of Jesus, we have eternal life. You can destroy my body, but I live on anyway. Yes, dear reader, this is much more than empty talk or an academic doctrine, it is very real.
He continues: Jesus didn’t do this amazing thing for the angels, He did it for “Abraham’s descendants.” This might trip you up if you don’t keep your covenants straight. “Abraham’s descendants” is a term used in the Old Testament to refer to the Jews, for they were literally the genetic descendants of Abraham, and were sometimes called the “children of Israel.” Of course “Israel” was also one of Abraham’s descendants. In the New Testament, the Gospel changed all of this. Through having been born again, both Jew and Gentile are saved by Christ. There is no more Jew and Gentile, there is only “in Christ.” Thus, this refers to all followers of Jesus, not just Jewish followers, for as Paul says in Galatians 6:16, we are “the Israel of God.” To accomplish all of this, the Son had to become fully human… and so He did become fully human, and in so doing, He became a faithful and merciful high priest in service to God. There will be much about this “high priest” as the letter continues.
His humanity also made Him subject to every temptation that you and I will face in life, and thus, He is able to help us when we are tempted. What a great comfort this is! Jesus had to deal with the same kinds of things that may get to me, and He is able and willing to help in those tough moments. I don’t know about you, but I find that He is much more helpful when I get out of His way, when I ask for His help, and when I am willing to turn to Him. When I force Him out of my mind, I always seem to fall… Maybe there’s a pattern there.