Our Suffering King

So far, the Letter to the Hebrews has established two things very clearly: there is a supernatural reality to our world that God created, and Jesus rules over it. But for people like us, living in a world where the natural seems all too real and powerful, that might be tough to swallow. To paraphrase a common objection from our atheist neighbors, belief in the supernatural doesn’t always seem possible in a world with high-speed air travel, genetic engineering, and free WiFi. And even if we grant that there’s more to the world than meets the (scientific, naturalistic) eye, who’s to say that Jesus is really in charge? With wars of religion on one hand and natural disasters on the other, can we really be blamed for wondering if someone is asleep at the wheel?

For me, one of the most persuasive arguments for trusting the Bible is the way that it acknowledges our doubts and questions like this. It doesn’t just gloss over the hard questions of skeptics — it deals with them head-on. Listen to this:

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.’ In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
— Hebrews 2:5-9

At this point in his letter, the writer continues arguing that Jesus is better than any of God’s angels. But he does it in an intriguing way: he admits that this isn’t as obvious as some might like. In fact, one could argue, if Jesus were so great, how could he be a human? And even more important: how could he have suffered like he did?

The writer’s response, quite frankly, blows me away. Like many other great thinkers throughout history, he turns the objection on its head and shows that what appears to be a great weakness in Christianity is actually one of its greatest strengths. “Yes,” you can hear him say, “your objection is valid. But have you considered that, instead of disproving me, it might just make my case stronger?”

Here’s what he’s saying: the full humanity of Jesus is a given. As we’ll see again throughout the next few chapters, Jesus really and truly war a flesh-and-blood human being. But this isn’t a sign of his inferiority, since (by quoting Psalm 8, an Old Testament prediction of this) it proves that he is the long-expected Messiah, who had to be a human being. “The son of man,” in some ways, really was “lower” than angels because of the physical limitations of humanity. But that was a key qualification for the Savior of all mankind, who himself had to be a man.

And the suffering and humiliating death that Jesus went through? That’s no sign that he was inferior or substandard. As the Old Testament passage hinted, he was crowned with glory and honor, not despite his low estate, but precisely because of it! A savior who does not suffer, according to the Bible, is no savior at all. And because God graciously allowed Jesus to taste death for everyone, there is no one who without the hope of experiencing the solid joy and lasting treasures won by Jesus.

So what do you see when you look at the world around you? A chaos of sin and weakness, governed by an absentee ruler (if anybody)? Or do you believe the writer of Hebrews, who says that Jesus, because of his suffering and death for sinners like us, is the King over all? By faith in what he says, do you see that?

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78845880@N06/15092112105