But 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.
(Hebrews 2:9 KJV)
Is Jesus Your Brother?
There is no such teaching in the Bible as the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. We are all flesh and blood, but the whole point of Christianity is that there is a division, a separation of sheep and goats, those on the right hand and those on the left, those who are Christians and those who are not Christians, those who are being sanctified and those who are not being sanctified.
There is nothing more important than this. Perhaps you are in trouble, and you have looked everywhere but cannot find the answers you need. You say, “I wonder whether the Christian church has anything to say to me.” You must understand this: Jesus Christ is the answer, and he is your brother, and he has everything you need. But is he this to you?
The Scriptures are very clear about this; they always make a distinction. Our Lord himself did this. On one occasion he was teaching a great crowd surrounding him, and they told him in essence, “You must stop; your mother and your brothers are outside waiting for you” (Matthew 12:47 KJV). This was his answer: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:49–50 KJV). Jesus doesn’t call everybody his brothers, but “whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 12:50 KJV). The greatest fallacy of all is to tell the world as it is, unchanged, that Christ is its brother; that is not true.
Listen to our Lord again in that apocalyptic statement in Matthew 25:40 when he talks about the final judgment as the King upon his throne (Jesus himself) separates the nations on the right hand and on the left, the sheep and the goats: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (KJV). There it is again. These particular people were his brethren, and anything done for them is done for him. Or consider the words he used after his resurrection: “Jesus saith unto her [to Mary who was holding on to him in her amazement at his resurrection], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren [the disciples, his followers], and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17 KJV). Notice again this same conjunction of terms. He says, “go to my brethren” and “I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17 KJV). He is one with us, and yet he is eternally different.
So the message of the gospel applies only to these special people whom he calls “brethren.” You have to be in a certain position before he calls you his brother; certain things must be true of you before you can apply and appropriate to yourself these wonderful promises. The answer to our every need, the solution to all our problems, is to realize that he is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters as we believe in him (Hebrews 2:11).
What Happened to Jesus to Make Him Our Brother?
Let us see what is involved in this statement that he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. What had to happen to him to make this true? Here again we stand before the greatest of all mysteries. The apostle Paul looks at it in writing to Timothy and says, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV). Who is this one?
God . . . hath in the last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1–3 KJV)
That is who he is. He is “the Word [that] was with God . . . without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1, 3 KJV). He is God, the eternal Son.
Language is inadequate to describe this. Our minds and imaginations boggle, and we cannot grasp it all. But this is the truth, and we must believe it. This glorious person—the perfect expression of the Godhead, God’s only begotten Son—in order to come into the position of not being ashamed to call us brothers and sisters has submitted himself to certain things. What are they? This is a theme of the whole Bible, and we could discuss it for hours. I am merely reminding you of the essentials of the faith. That personal problem of yours, if only you realized that this Person is interested in you, will be solved. I am not trying to deal with your specific personal problem. I am just pointing you to Jesus. He has every answer. You must be right about him and your relationship with him.
He Laid Aside His Glory
So what has happened? Jesus Christ is “the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3 KJV). Everything has been made through him. He is the appointed heir of everything, the whole cosmos. But he became “a little lower than the angels” (2:9 KJV). Remember, he had made the angels. The angels are created beings, created spirits. There was a time when there were no angels. But there was never a time when there was not a Son. The angels were made by him, and he is infinitely superior to them and greater than them. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels” (2:9 KJV). Have you ever heard anything as thrilling as that? He who made them was made a little lower than them. It was all done in order that he might not be ashamed to call you his brothers and sisters. He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6 KJV). He was in the form of God, and he was equal with God, coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But he made himself of no reputation. He laid aside something of that glory and submitted to being made a little lower than the angels.
He Became Like Us
But he went even lower than that, for the angels are greater than we are. They are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14 KJV), but they have great ability and great power. He not only made himself a little lower than the angels; he made himself like us. He was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3 KJV). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14 KJV). If you and I only realized what this means, what it meant to him and why he did it all and what results his love brings, we would be filled with such rejoicing that we could not contain it, and all our difficulties and problems would be dealt with.
“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 KJV). He submitted himself to living life as a man in this world. He was still God, but the marvel of it all is that while he was on earth he lived as if he were but a man. That is why he had to pray—he even prayed all night at times. He did not use the attributes of deity that were still his. He did not empty himself of his Godhead—that would be impossible. But he “made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7 KJV). That means that he lived as if he were only a man and so was subject to our infirmities—weariness and tiredness and so on.
He Came Under the Law
Not only that, he came under the law. The apostle Paul puts it like this: “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4 KJV). He who is the Lawgiver, he who is from everlasting to everlasting, was subject to the law, accepting all the demands of the law as a man. Furthermore, he took upon him “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7 KJV). He was not born in a king’s palace but in a stable. He knew extreme poverty, hunger, and thirst. He shared life with ordinary men and women. This blessed person submitted himself to all that.
Before he could become one who was not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, all this had to happen to him. He had to become man in order to be able to say this, and that is the whole argument of Hebrews 2. Before he could regard us as brothers and sisters he had to become flesh and blood, and he has done so. Why are we so blind to all this? Why do we meditate so little about it? Why are we so obsessed with ourselves and our subjective moods and states and conditions? The world needs to know that “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV).
Before he could regard us as brothers and sisters he had to become flesh and blood, and he has done so.
What did this lead him to do? It led him to share our life. He knows what it is to be a helpless baby. He knows what it is to be a little boy. He knows what it is to be taught the law of the Old Testament. He knows what it is to work with his hands as a man, as a carpenter. He knows what it is to share the ordinary life of men and women. Gossip and jealousies and rivalries and envies were all happening round and about him. He was in the same world that you and I are in, and he knows all about it! He shared it to the uttermost; he truly became a man.
He Experienced Temptation
Not only that, but as we are told later in Hebrews 2, he became subject to temptation. Do you realize what that must have meant to him? “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13 KJV). He is above it all and outside it all. Yet here is the Second Person in the blessed Trinity who has become a man and made flesh and is made subject to temptation. At one time he was tempted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness as the Devil personally tempted him and attacked him. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17–18 KJV). This happened to him because he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. He took all this upon himself voluntarily in order that he might help us, that he might be a faithful high priest for us, that he might help his brethren. He submitted to temptation, to the bombardment of hell and all its evil in the person of the Devil himself, for us.
He Suffered and Died and Rose from the Dead
He knew what it was to suffer. “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” (Hebrews 2:10 KJV). There is no suffering that you and I can ever know that he has not known before us. Indeed he went even further, identifying himself with our sin. When he asked John the Baptist to baptize him. John said, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Jesus answered, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:14–15 KJV). Why was he baptized? He was putting himself alongside his brethren. He came from heaven in order to help them, and he identified himself with them. He was standing with them as if he were a sinner. He was putting himself in their position and taking on the burden. But it did not end even there. “But 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” (Hebrews 2:9 KJV). This is the meaning of it all; this is why he came. He came from heaven so that he might taste death for his brethren. He did it all in order that he might go through the sufferings of death for those whom he is not ashamed to call his brothers and sisters.
He did all that for us. He did it all that we might be sanctified, set apart for him. “Both he that sanctifieth and they who are [being] sanctified are all of one” (Hebrews 2:11 KJV). Vessels were sanctified in the temple; the Holy Mount on which God gave the law to Moses is called the Holy Mount because it was set apart for that object. The meaning of the word “sanctified,” except in certain cases where the context makes a different meaning clear—is to be set apart for God, being put into a new relationship with God. It means separation from all that is evil and common and being dedicated, offered, put into the service of God.
Our Lord, “the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3 KJV), suffered death and then rose again and returned to heaven. Why? That you and I might be sanctified. This includes the whole of salvation—justification, sanctification, glorification. It means the whole process of taking us, sinful sons of men, and separating us unto God, making us his people. Jesus made himself a little lower than the angels and is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. He came that he might, first of all, take away everything that stands between us and God. We are unhappy, we are miserable, we lack blessings because we do not know God and cannot pray to him. We need to be reconciled to God, and Jesus came to take away the sin that separates us from God. That is why Jesus suffered death; that is why he went to the cross; that is why he tasted death for us who believe in him, his own people, his “brethren.”
He Made the Way for Us to Become Children of God
Having done that, he makes us children of God. He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, and that means that we are in a like status and position to his own. He is the Son of God, and he makes us sons of God. He is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, which means that we are the children of God in Jesus Christ, that along with him we are heirs of the glory that is coming.
We read in the second verse of the first chapter of Hebrews, “[God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things,” and we see in Hebrews 2 that “he is not ashamed to call [us] brethren” (Hebrews 2:11 KJV). Do you grasp what this means? It is a good thing to be on good terms with one who is an heir, is it not? Why? Because he will share all that he inherits with you. But here is one who is not ashamed to call us brethren and is the heir of all things! Do you feel poor and empty and weak and forlorn, that you have nothing and that you are nobody? Here is my answer to you: If you are a Christian, if you are in this process of being sanctified, the Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call you his brother or sister, and he is the heir of all things. “All things are yours.” Why? Because “ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21, 23 KJV).
What Does It Mean that “He Is Not Ashamed to Call Us Brothers”?
He Has Special Concern for Us
All this means that he is very concerned about us. He says, “I will declare thy [the Father’s] name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:12–13 KJV). He says to the angels in essence, “These are my brethren. They belong to me; they are my special people.” We are the special object of his concern. We never need to feel lonely, forsaken, or forlorn. He has gone through all I have been trying to describe to you in order to become one who says that you are his brother or sister. He is not ashamed to be called our brother, to call us brothers and sisters.
He Sympathizes With Us
Think too of his sympathy for us. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17–18 KJV). You might say, “He could have no idea of what I am going through. I have been so attacked by the Devil that I wonder whether I am a child of God or not.” My dear friend, he knows all about it. Whatever has happened to you doesn’t compare with what happened to him. He experienced sin at its worst. He saw the malignity, the bitterness, and the hatred of mankind steeped in sin; he knows all about it.
In every pang that rends the heart
The Man of Sorrows had a part;
He sympathizes with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.
Michael Bruce, “Where High the Heavenly Temple Stands,” 1764
Or you might say, “He was here on earth once, but now he is back in glory and knows nothing about life on earth.” He does!
Our fellow sufferer yet retains
A fellow feeling of our pains;
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, his agonies and cries.
“Where High the Heavenly Temple Stands”
“We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). He was tempted in all points just as we are, yet was without sin. Praise God for the sympathy of the blessed Savior for his brothers and sisters. But consider also the help he is able to give us: “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 KJV). He has been through it all. He knows what it all means. The marks of the wounds are still in his hands and feet. He is the Lamb slain still, though he is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God’s glory at this very minute, and he points at you and at me and as our great intercessor and advocate tells his Father and the hosts of heaven, “These are my brethren.”
He Intercedes for Us
Remember too that he has conquered the Devil. The author of Hebrews reminds us of this. Jesus has already destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14 KJV). He defeated the Devil when he tempted Jesus, and he defeated the Devil by dying and rising again. Now he is at the right hand of God, ever living to make intercession for us. He is there at this moment doing exactly that, and he will always be there. The writer argues this at great length in Hebrews 7. He says in summary: “This is the wonderful thing about Jesus. Those earthly priests that you want to go back to will die, and you will have to have a new man. They come and go, but this One is everlasting and has an eternal priesthood.” “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 KJV).The glory of it all is this: Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of God’s glory at this very minute, and he points at you and at me and as our great intercessor and advocate tells his Father and the hosts of heaven, “These are my brethren.” “He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 KJV). He presents your feeble prayers and mine to the Father, adding the incense of his own glory to them.
Worship Jesus for Who He Is
Furthermore he will go on doing this until you and I have been taken through all of our trials and troubles, even death itself, and he will “present [us] faultless before the presence of [God’s] glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24 KJV). What a comfort! “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11 KJV). How different he is from us, and thank God he is. Thank God that Jesus is the eternal Son of God! God and those of us whom he is sanctifying are “all of one” and yet so different. Many of us tend to become ashamed of our relatives and our families. A man begins to succeed in life, but he is ashamed of his poor father or his mother’s accent and pretends he doesn’t belong to them. But God’s Son, “by whom also he made the worlds . . . whom he hath appointed heir of all things . . . who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:2–3 KJV). He is seated at God’s right hand, and the hosts of heaven are praising him, singing the praises of the Father and of the Son. And he still is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. Realize this truth; act on it. Go into his presence and through him to God by the Spirit. Enter into your inheritance, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 KJV), and so become filled with joy, being more than conquerors. Amen.