We Can Easily Forget the Heart of Christ

by Erik Raymond, contributed by our Friends at Crossway
| Time: 12 Minutes

In addition to forgetting our sin, we can forget Christ’s heart. We can forget how he views his people. You can forget how he sees you. The types of people that attract Jesus make other people uncomfortable. Jesus is different. His heart is drawn to the battered and broken. Nobody has a story that can make Jesus blush. Our sin doesn’t repel such a compassionate Savior. It attracts him. This is something religious people tend to forget. To them, Jesus is a scandal, not a Savior. We see this all over Luke’s Gospel.

And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30 ESV)

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Luke 7:34 ESV)

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39 ESV)

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2 ESV)

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” (Luke 19:7 ESV)

Let’s make sure we’re not following the playbook of the Pharisees and religious leaders who were scandalized by Jesus. Pharisees teach us to scoff at sinners. Jesus welcomes them. Jesus is the Savior we need: someone we can be honest with and trust that he will welcome us, someone with whom it’s okay not to be okay, someone who’s not ashamed of us. We need Jesus.

Read this slowly. Jesus “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers” (Hebrews 2:11 ESV). Although Jesus has every reason to be ashamed of us, the staggering fact is that he isn’t at all. We sometimes use family terms like brother or sister to communicate close relationships. It was no different at the time when Hebrews was written.[1] Whether you’re male or female, brother means the same thing here. When Jesus calls us his brothers, he’s communicating the removal of all barriers imposed by his superiority.

When Jesus calls us his brothers, he’s communicating the removal of all barriers imposed by his superiority.

To put it another way, he’s pulling us close to himself and publicly owning us as his own. What could be more encouraging than this? “No unworthiness in them, no misery upon them, shall ever hinder the Lord Christ from owning them and openly avowing them to be his brethren.”[2] No matter what we’ve done or what we’re going through, he’ll never love us any less. This should give believers unspeakable joy! What’s behind this unflinching love?

His Eternal Oath

God’s love for his people is unconditional. In other words, no one could merit such love for themselves. It’s a gift of grace. Such love is humbling because it is undeserved and unearned. It’s entirely beyond our grasp—even on our best days. But this love fortifies us too. God lavishes his love on people even though they don’t deserve it. For our sin, we deserve judgment (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Yet, in a shocking reversal, we are given salvation as a gift. The God who knows all things knew that our best day would still merit his wrath. He also knew that our worst day wasn’t beyond his mercy. In eternity past, before he even created the world, God set his love on his people.

God communicates this eternal act to us with a covenant.[3] A covenant is an oath, or promise, with an obligation. This particular covenant is between the Father and the Son, promising and obligating themselves to lovingly redeem sinners. There is a sacred bond between members of the Trinity. The Father sent the Son to assume human nature (Hebrews 2:10–14; 10:5–7), put himself under the law, and pay the penalty for sin for all of his people (Galatians 1:4; 4:4–5). The Father promised the Son that he’d support him in his work through the Holy Spirit, deliver him from death, seat him at the right hand of glory, and send the Holy Spirit to build the church (Psalm 16:8–11; Isaiah 42:6–7; John 14:26; 15:26; Philippians 2:9–11). The Father promised the Son the reward of a people from every tribe, language, and nation and that he’d draw and keep them unto glory (Psalm 2:7; John 6:37–45; Revelation 5:9). This eternal pact between the members of the Trinity was compelled, accomplished, and secured by love.[4]

As Christians we often allow our circumstances to interpret God’s character. If we are enduring a difficult season, we might be tempted to think that God is angry with us or distant. Shouldn’t we instead see our circumstances in light of God’s character? Our fluctuations don’t change him. They can’t. Our cool hearts can’t chill his eternal love. As you perceive a growing sense of your sin, zoom out. Notice the rays of his love that cannot be eclipsed. The matter is settled in eternity between the unchanging, all-powerful members of the Trinity. Moved by love, the Father elected a people (Ephesians 1:4) and gave them to his Son (John 17:6). When Jesus went to the cross, he knew whom he was purchasing. And he didn’t keep the receipt.

His Solidarity with Us

Hebrews also shows us that Christ’s solidarity with his people is a chief reason for why he’s not ashamed of them, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Hebrews 2:11 ESV). The one who sanctifies is Jesus, and those who are sanctified are the people of God. The shared source is God. This is anchored in the truth of the covenant of redemption: Jesus is the Son of God who entered into an eternal oath to save sinners. In a time before time, Christ identified with us. God loved us.

Jesus is not ashamed of his people because they are the ones on whom God has set his love before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4–5). God’s people are Christ’s people (John 17:6). We are the children that God has given him (Hebrews 2:13). Jesus is not ashamed of his family photo because he loves every single one of us. He is well aware of our baggage. And he loves us anyway. He treats us like family. He always has and always will. Nothing we think or do could ever overturn such divine love to his children.

Let’s consider another aspect of this solidarity: Jesus’s humanity. Let’s not forget who Jesus is. When he became a man, he didn’t stop being God. Although his flesh veiled his infinite glory, he nevertheless remained the Son of God. The infinite and eternal God, the one from whom angels cover their eyes (Isaiah 6:1–4), is, in fact, Jesus of Nazareth (John 12:41). Isaiah beheld the glory of Christ in a vision and was undone. God took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5–7), being born of a woman and under the law (Galatians 4:4–5). This Jesus, himself God, “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:15–16 ESV), has condescended from his palace of exaltation to his place of humiliation (Philippians 2:5–8). Considering who we are and who he is, the fact that Christ says he’s not ashamed to call us brothers has staggering implications.

Dear Christian, if you ever struggle to believe that God loves you, especially as you feel the weight of your weakness, remember that God became a man for you. To summarize Thomas Watson, it’s a more extraordinary demonstration of humility for Christ to become a man than it is for him to die. It’s natural for a man to die, but unheard of for God to become a man.[5] Far from Jesus being ashamed of his people, the fact that he became a man showcases his love for us.

His Suffering for Us

Jesus didn’t back into the cross. His suffering and death for us was intentional and motivated by his eternal love. He willingly chose to come, live, and die for us and our salvation. His face was set like a flint to go and suffer (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51). He loved his own, even to the end (John 13:1). This love continued even onto the cross where Jesus prayed for those who opposed him and proclaimed the gospel to those who mocked him (Luke 23:34–43). Paul says that the cross was the supreme display of God’s love for you:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8 ESV)

Think of how rare it is for someone to sacrifice his life for a good person. But how much rarer is it to give one’s life for an enemy (Romans 5:10)? This is meant to reassure us in moments of doubt and despair: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV). This is an argument from the greater to the lesser. If God took care of your biggest problem, which cost him the most, how much more can you trust him to take care of your relatively minor problems? He’s proven his love for you at the cross.

Besides being the most violent and torturous way to die, nothing was more soaked with shame than crucifixion—so much so that people considered it improper to even speak of crucifixion in polite company. The one crucified was nailed to the cross, completely naked, in the thoroughfare into the city so that all could see the power of the Romans. The victims were mocked by people and picked at by birds. It was horrible.

But in addition to this, when Jesus was on the cross, the sin of his people was charged to him, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV). While physically naked, Jesus was swaddled in the garments of our sin. He publicly bore our shame, guilt, and curse.

The cross should settle the question of whether Jesus is ashamed of you. He endured such shame and suffering because he loves his people. It would be a great insult to question the love of one who went to such depths to display it.

God wants us to know that Jesus loved us before the cross, on the cross, and after the cross. I do hope you see the value of looking through Christ’s eyes and sensing his love for you. He’s not ashamed of his people.

John Owen writes of the value of reminding a believer that “God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, has thoughts of tenderness and kindness toward him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense thereof, is an inexpressible mercy.”[6] When sitting under a shadow of depression, discouragement, or guilt that seems like it will never budge, remember this in that very moment: our Lord Christ is not ashamed to claim you as part of his family. He proved his love to you on the cross (Romans 8:32). His sufferings console us. And remember, Christ’s heart in heaven is the same toward us as it was when he was on earth. “He loved us then; he’ll love us now.”[7]

We would do our souls well to reflect on the eternal oath between the members of the Trinity, Christ’s solidarity with us in the incarnation, and the extent of his sufferings for us. Indeed, he is not ashamed to call us brothers. Look at what he’s said and done. Praise the Lord!

. . .


[1] “In the Graeco-Roman world of the first century ‘brother’ was occasionally used for persons of comparable social status, but when a person from another level of society was called ‘brother’, social distinctions gave way to a sense of unity.” Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 109.

[2] John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 20 of The Works of John Owen, ed. W. H. Goold (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1854), 423.

[3] This paragraph has been adapted from Erik Raymond, “Burn Long Not Just Hot,” The Gospel Coalition, February 17, 2021, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/.

[4] We see a window into this covenantal outworking shortly before Christ’s death. As Jesus prayed to his Father, he said, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). Notice that they were first the Father’s and then they were given to the Son. This gift was not given on this particular night but in eternity, along with the work he was given to do: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Here we see the covenant working itself out in real-time, with the Son praying to the Father and reviewing the gift from his Father.

[5] Thomas Watson, The Christian’s Charter of Privileges, in vol. 1 of Discourses on Important and Interesting Subjects, Being the Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, 2 vols. (Glasgow: Blackie, Fullarton, 1829), 1:128.

[6] John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, ed. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 378.

[7] Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 189. See 189–95.

Content taken from He Is Not Ashamed by Erik Raymond, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway.
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