Revd. Keith Hitchman
Hebrews 2:14-18 ~ Epiphany 4
14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Hebrews 2:14-18 (NRSV)
My friend Ryan Cook posted this question on facebook recently: “What is the Gospel – to you?” To which I answered with one word: ‘Reconciliation’.
A week-or-so back I spoke about my own personal epiphany back in 1986, the moment of revelation when I came to believe – somewhat reluctantly – that Jesus Christ is Lord. Not a Lord, but the Lord. In this moment, and in the days afterwards, I experienced a profound sense of ‘oneness’. Oneness within myself. Oneness with creation. Oneness with others. And oneness with the Life and Light Source – The One Lord Jesus.
This then is the Good News. We can be One. Reconciled within ourselves. With our fellow humanity. And most importantly with our Creator (God). ‘Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross’.
In western Christian theology, ‘atonement’ describes how human beings can be reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death. There are a number of ‘conflicting’ theologies of atonement. I am not going to rehearse these debates today. Partly because I am unqualified, and partly because there simply isn’t the time! What I will say is this: The Bible isn’t a book of contradiction. It is a book of paradox (or tension), in which two or more different (even seemingly conflicting) ideas can both be true simultaneausly. Atonement, to my mind, is one such paradoxy.
Regarding the atonement, Hebrews 2:14-18 shows us, that in His earthly life and death:
- Jesus shared our humanity – our ‘flesh and blood’
- Jesus shared our suffering
- Jesus shared our sin (The Human Propensity to F**k Things Up – Francis Spufford, Unapologetic)
- Jesus was tested, just as we are tested – ‘he himself was tested by what he suffered…’
- Jesus shared the ultimate consequence of our sin and suffering – death – thereby setting us free from the fear of death
In (Jesus) Christ, God became ‘one’ with us. Through His death, we can become ‘one’ with God. Jesus is both High Priest and sacrifice. His atonement is our at-ONE-ment.