Our Fearless Brother (Hebrews 2:16-18)

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Death is not a popular topic of conversation. It never has been. Yet in recent generations much of our society has become increasingly squeamish about facing this reality.

There was a time, at least in places like Europe and the Americas, where homes were built with rooms called “parlours.” This was because, when there was a death in the family, that room functioned as a funeral parlour. The corpse would be prepared, and then there would be a viewing in a period called a “wake.” Friends and family would gather to pay their respects to the deceased and to come alongside the grieving family. It has been noted that this viewing was often a social rite, which highlighted the idea that the death of the person was a loss of one of a social group, and that the person’s death affects the group as a whole. People faced death bravely. Perhaps they did so more out of a spirit of stoicism than faith; nevertheless, death was a fact of life that needed to be faced.

Today the use of the term “parlour” has, for the most part, been replaced with the designation “living room.” The practice of viewing the deceased is rarely conducted in the home; we have now relegated this to funeral parlours, far away from our homes. It is as if, even subconsciously, we are trying to escape the reality of death as best we can. Hence the living room; the room of the living rather than the room of the dead.

Our discomfort with death is also reflected in other terminology. For instance the phrase “passing away” is used much more frequently than “died.” The latter seems too final, too cold, too, well, deadly. Perhaps our terminology reflects our fear of death and thus it is a means of whistling in the dark, as it were, in hopes that death will not affect us. If so, we need a reality check, and Hebrews 2:10-18 serves that purpose well.

This is a rich passage, which emphasises the solidarity that Jesus Christ has with His redeemed brothers and sisters. We have seen how it reveals that He is our big Brother, who has defeated the evil bully, the devil, who at one time had “the power of death” over us so that we were subject to lifelong slavery to the “fear of death.” But through the Lord Jesus Christ that has changed. As Leon Morris notes, “It was through Adam’s sin, brought about by the temptation of the devil, that death entered the world. From this it is logical to assume that the devil exercises his power in the realm of death. But the death of Christ is the means of destroying the power of the devil.”1

Thanks be to God that He sent His Son to die in our place, thus defeating our evil enemy once and for all. We therefore have no need to fear our own eventual burial. And all of this is because of our elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.

To drive this encouraging point home, the writer tells us that Jesus is “not ashamed to call [us] brethren” (v. 11)! Our big Brother delivers us from the evil bully who threatens us with the reminder of our eventual burial. We are free at last and free indeed (John 8:36).

This is the birthright of every child of God, every sibling of Jesus. We have been delivered from the worldly tendency to be squeamish about our death, as well as from the fear of the death of a believing loved one. Jesus, our Captain, has cleared the way ahead. Having experienced death—our death, as well as the death of every one of His siblings—we are freed from the enslavement of fear of death. This is precisely what vv. 14-18 reveal. And the implications are huge.

The concept of an older brother, as used in this passage, has both soteriological and practical implications.

Soteriologically, Christ’s identification with His siblings is essential for our salvation. And this truth of Christ being our salvific big Brother is also of profound practical importance.

We, of course, are to think of a big brother in the most positive sense, in the sense of a brother who has gone before us and therefore who knows the path that we now tread. This includes the concept of a brother who is watching out for us and who will protect us and care for us. And this idea is especially brought forth here in the passage before us. Our God became a man in order to become a big Brother who would sort out our enemy, the evil bully that threatens fallen man from birth until death. Because we have a fearless Brother who defeated death and the devil we too can be fearless. This is the theme of these closing verses. And a proper understanding of this will have a profound influence on how we live as well as on how we die.

We began our study of these closing verses in our previous study, which speak to us of how Jesus defeated our enemy. We saw, in vv. 14-15 that he defeated the enemy by identifying with His brothers and sisters. In vv. 16-18, as we will see, the writer tells us that he defeated the enemy by interceding for his brothers and sisters.

Our Big Brother Intercedes for Us

The word “for” in v. 16 tells us that what is said in these remaining verses is related to what precedes. In fact, this verse could be expounded with either vv. 14-15 or vv. 17-18. Nevertheless, there is an intimate connection. Simple yet profound is the realisation that because Jesus both identifies with and intercedes for His siblings. That is, because our big Brother lovingly shares in our suffering of death, He can relate to the pressures that we endure; particularly the fears that the evil bully attempts to throw our way, including (and in the particular context here) the fear of death. Therefore Jesus Christ purposefully, passionately and practically intercedes to help us.

Let’s note three ways, and their results, of our Big Brother interceding for us.

He Saves

The writer reminds us in v. 16 of the theme of angels, introduced in chapter one: “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.”

In v. 16 the writer makes it categorically clear that Jesus shared in our humanity rather than sharing in the nature of angels. This fact alone should go a long way towards riveting the readers’ attention on Christ and what He is doing by the new covenant for humanity, rather than being obsessed with angels and the old covenant. He spells this out by reminding them that Jesus did not come to “give aid” to angels but rather to “the seed of Abraham.”

We need to take some time interpreting the significance of these words.

Note, first, that there is a translation issue here. The KJV reads, “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” On the surface this seems to be a very different reading than what we have in the NKJV (and the ESV). But in essence they are saying the same thing. The context clearly has in mind that Jesus took on flesh and blood in order to help His siblings. His incarnation for His siblings and subsequent salvation of His siblings are inseparable. In other words, Jesus took on the nature of the seed of Abraham to give aid to them. Therefore, regardless of which translation you adopt, they make the same point. That said, the more modern translations, I believe, make the point clearer and more accurately.

Second, this little phrase, as we recently touched on, connotes a lifting up by the hand. We might say, “giving a helping hand.” As we saw in Matthew 14:31, Jesus reaches out to rescue His siblings. And He does so for His siblings in a particular way that He does not do for angels. Simply put, He saves them. He saves those who are made “a little lower than the angels.” He gives them a grace that even angels do not experience.

In chapter 1, the author highlighted the enthronement of Christ and how He is so much better than the angels due to His position. Now, in chapter 2, he seeks to show them that Christ is so much better than the angels because of what he accomplishes: He restores fallen man to what he was intended by God to be. He saves His siblings, as we have come to see, completely and comprehensively. No angel could do that and, as he shows, no angel was even the object of such grace.

When the angels followed Satan in rebellion against God they were forever and hopelessly condemned and consigned to hell (see 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). In fact, Jesus made the point that hell was prepared by God for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). In other words, there was no offer of redemptive rescue for the angels. This should help us to appreciate what Peter meant when he said that angels are baffled by gospel grace, as indicated by the fact that they strain their necks to look into such matchless love of God (1 Peter 1:12).

Third, what is meant by the phrase, “the seed of Abraham”? At first blush, this might seem to indicate that Jesus was ethnocentric and that His particularly salvific concern was to save those of Jewish descent. But v. 9 would mitigate against, as would the entirety of Scripture. I believe that the writer used this terminology primarily because, after all, he was writing to the Hebrews. And so this focus on the seed of Abraham was of particular relevance. Further, and related to this, the temptation to drift was related to the old covenant wineskins that were part and parcel of Judaism.

But having noted this, we are well justified in applying this statement wider—as Paul did in Galatians 3:26-29. The truth is that the recipients of this letter were both ethnically and spiritually the children of Abraham and the latter is of far greater importance.

So, to summarise, Jesus identifies with His siblings and intercedes for them in order to save them. He reaches out to grab them and to rescue them. He took the initiative and continues to take the initiative.

Such love should encourage us as we face the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil. As we are tempted to fear the evil one and/or to fear death, we need to see Jesus (v. 9a), our big Brother, who identifies with us. But, as this verse makes very clear, His identification with us is active. That is, He intercedes for us; He helps us. The primary way in which He does so is to save us. And, as we have learned, this salvation is an all-encompassing salvation. He will see us through. The Captain of our salvation will lead us to glory!

These readers needed this reminder, as do we. Jesus saves His siblings. Let that sink down from your ears to your heart. And then let it affect your knees, your hands and your feet. Seek and serve the one who saves you. As the song writer said, “Jesus loves me: This I know.” Do you?

But how does Jesus save His siblings? Verse 17 reveals the answer.

He Satisfies

In v. 17 we are unmistakably informed that Jesus identified with us so that He might, as a faithful and compassionate High Priest, intercede for us: “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” This was absolutely necessary in order to save us; to save us from our sins; to save us from God.

You see, until a person experiences Christ as their Brother, they have plenty of reason to fear death and to fear God. But Jesus fearlessly suffered death on our behalf that we might be fearless before God. Let’s unpack this rich verse as we seek to appreciate and apply it.

“Therefore” indicates that, if Jesus indeed would help His people (v. 16), He was obligated (“had to”) to “be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God.” This brings into the discussion a new element: Jesus as Priest. This theme will be a major one throughout the remainder of the epistle. But why is it mentioned here? Because the only way that Jesus could save His brethren would be by His High Priestly intercession, and this of course required His incarnation and identification with those whom He represented. He was and is the Mediator who stands between man and the “things pertaining to God.” The ESV translates this phrase “in the service of God.” What does that mean? The next phrase reveals the answer: “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

As under the old covenant, we who live in the days of the new covenant also need a priest who will offer a sacrifice by which God is “propitiated” or “reconciled” to the sinner. Because of sin God’s wrath is being poured out toward the sinner and it is not safe for the sinner to enter the presence of God. Enter, literally, the High Priest.

The priesthood was ordained by God as a means for sinners to be reconciled to Him. And for sinners to be made right with God the sin barrier had to be removed, for sin invited the just and the holy wrath of God. The priesthood mediated between man and God so that enemies of God could be the children of God. Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know that matters.” This is particularly true when it comes to salvation. If your big Brother is also your High Priest then you are in good shape!

Under the old covenant, as the prescribed sacrifice was offered, God’s wrath was deflected from the sinner to the sacrifice. God’s wrath was therefore satisfied. This is what the word “propitiation” means. It speaks of wrath deflected by being appeased, by justice being satisfied. The picture is not that God the Father is in a bad mood, ready to blow His top and punish sinners until a priest steps in with a sacrifice to calm Him down. Rather, because God is holy, He has a settled determination to oppose all that is contrary to His holiness. He therefore has a settled determination, by virtue of His character, to punish sin and sinners. This is the lesson of the “service of God” in the tabernacle/temple sacrificial system. And so, when the high priest offered a sacrifice in the place of the repentant sinner, the sinner was forgiven and reconciliation between God and the sinner was secured. Security was a reality because God’s justice was satisfied. And the sinner left satisfied as well, satisfied that it was well with his soul. But as great as this old covenant system was, the person and service of Jesus is all the more wonderful.

This verse tells us that Jesus the High Priest both offered the sacrifice on our behalf and was the sacrifice on our behalf. Our big Brother laid down His life while were sinners, while were enemies of God, so that we might be children of God through Him.

I can recall watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ when it was released in cinemas. It was a thoroughly biblical portrayal of Christ’s passion week, even if it did underemphasise the resurrection. Unfortunately, it did not, and no film ever can, capture what Christ really suffered as the Father turned His face away. It could not capture the pain that Christ felt as, for the first and only time in all eternity, the Son was forsaken by the Father.

Because Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life, in conformity with God’s Law, His sacrificial death satisfied God’s just wrath against all who believe on Christ as their substitute. And Jesus knew that when He died.

He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and died in complete faith that His soul would not be left in the grave nor His body see corruption (see Psalm 16:9-11; Acts 2:25-31; 13:34). Jesus was fearless in death and this is why we are to be fearless as well. If Christ rose (and He did) then so will we (1 Corinthians 15)!

And so, by the death of Christ, God was satisfied. But this has huge implications for you and me. Because God is satisfied, because of the resultant reconciled relationship with God, we Christians are also satisfied. And all because our big Brother has taken care of our problem (vv. 14-15). We are therefore more than satisfied with Him. We love and treasure Jesus, our big and fearless Brother. We not only sing with our old covenant brothers, “It is well with my soul,” but also, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”

John tells us that Jesus Christ “the righteous” is the believer’s Advocate with the Father because, indeed, He is the “propitiation” for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). These two ideas, Christ as both our Advocate and our propitiation, are intimately connected.

We considered previously that, when the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) condemns us, Jesus responds to the devil, “Go to hell.” When I said that, I was not, and am not, trying to be provocative. But this is precisely the gospel truth. Because Jesus satisfied the just wrath of God, “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). His claims are invalid. He can no longer hold us in fear of the God-ordained death penalty. We have been delivered from God because God delivered Christ for us (Romans 4:25). And if holy God is satisfied then I had better be too!

A common, well-meaning piece of counsel that many give today is that we need to learn to “forgive ourselves.” What this usually refers to is our sense of failure for our wrongs in the past and therefore the sense of enslavement to those failures. In other words, our failures tend to define us. And so we are told by those who no doubt are well-meaning that we need to forgive ourselves and to move on. The problem with this is simply that the Scriptures never instruct us to forgive ourselves. We are told over and over to forgive others as we ask for God’s forgiveness. We are never told to forgive ourselves.

You see, we are not schizophrenics. You are not two individuals, and so there is no other you to forgive!

At issue is not you forgiving yourself but rather you embracing the forgiveness that God extends to you in Jesus; in your big Brother. He has satisfied God’s judgement upon your wrongs. Believe that and be satisfied that He is satisfied. Then, and only then, can you move on. Raymond Brown provides this pastoral word: “Death is the fear of the future. Guilt is the fear of the past. . . . We are thus given a clean start; the failures of the past need not in any sense keep us back from the potential victories of the future.”2

Stop being fearful. Stop being faithless. Grab the hand of your big Brother and get over it! If God the Father is satisfied that Jesus has paid the penalty for your sinful failure then stop trying to propitiate God yourself! You cannot satisfy God’s righteous demands. But you can rejoice in so great salvation. If you seek to satisfy God’s righteous wrath then you insult God. Give it up and be satisfied both with and through Jesus.

He Strengthens

In the closing verse of this chapter (v. 18), the concept of identification once again looms large: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

We are informed here that Jesus has the ability to stretch out His hand and to lift up His siblings when they are tempted. We are promised that Jesus strengthens those with whom He identifies and for whom He intercedes. But to what kind of temptation does this refer?

Before answering that question, it is important to note the opening word: “for.” Whatever specific help that Jesus gives to us as promised here is in some way connected to v. 17. In other words, the propitiation that Jesus provides for us (v. 17) is the key to his helping us in v. 18. The propitiation is not mere legal fiction but is rather very practical. The satisfaction that Jesus secures (v. 17) guarantees the strength promised in v. 18. This has huge implications. Let me explain.

We are here told that because Jesus “suffered, being tempted” (a correct translation) He is “able to aid [”to lift up”] those who are tempted.” Let’s consider this statement in the light of the context of the entire passage.

The theme is that Jesus tasted death. The sufferings of Christ loom large in the entire passage (vv. 9, 10, 12, 14, 17—quoting Psalm 22). Therefore, it is valid to treat the temptation here with reference to Jesus suffering death. Jesus was tempted to fear when it came to His death. A large part of this temptation was for Him to avoid death. And, of course, had He done so, then we would still be enslaved to lifelong fear of death and to the one who had the power of death. We would have had very good to reason to fear (see Matthew 10:28).

Consider the temptation of the Lord in the wilderness. After forty days of fasting in the wilderness, Jesus was confronted by the devil who, in three different ways, tempted Him to avoid the cross. Jesus resisted as He leaned on the Word.

In Matthew 16:21-23 the devil used Peter to tempt Jesus from going to the cross and hence from experiencing the sufferings of death.

We see such a temptation surface again in Gethsemane, where Jesus was in great agony over His impending sufferings of death. Jesus emerged victorious as He submitted to the Father’s will.

Even on the cross the devil tempted Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God then come down from the cross.” In other words, “If you really are God’s Son, then prove it by avoiding the sufferings of death.”

Doubtless there are many other unrecorded temptations of Jesus to avoid the death of the cross. But Jesus believed His Father and was rewarded in the end. As I have indicated on many occasions, when Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit,” and then subsequently died, He was overcoming the fear of death by faith in the Father.

This is important to understand if we will properly grasp the writer’s intent in v. 18. He is assuring these Hebrew Christians that Jesus indeed knows what it is like to experience the sufferings of death and the temptation to avoid it. He knows what it is like to be tempted to fear death, but He also knows how to overcome it. And because He was fearless we too can be fearless.

In other words, in this context, the reference to temptation is not to temptation in general. Rather, it is in the context of the danger of drifting due to fear: the fear of an evil bully (the devil); and the fear of an eventual burial (death).

These believers were facing some serious challenges, as we have seen, concerning their faith. And so here they are being reminded to look for the hand of their big Brother, who is committed to taking care of them. As Robertson put it, “These Jewish Christians were daily tempted to give up Christ, to apostatize from Christianity. Jesus understands himself [by experience] their predicament and is able to help them to be faithful.”3 Consider this helpful explanation: “Christ, having experienced temptation to be unfaithful to His vocation in connection with the sufferings arising out of it, is able to [help] those who, like the Hebrew Christians, were tempted in similar ways to be unfaithful to their Christian calling.”4

Now, many people tend to think that since Jesus could not sin (and being God, He could not) He did not feel the temptation that we do. Because He could not sin, the temptation to drift from the cross was not as strong as our temptation. But Westcott answers this fallacy when he writes, “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of the sin but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.”5 In other words, “Jesus knows far more about temptation than we do because he endured far beyond the point where the strongest of us gives in to the trial.”6

Because of this, our big Brother is able to reach out the hand and lift us up from our temptation. He enables us to overcome fear of death. He does so because He has once for all, in space time history, defeated the one who had the power over death. Therefore, there is no need for His siblings to fear the worst thing that can happen to them. “It is from this fear that Christ has released us, by undergoing our curse, and thus taking away what was fearful in death. Although we must still meet death, let us nevertheless be calm and serene in living and dying, when we have Christ going before us.”7 Or as a friend once said to me, the worst thing that can happen to a Christian is also the best thing.

As we close, I want to highlight the practical value of being freed from fear of death. Simply put, the fearlessness of our big Brother enables us to be fearless as we follow Him. To the degree that we recognise our solidarity with Him, to such a degree we will faithfully and fearlessly serve Him.

We Serve

Again, the writer encourages his readers that, because of Jesus’ solidarity with those for whom He salvifically tasted death, they have nothing to fear. After all, Jesus is their Pioneer (vv. 14-16), their Priest (v. 17), and their Power (v. 18).

Jesus went through the trials of being tempted concerning death and succeeded. He has trod this path victoriously, and as our big Brother He will help us through ours as well. But think about the implications of this. If our greatest fears have been removed then so have our lesser fears. Since Jesus conquered the fear of death for us then we quite literally have nothing to fear. And fearless Christians are fruitful Christians.

Jesus chose to save us so that we might bring forth fruit and that might do so abundantly (John 15:5, 8, 16). This speaks of both Christlikeness and bringing others along in Christlikeness. This has much to do with the Great Commission. We are called to be fruitful in the Great Commission and this requires a faith that overcomes our fears. If we are fearful then we will not be very fruitful.

However, if we are fearless then we will be unstoppable in our quest to reach the unreached peoples with the gospel of our fearless big Brother.

The reason that we are hesitant to share the gospel with others is because of fear. Fear of rejection is enslaving. And it tends to paralyse our tongues. But when we realise that Christ has delivered us from the greatest of fears then we will not be afraid to proclaim the gospel. We will not be controlled by the fear of losing friends or position or esteem in the eyes of others. We will look to our big Brother who was fearless and will follow His example. After all, what is the worst that can happen to you? Unemployment? Ostracism? Cut out of the family will? Loss of friends? Loss of climbing the corporate ladder? Death? Big deal! Look to our Champion and follow Him to glory.

Having noted this, we need to seriously contemplate the reality that Christians will need to give up what others (including many Christians) enjoy in order for others to live. And this will require being fearless as we trust God to fill the void (Matthew 19:27-30).

For the unreached to be engaged and reached, some Christians will need to give up the enjoyment of being with family because they will need to relocate. Some families will need to be separated from their adult children as they will one day need to leave the field because of educational limitations. But our fearless Brother is worthy. He is to be so treasured that we will joyfully give up what others so easily take for granted.

Others will need to overcome their fear that they and/or their children will not be materially successful if they serve the Lord in reaching the unreached. After all, being a missionary or a pastor is not exactly at the top of the list for outstanding professions. But by looking to Christ, one’s perspective undergoes a major renovation!

Still others will be called to send these to the unreached, which means coming to grips with the fear of not having enough retirement or not having enough to look successful before others because of our commitment to sacrificially send others. Sending requires sacrificial giving and sacrifice is a concept that conjures up all kinds of fears; most of which are irrational. After all, you can never outgive God.

But finally, let me make the point that Christians will need to die if others will live. And this, of course, can conjure up great fears. But when you consider what the death of Jesus has secured for us then all such fears of death become irrational in the end. Those throughout history who have willingly laid down their lives for the sake of the gospel have understood this. Would to God that we might in our day!

Martin Luther wrote, “He who fears death or is unwilling to die is not a Christian to a sufficient degree; for those who fear death still lack faith in the resurrection, since they love this life more than they love the life to come. . . . He who does not die willingly should not be called a Christian.”8

In preparing to propose to Nancy Hasseltine in 1810, Adoniram Judson sought her father’s blessing by means of a letter. His letter is incredible.

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls, for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

I am not trying to be melodramatic. I am trying to help us to take this text of Scripture seriously. If we do then not only will we not drift from Christ, but we will be driven to follow Christ to the ends of the earth if that is where He wants us.

A proper understanding of the gospel will drive us to treasure it and to give our lives for it. Faith in Christ, who is leading us to certain glory, will free us from the futility of being controlled by the shallow fears that control those around us. It will free us to be fruitful for time and eternity. It will free us from the cultural trappings of a faithless and fearful world, thereby freeing us unto a life committed to fearless risks for cross-cultural conquests to the glory of God.

Nik Ripken in his excellent book, The Insanity of God writes, “There is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ.”9 But as we have seen, in a real sense this is no danger at all. After all, the worst that someone can threaten you with is heaven!

I am grateful that we do not face physical persecution in our country for our faith, and yet at the same time I wonder if we are not missing out on the ability to more fully appreciate passages like the one before us. Listen to what Ripken heard from persecuted believers when he asked them how the underground church in China could have an impact on their totalitarian government. They offered this scenario:

The security police regularly harass a believer who owns the property where a house-church meets. The police say, “You have got to stop these meetings! If you do not stop these meetings, we will confiscate your house, and we will throw you out into the street.”

The property owner will probably respond, “Do you want my house? Do you want my farm? Well, if you do, then you need to talk to Jesus because I gave this property to Him.”

The security police will not know what to make of that answer. So they will say, “We don’t have any way to get to Jesus, but we can certainly get to you! When we take your property, you and your family will have nowhere to live!” And the house-church believers will declare, “Then we will be free to trust God for shelter as well as for our daily bread.”

“If you keep this up, we will beat you!” the persecutors will respond.

“Then we will be free to trust Jesus for healing,” the believers will respond.

“And then we will put you in prison!” the police will threaten.

By now, the believers’ response is predictable: “Then we will be free to preach the good news of Jesus to the captives, to set them free. We will be free to plant churches in prison.”

“If you try to do that, we will kill you!” the frustrated authorities will vow.

And, with utter consistency, the house-church believers will reply, “Then we will be free to go to heaven and be with Jesus forever.”10

That is living fearlessly all because of an unshakeable faith in the fearless big Brother. Is He yours?

The good news of the gospel includes the wonderful promise that God in Christ has personally beaten up and completely destroyed our greatest of enemies: devilish death. That bully has been defeated once for all and even though we will die, and even though we will face the fury of this evil bully, nevertheless we have the promise that he will be crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20)—just as he has been crushed under the feet of our big Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. He identifies with us and intercedes for us. Trust your big Brother. Let His fearlessness make you fearless.

Show 10 footnotes

  1. Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 12:29.
  2. Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 72-72.
  3. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 5:352.
  4. Marcus Dods, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 4:270.
  5. B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews: The Greek Text with Notes and Essays (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 59.
  6. Richard D. Phillips, Hebrews: Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2006), 81.
  7. Phillips, Hebrews, 78.
  8. Brown, The Message of Hebrews, 71.
  9. Nik Ripken and Gregg Lewis, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected (Nashville: B&H Books, 2012), Kindle edition.
  10. Ripken and Lewis, The Insanity of God, Kindle edition.