SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/The Savior tasted death for you
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:00 AM
"so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9)
It is our great joy, not only in the midst of this Holy week, but at all times, as believers, to rejoice in a living Savior who tasted death for us that we might taste life. The headship or federal representation of Christ Jesus over all His people is what is being stressed here, even as He Himself prayed (John 17:2), acknowledging the authority which had been given Him of the Father so that He might "give eternal life" to all "whom You have given". The great purpose of His coming into the world was to reverse the curse and the failing of the first Adam, by securing for His people what Adam lost - righteousness and life. In order to accomplish that, it was needful that He should die in our place and thereby pay the debt we owed.
To "taste death", as Hendriksen and Kistemaker wrote, is a "graphic expression of the hard and painful reality of dying which is experienced by man and which was suffered also by Jesus." It proved, once again, the determined stand of ONENESS with which Jesus took up on the side of His people. In Him there existed no necessity of death. A.W. Pink wrote that there was no "germ of death within Him." In other words, Jesus, by His virgin birth, was not tainted with the same terminal disease by which the rest of humanity since Adam has been afflicted. Being without sin, there was no reason for the Christ to die, other than the fact that, for Him, it was a chosen path. His incarnation rendered Him capable of dying even though He was under no culpable compulsion to do so.
But He "tasted death", or experienced it, that "He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14) and that He might "become for all those who obey Him the Source of eternal salvation" (Heb 5:8). And so it pleased the Father, that for a time, the Son should be "made to be a little lower than the angels" (2:9) and to pass through the travails of a violent and painful death of suffering in order to win for us all a great victory. The Apostle Paul highlights the yielding obedience of the Son to the eternal plan by saying that Jesus "became obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8). This, too, is stressed here in the Book of Hebrews as the writer tells us that "He learned obedience from the things which He suffered" (5:8). You remember how Jesus prayed in the garden, prior to His arrest and crucifixion, that the cup (His death) might pass from Him, but "nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done". Jesus, the Son, ever sought to fulfill the will of His Father and submitted Himself to that purpose in every detail. Even though the death He was to suffer was so abhorrent and so incongruous with His nature, He was willing to endure it to please the Father and to save you and me.
It is our great comfort to know that even our Savior went before us and faced the same enemy you and I must face. This enables Him, we are told, "to come to the aid of all those who are tempted" (Heb 2:18). What temptation, you may ask? Well, what about the temptation to fear what we do not know or understand, or even to doubt God's tender mercies in the midst of our own sufferings? The writer, here in this precious letter, assures us that we have a Savior who was "perfected" by His own sufferings that He might comfort and encourage us in our own sufferings for we read: "It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Heb 2:10). Jesus fully understands our fears, our hurts, pain and suffering, for He endured the same.
And don't let that phrase, "in bringing many sons to glory" escape your notice! Even as we are told that following His suffering, this same Jesus was "crowned with glory and honor", even so, it is our great joy to know that there awaits a glory for each of us - a glory which Jesus Himself gladly shares with all who believe. Presently, our blessed Savior, sits at the right hand of God the Father, having been highly exalted and "raised far above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and has been given a name which is above every name not only in this world but in the world to come (Eph 1:21). Pink reminds us that Christ's crown of thorns has been replaced with a regal crown of glory and the shame of the cross is now, for Him, a badge of honor. But the humility and kindness of this Jesus overwhelms even us when we consider His willingness to share glory with us, to clothe us with His righteousness, impart to us His Spirit, adorn us with all the gifts of glory, and welcome us to sit with Him in the heavenly places.
Therefore, let us rejoice this Easter Season, as at all times, in this One who is the Captain of our salvation. Let us devote our lives to this One who tasted death for us, who was stricken and afflicted that we, by His stripes, might be healed and given life. And in the midst of our own troubles and travails - even in the last moments of our earthly existence - let us not fear what Christ has conquered. By His victory we are assured of a Day when the corruptible will become incorruptible and this mortal flesh will take on immortality. Until then, let us look unto Him and rest in His grace.
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.