Hebrews 2: Why Worship a Man?

Maybe you are one of the over 20 million people who have viewed Jefferson Bethke “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” video in the two months since it was released and quickly went viral.  Since then, several take-off versions have been produced from Muslims, pro-religious Catholics, and even atheists.  Our friend Hifzan Shafiee, who has commented on here often, has collected on his blog the original Bethke video, the Muslim version, and the Catholic response. Check all three videos out on this one post of his.

Notice these lines from the Muslim version of the “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” video, because they express thoughts the ancient Hebrew Christians might have understood:

You [Christians] say Jesus was God, and that God had descended
We [Muslims] say Jesus was man, for Jesus was dependent
Our God is all great and cannot be comprehended . . . 

See, we used to worship the creator, until Satan turned us to the creation
You began to worship the people, and neglect the one who made them
We began to believe that God had died, but how could a God even be created? . . .

And know that just because you love Jesus, doesn’t mean he feels the same way about your affection
See, what you believe in is exactly what he resented, matter of fact it’s everything he despised
See, the worshipping of creation goes against the very message he supplied.

The Muslim hang up stated so strongly here, is the same objection that seems to be behind Hebrews 2:  Why would you worship a human man named Jesus?  To a Muslim that seems blasphemous.  To a first century Jew who favors angel veneration, a sentiment that had a bit of traction with the Christians being addressed in Hebrews, this idea would seem ridiculous.  Aren’t spiritual beings like angels a better object of your esteem than a man?

The answer for both the Hebrew Christians and detractors of Jesus today is the same.  Yes, there was a time when God made Jesus “a little lower than the angels” (2:7).  But this was for a purpose.  God did this so that Jesus “might taste death on behalf of everyone” (2:9).  But Jesus didn’t just die; that was a precursor to the much greater purpose God had in store: “so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death — that is, the devil — and set free the people who all their lives long were under the power of slavery because of the fear of death” (2:14-15).  And in becoming a part of the human brotherhood, God in the form of Jesus became a truly sympathetic God (2:17-18).  After all, Jesus was far more than just a man.

It is a truly magnificent thing to have a transcendent, spiritual God, so majestic that he is surrounded and served by angels.  It is also a humbling honor to have an immanent God who understands what our life is like because He lived it and can show us the way to true holiness and submission.  In Christ, the Creator became like the Created.  In Jesus, God can be both.  Why settle for less of a God?

What struck you in this chapter?

Categories: Hebrews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Hebrews 2: Why Worship a Man?

  1. Hi Jason

    1. I try to understand but can’t. You say Jesus is God. But yet when you speak of God and Jesus, you say it like they are two different beings. Eg. God made Jesus “a little lower than the angels” So if God made Jesus, Jesus can’t be God. Isn’t it as simple as that? God is above everything. If angels are higher than humans and lesser than God Himself, and God made Jesus lower than angels, then how can Jesus be God?

    2. God’s qualities are never like his creations’. It is His qualities that differentiate between the Creator and the Created. This is why the created can never become the Creator or vice-versa. Example God is All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Most merciful, All-Just etc. God is never deficient in His qualities. I don’t think anyone who believes in God can object to that. Humans are deficient in their qualities, eg, we are merciful too but it can never come near God’s mercy because God’s Mercy is tempered by His Justice, where as due to our mercy we can commit injustice. Like wise none of God’s qualities are like His Creation. God cannot change. God is, and will be like He always was. We change, not God. To say God didn’t know what it felt like to be human is a deficiency attributed to His knowledge. And to say He became more sympathetic by becoming a human , is a deficiency attributed to His Mercy and Compassion. If God wanted to forgive, He forgives, without needing a sacrifice. He did that before Jesus came.

    3. Christians say that the Mission of Jesus was to come to earth and be sacrificed, but Jesus Himself says that His mission was over before he got hung on the cross.
    John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having ACCOMPLISHED THE WORK that you gave me to do.
    In the above verse Jesus is clearly speaking to God (in a prayer) telling him he has completed his mission that God gave him. (Does God need to pray? There are several other instances in the bible where Jesus prays).
    I have asked Christians what mission is Jesus talking about. But I have yet to hear an answer.

    4. There cannot be an indwelling god. This world, this universe cannot contain God, then how can a human contain God? We feel God conscious but that is not God dwelling within us.

    Thank you
    Umm Muhammad

  2. Thank you for the comment.

    I can imagine that the Christian view of the Trinity is confusing and contradictory when judged by an Islamic worldview. I have no pretensions of changing your mind, but please allow me to explain how Christians might respond to your points.

    1. Maybe the biggest point here is that Christians believe Jesus is God. They are one in essence or spirit, though different in personality. The Father and the Son are two parts of a bigger whole. Because of that the Son as eternal as the Father. Jesus existed in some spiritual form long before he tok on flesh and came to this earth as a baby. The beginning of Jesus or the Son was not in and around 4BC in Bethlehem. This was his physical birth and entrance into our time-bound world, but not the beginning of his existence. For the 33 years Jesus lived on this earth as a fully human-fully divine being, yes, he was made lower in transcendence and numerousness than the angels. However, the Hebrews author’s point is that he did not become lower than angels in authority, significance of divinity.

    2a. Christians believe people are made in the image of God. We most certainly share many traits with God, in that he is our Father and image from which we were made. We share his desire for relationship, the need and ability to love, an ability to reason and feel and relate far above animals, he impulses of compassion and goodness and so many others. No, we do not possess those supreme powers that separate God from us: omnipotence, omniscience, etc. If God could live a normal human life, yet live it perfectly what would you have? Jesus, we would say. Not deficient in any way. We do not hold on to the extreme separation of God and humanity that Muslims do. We in fact would feel like we were losing a cherished part of our religion to let go of it. I personally would contend there is a deeper knowledge that comes through experience not simply understanding. This is why the incarnational (entering our world in physical ways) aspects of the God of the Bible (and not just the physical life of Jesus) are fundamental to a Christian worldview.

    2b. You are cracking open a huge topic when you talk about the Islamic and Christian views on forgiveness. Instead of rehashing some familiar ground, let me draw your attention to the last post on the blog I wrote last year while reading the Qur’an (christianreadsquran.wordpress.com). Bottomline: How does Allah maintain his justice if there is no punishment for sin by way of a sacrificial atonement?

    3. Bear in mind that John 17 is the prayer Jesus prayed less than 24 hours before dying on the cross. He is 33 years minus one day from dying on the cross. Jesus’ mission was far bigger than get himself killed then resurrected. He could have done that on a long weekend away from Heaven if that is all his mission was. He came to show the way to live life. He came to fully experience human life. He came to become the perfect high priest who can truly relate to human life (we will see this in two days in Hebrews 4, though I won’t be blogging about it). He came to teach divine truth. He came to restore God’s chosen people to their true mission of being a light to the nations. He came to die for sin. He came to taste death and then to conquer it. He came to train the first leaders of the Church. All together, he came to restore God’s kingdom to this world. So, when you are 24 hours from dying (or 4 days from resurrecting, or 44 days from returning to heaven) and when you have made up your mind to see this thing through to completion, yes, even though you are 24 hours (or 4 days or 44 days) shy of your goal, you came validly use the figure of speech, “I have accomplished the work.”

    4. The Bible does not teach that God in his fullness lives inside of a human being. We believe that we have a piece of God (the Holy Spirit) inside of us and fully acknowledge that it is an incomplete piece. The Holy Spirit is called an “earnest” or a “pledge” (2 Cor 1:22). This is the same word for an engagement ring. The point is that right now we have only been given a piece of the eternal blessings that are to come. We have been given a change right now to commune with a piece of God; in the future we will dwell in the full presence of God.

    My only desire at this point is that you understand better where we Christians are coming from.

  3. How does Allah maintain his justice if there is no punishment for sin by way of a sacrificial atonement?

    I think you have notice that my style of reading the bible is through knowing exact meaning of the word.
    Actually the answer to above question is through understanding of word “justice”. I think there are a lot of different between 2 religion regarding that word and it concept.

    Still, the hell is already there and there will be a lot of occupant inside the hell – even Christian.

    Hey, this is bible reading. Keep focus. Hahaha.

  4. Pingback: The problem of Justice | hifzan shafiee

    • Thanks Hifzan for taking the time to post this in response to my question. I will be reading it and responding soon.

  5. Pingback: A Muslim Man’s Story « Does God Love Muslims?

  6. I have always imagined that Jesus maintains the same amount of authority throughout his entire existence. This passage makes it seems otherwise. “What we do see is Jesus, made ‘not quite as high as angels,’ and then, through the experience of death, crowned so much higher than any angel.” The Hebrews writer seems to be describing an ascendancy to authority through death. This is deep! I’ll have to give some thought to this. I guess I have always thought about Jesus taken on humanity as a king putting on a costume so he could traipse about the city undetected. He is still the king, though he may not look like it. The Hebrews writer seems to describe it otherwise. Interesting. And the fact that it is death that caused him to take his throne is doubly interesting.

  7. Eddy

    This reminds me of a simpler take on it. I had a Sunday school teacher who when enouraging humility said, “The first step up is down.” Looking back now this statement has a twinge of “works righteousness” but it could be seen otherwise. I appreciate what you’ve observed here. I too have seen the enthronement of Christ as you described but it does seem to be something more for the Hebrew writer.

  8. “By embracing deathJesus sets free those who live their entire lives in bondage to the tormenting dread of death” (2:15)

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