The Purification of Mary and Presentation of our Lord February 2, 2020
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
In the Name of Jesus.
He was made like us. What does this mean?
We know that he was just as flesh and blood as we are—that’s the Incarnation, him being born child of Mary.
So he would wake up hungry, as any child would. He needed water, he needed warmth on cold nights, he needed protection from mean dogs or poisonous spiders, or whatever.
We can guess he had his favorite food; the way one child likes cake but another ice-cream.
So we know that he was like us. Same flesh and blood. Same need for a bath to wash off the day’s dirt, the need to tie the shoes and comb the hair. But the writer to the Hebrew Christians is saying more. Hebrews 2:17:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
He was made like us not only in that he knows all the daily tasks that belong to every human, but like us in that he was tempted. And he suffered.
And we want to know this because, in this, he is able to help us when we are tempted.
Which is an interesting thought. When we are tempted, how does Jesus help us? By putting up a big sign in our brain that says, “Don’t do it!”? But for that, he didn’t need to become man.
For if God’s help for us when we are tempted is to say “Don’t do it!”, we already had that—it’s called the Law.
Doesn’t everyone know the Law? Everyone knows you’re not to slander your neighbor, which is why, when we do, we make excuses and point to others who do it even more. Everyone knows that you’re to speak well of others, to uphold their names and reputations, to give your neighbor encouragement.
Everyone knows you are not to commit adultery, to have lust, to do anything to damage or speak ill of another’s marriage—everyone knows this, which is why we’re sneaky when we do it.
Do not kill, but love your neighbor and care for him and help him keep his property and wealth and reputation.
Honor your father and your mother. Care for your children. Speak well of your neighbor’s family. Does not everyone know these things, even when doing the opposite?
Remember the Sabbath; come to the Lord’s Name to hear his word; encourage your fellow Christians, reminding them of the gifts the Lord is serving out at his Service each week; do not hinder your neighbor, but help him to hear the invitation of the Gospel and to be gathered into the Church—what Christian doesn’t already know these things.
This is just the Law, the Ten Commandments, but even those who don’t know the commandments specifically, they already know, for, as the Apostle says, the Lord has written the Law on everyone’s heart. [Rom. 2:15]
So when we are tempted, how will Jesus help us? By popping up a big sign in our brain which says, Don’t do it. Turn the other way.
Will he help us by the Law? We already had the Law, it only increased our guilt and covered in shame. No. As the writer to the Hebrew Christians tells us, Jesus was made like us in every respect
to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
He will help us by joining with sinners and being cut into the covenant—that’s his circumcision where he was cut into the covenant along with every other Israelite from the time the promise of circumcision was given to Abraham.
He will help us by undergoing temptation from Satan, even as Satan daily tempts us. That’s his temptation in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus to have the desires of the body all filled to the brim, if only he would turn some stones into bread; where Satan tempted Jesus to make demands on his Father, that God must respond to him and send angels whenever he said, if only Jesus would throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple; where Satan tempted Jesus to have power and control over his neighbor, even over every person on the Earth, if only he would fall down and worship Satan.
Jesus willingly placed himself under every temptation—of desire and lusts, of love of self over neighbor, of love of self over God, of self-justification and works-righteousness—under every temptation. Now, when we are tempted by Satan, Jesus knows our temptation even better than we do.
But that doesn’t yet help us in our temptation.
He himself has suffered when tempted, [so] he is able to help those who are being tempted, says the writer of Hebrews.
He suffered not only in his own temptation by Satan. He suffered fully in going to the cross.
The accusations of the Law the Pharisees threw at him, the attacks of the teachers of the Law and the Temple officials, the indictment spoken by the high-priest, Caiaphas, the verdict of the people yelling Crucify him, Crucify him, the nails bringing to him the death of the cross—he suffered it all.
But all that he was suffering, it was the accusation and of the Law against us. Against every sinner.
For he who knew no sin, who was made like us in every way yet without sin, was tempted as we are and took our sin, our temptation upon himself, and put it all to death on the cross, making atonement by his own blood.
How will he help us when we are tempted?
By the Law? Yes, by the Law, for the Law shows us our sin, and we must know that we cannot justify ourselves. But we already had the Law before Jesus was made like us.
How will Jesus help us in our temptation?
By the Gospel. By being with us. By binding himself to us in Baptism, making us his own. By coming to us in his Body and Blood to forgive. By being with us as our High Priest, who is able to suffer with us in all things, who cares for us, and who has one final, life-giving word for us:
His final, full word, by which he makes us his own, by which he cleanses us and breathes into us his Holy Spirit, by which he constantly gives us repentance, that the new man of faith may daily stand before God in righteousness and purity, by which he is with us in all temptation—his final, full word:
I am with you, in the same flesh and blood you are;
In my death on the cross, I have defeated Satan, taking from him his accusation against you;
I have destroyed the power of death, delivering you out of the slavery of the fear of death;
I am your merciful High Priest, interceding for you to my Father;
For I have atoned for you with my own blood, I have made propitiation for your sins with my cross, and I am with you when you are being tempted.
In the Name of Jesus.