Sermon for Ocober 7, 2012

Sermon for Pentecost 19, Proper 22, October 7, 2012

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas

Sermon Text:  Hebrews 2:1-13

Sermon Theme:  “Not Ashamed to Call Us Brothers”

(Sources:  Anderson’s Preaching Workbook, Cycle B; original ideas; Emphasis online Commentary; Emphasis online Illustrations)


Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.


One of my all time favorite movies came out in 1993, entitled A River Runs through It, based on a novel by Norman Maclean.  It’s the story of a strict Presbyterian minister in Montana and his relationship with his two sons.

Early in the movie there’s a scene where the father takes his two young sons to their favorite river to fish.  One of the boys finds a fossil and brings it to his dad.  The father says, “Boys, this river flows through the land over the rocks to the sea.  The rocks are as old as the world itself, and show the marks of raindrops that fell long eons ago.  And underneath the rocks are the words of God.  Listen.”

They lean over and listen to the gurgling river.  Underneath the river and the rocks is the Word of God.  That Word runs through all things and holds all things together.  At the very beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, before our sermon text begins, the writer to the Hebrews says, “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

We know from the Book of Genesis that the Father created the world by speaking it into existence, that is, by His Word; and we also know from the Gospel of John that in the beginning was the Word made flesh whom John identifies as Jesus.

Also keep in mind that when Hebrews says, “in these last days,” it is not referring to the End of Times.  You see, the Hebrews of the first century divided time into two ages, — the present age, dominated by sin and death, and the new age, when the kingdom was to come in power and glory.  Between these two ages was a period when the old was yielding way to the new.  It is this in-between age, the dawning of a new day, that the writer of Hebrews refers to as “these last days.”

Before we go any further, you need to understand that this epistle to the Hebrews was written for a Jewish audience, to keep them from deserting their Christian faith and returning to Judaism.  We don’t know who wrote the letter to the Hebrews, but it was not Paul as some used to think.  Whoever it was is trying to convince his readers that Christ is superior to the Old Testament prophets, that Christ holds the very nature of God, that Christ upholds the universe by His power, and that Christ is superior to the angels.

Our text, which is actually Chapter 2 of Hebrews begins by contrasting Christ with the angels.  Angels were seen as messengers from God.  It is very likely that the readers of this letter were beginning to think of Jesus as just another angel, that is, God’s messenger, not that different from other angels.  Hebrews wants the reader to understand that, while angels were to be highly regarded, Christ is far, far above them.

You see, there was a problem in the early church, according to Colossians 2:8, 18, of a group or groups of Christians actually worshipping angels.  The Hebrews letter wants to make it clear that no angel was ever referred to as “God’s own Son,” and no angel deserves to be given the honor and glory that belongs to Christ.

Again, keep in mind that the writer of Hebrews does not want his audience to become Christian drops outs and return to their previous faith in Judaism.  And he knows that some, if not many, of these Hebrew Christians were beginning to question the position and authority of Jesus as God.  After all, didn’t He become a man, a being LOWER than the angels?  So maybe He really is only a human being, on a plane below the angels.  Angels are higher than human beings, and Jesus was a MAN who suffered and died.

So the writer of Hebrews responds to this by quoting from Psalm 8 about human beings being made only a little lower than the angels and given something even the angels are not given – dominion over the earth!  Although human beings do not yet really have dominion over the earth, this is their promise and their potential.

Ultimately Jesus came as a human being to fulfill that potential and brought even sin itself into submission, — not by an aggressive show of His might and power, but instead by His terrible and humiliating suffering and death on the cross (which of course may have been viewed by the Hebrew audience as a reason not to accept Him as true God).

To be sure, God the Father brought about salvation for the world through His Son who was given a place lower than the angels.  This was the way Jesus carried out God’s plan to bring saving grace to human beings.  Sin had shattered the loving relationship between God and human beings, and this redemption was necessary, — a redemption that required Christ to take our place in suffering and death, so that we could be forgiven, freed, and receive eternal life.

You know, the Old Testament contains 39 books with over 602, 000 words and 638 commandments.  All that was to tell people how to gain victory over sin and suffering, but it didn’t accomplish victory.  The last word in the Old Testament is “curse.”  After all those hundreds of thousands of words, the world was still in slavery to sin and suffering, so God said, “Let me SHOW you,” and He sent His Son.  With the new Covenant in His blood.

Our text says, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Normally we think of Jesus as our Savior and our Lord, as our King who is King of Kings; and yet that passage gives us something in addition that is quite wonderful.  Yet it’s hard for us to conceive of Jesus as our brother, because that suggests equality.

Nonetheless this passage from Hebrews claims that Jesus became our brother through taking on our suffering, sin and death.  We can call Christ “brother” because all those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ have one Father.  We are indeed children of the heavenly Father.

Pastor Molldrem explained this by using the picture language of DNA.  As you know, DNA is the building block of living organisms.  The molecules on the DNA strand have a unique sequence, which acts as a code to signal a cell how to reproduce itself.  In the cells of higher living organisms, like a human, there will be multiple strands of DNA clustered together in chromosomes.  These chromosomes, because of their unique combination of DNA strands, will determine the particular characteristics of the organism.  DNA provides the hereditary profile.

The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “bears the very stamp of God’s nature.”  I don’t think it’s too far out to say that Jesus is the very DNA of God in our midst.  He also has the DNA of humanity.  Jesus calls us brothers and sisters, because we “have all one origin.”  This is the awesome and uplifting mystery of God.

Indeed, God created humans to have mastery over the world.  But we have fallen from that glory through sin.  Jesus came that, by His death and suffering, we might realize our original glory.  Our text says, “Both the one who makes men holy [Jesus] and those who are made holy [us] are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Amen.


The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.