Hebrews 2 presents what is perhaps the most concise explanation and the most vivid illustration of God’s justice and mercy. After reminding us that history (the events mentioned in chapter 1) should motivate us to “pay special attention,” the Holy Spirit defines what justice actually means; “…every transgression and disobedience [receives] a just reward…”. The Greek word for just means “according to what is right” – a “just” reward (for sin) is exactly what is deserved by the sinner. Ezekiel long ago described what God says is a “fair” penalty for sin (Ezekiel 18:4 & 20) – “The soul who sins shall die.” There is NO alternative to the condemnation sin brings, NO “escape” from its consequences apart from the grace that God Himself offers us in Christ! Jesus spoke to exactly this point in Matthew 16:26, when He asked,
“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”(emphasis mine, DR)
WE have nothing with which we can “pay” the penalty of our sins, except our souls (cf. Acts 17:24-25); but verses 14-18 show how GOD accomplishes what we cannot. By allowing Jesus to “partake of flesh and blood” (cf. John 1:14) – to live in our world and experience all the temptations and challenges we do (AND set a perfect, sinless example for us) – the Father qualified Him to “deliver” us (release, set free) from sin’s “reward.” (We will see this point again in Hebrews 4:15, as the Holy Spirit explains how Jesus is able to serve as our High Priest!)
In a note that would be especially helpful for Jewish Christians, Hebrews 2:5-10 contrasts Jesus with angels and emphasizes that it is Jesus in human form Who has been exalted above all things, and Who by His suffering and death has become the “captain” of our salvation (vs. 10) – NOT angels. There is a tendency among people even today (as among the ancient Jews) to suppose that all heavenly beings should be worshipped, but passages like Revelation 19:10 and 22:9 (along with Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:10) show us that this is incorrect: Angels are never presented in the scripture as objects of worship for the people of God.
One additional and important fact about the nature of Jesus stands out in the words of Hebrews 2:17 – He was not always “a little lower than the angels,” but became “like His brethren.” One prominent cult is insistent that Jesus is “lower” or “lesser” than the Father (their version of the bible calls Him “a god” in John 1:1), but just as Paul emphasized in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus was fully equal with the Father before taking on flesh, so the inspired writer here stresses that our Lord “was made like” us for a specific purpose – our redemption. This is why He is fully able to relate to and understand the intensity and challenge of our temptations, and intercede for us, verse 18.