Series on Hebrews, I Superior Potentate, D Superior by Position, Text: Hebrews 2:5-18, Title: What is Man?


Philosophers speculate, and wise men debate the answer to our question, “What is Man,” but the only answer is found in the Bible. As George MacDonald wisely observed, “He that is made in the image of God must know Him or be desolate.” Max Lucado reminds us that defining men without God can only have negative results. Either they wind up in the gutter, or they become paragons of arrogance in  three-piece suits.  And all of our problems come from not knowing who we are in the scheme of things. Our unhappiness and discontent, our shameless slaughter of infants in the womb and the partially born, all the desire for power and control as well as the abuse and manipulation of others comes from the fact that we do not know who we are. We lost that sense of destiny when we along with Adam were cast out of Eden. We can recover it only in Jesus Christ who is the God man. Frederick Faber once wrote that if God were to send to angels to earth, one to occupy a throne, and the other to clean streets, they would both be equally happy and regard their employments as equally distinguished. The reason is they know who they are. Our text shows us that the definition and dignity of humanity which was lost is regained in Jesus. In fact the superiority of Christ as King over all can only be seen in his taking our nature and raising it to where it ought to be. Three things Jesus does here. He brings honor to mankind. He brings holiness to mankind. And he brings  help to mankind.

I He Brings Honor

We’ve lost our dignity. Just think of the awful hatred and prejudice in the world, and indeed, in our own hearts. How apt we are to caricature people just because of where they live, or their age, or sex, or color of skin, or job, or accent, or education, or income. The law can only treat us equally in the long run when there is some basis for equality. We have laws but no reasons for the laws. Malcolm Muggeridge said that only as children of God are we equal. All other claims to equality; social, economic, racial, intellectual, and social, only serve in practice to intensify inequality. That’s why there’s oppression, In not knowing God and acknowledging Him in our society, we have lost sight of who we are. I serve on the Board of the YMCA, which is one of those organizations that promotes good character. Their motto is caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. But no matter how you search or how hard you press, you cannot find any objective definition of what those things are. There is no standard by which to judge whether someone is caring, or respectful. It ends up being whatever I think is caring, or responsible. The Bible commands us to love our fellow man after we are commanded to love God first because there is no other way we can know how to treat our fellow man. The author of Hebrews quotes the eighth Psalm which tells in the words of God himself who we are. In verses 5-8a, the Psalmist celebrates the glory and honor bestowed upon man, It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Man is lord over all creation and answerable to the Creator alone. But in verses 8b,9 He says the present situation is that man has lost that glory, and everything is not presently subject to him, Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. We lost the right to rule when we disobeyed the Creator. But Jesus the Son of God was also made lower than the angels, like man, so that he might suffer death and be crowned with the glory and honor that belongs to man. He has won it back. Only in Christ can we have the dignity God originally gave because he tasted death for every man..

II He Brings Holiness

Our text makes clear that he did not seek this honor for himself. In fact in Philippians 2 Paul reminds us that because he was in the very nature of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped which was exactly the sin of Adam. The Devil said you will be equal with God. Jesus tasted death for us and was crowned with glory for us. Thus we read in verse 10 that in bringing many sons into glory he was appointed to suffer. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. His perfection through suffering was inevitable. In a fallen world holiness always suffers. He could have taken the easy road offered by Satan in the wilderness. The last Adam is in Eden with Satan though Eden has become a wilderness. And all the temptations have the single point-give up this crusade for holiness and you can lose the suffering. Curiously, although Jesus was already perfect he said to be perfected because every moment of suffering called forth a new and increased level of obedience. He paid the price moment by moment. And he did it for his family according to verses 11-13, the family God has given him, Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” For them he suffers, for them he dies so that they can be holy. God is holy and holiness means we are brought back to God. We hear a lot about families today. Some of it very negative. On talk shows you can here about all the misery and depravity and cruelty that goes on in families. People complain about their families. Well Jesus had that kind of family. Completely godless and lacking in holiness. They were miserable and cruel and depraved. But he was not ashamed to call them brethren. We should take a lesson from that love and allow it to restore us.

III He Brings Help

The conclusion in the final part of our text in verses 14-18, is that Jesus the son of God actually helps each of us to recover our dignity as men made in the image of God, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Now remember that in Chapter 1 the author demonstrated that Jesus was higher than the angels, but he became lower to help the seed of Abraham according to verse 16. There was no designation of which the Jews were prouder than that they were the seed of Abraham. But John the Baptist said Repent, Do not think you can say to yourselves We have Abraham as our Father,…out of these stones God can raise up children to Abraham. They needed help. We too are the seed of Abraham because we share his faith. But we need help. We will never know who we are or recover our lost dignity or find meaning in life until we see that this is why Jesus came. All our hollow efforts at education, success, respect, refinement end up on the dung heap. We’re all like Rodney Dangerfield saying "I don’t get no respect," whether we realize it or not. Only Jesus can give you that respect. He does it by becoming like you in all respects except sin. Thus he offered himself in your place on Calvary’s cross. Thus even in heaven he can sympathize with your struggles and help you through them, as we are told in verses 17 and 18, This is why Paul says in Philippians 2 that Jesus humbled Himself and was found in human likeness and was obedient to death so that God could exalt Him to the highest place. He did this to raise us from indignity to dignity with Him.


This chapter began with the warning that we should not allow our great salvation in Jesus to slip. Don’t lose your only chance to find dignity, love, and self-respect. They are all in Jesus. You weren’t an accident, you weren’t mass produced, you are not an assembly line product. God planned gifted and positioned you in His world. Is your value diminished, are the goods damaged, is the image tarnished? Yes!! Christ’s death made the value skyrocket God doesn’t invest in worthless property. You can’t sell him the Brooklyn Bridge. Jesus redeemed you at infinite cost. Long ago St. Augustine reminded us that people gaze at the stars, and travel far to mountains and rivers and oceans to see God’s beauty but pass by themselves without wondering. Such is the effect of sin. But when you know Jesus you are just as special as the greatest people in the world. Psychology, self-help, positive thinking philosophies all fail because they attempt to give you value without Christ. Perhaps Robert Browning said it best in his inimitable fashion. “All I could never be, All men ignored in me, that I was worth to God.”