In the book of Hebrews, the author presents the superiority of Jesus Christ over all the things that were revered by the Jews: Angels, Moses, the High Priest, the Tabernacle, etc. Why does he do that? Because these Hebrew Christians, these first century converts from Judaism, were being pressured by their families to keep on going BACK to the old system of worship--the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood. He gives 7 reasons (using 7 OT quotations) in 1:4-14, to prove that Jesus was HIGHER than the angels.
But then the author does a strange thing: he quotes from Psa. 8:4-6, “What is man, that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little LOWER than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” Now, it appears at first that the author is undermining his own argument. How could supremacy be said of One who became man, and died? This is a real difficulty. He whom the author affirmed had, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than angels, was known to them as the “Son of Man”, for man was a creature inferior to angels. Moreover, angels do not die, as Christ did. How then could He be their superior?
The answer to this dilemma is found in verse 9: But we see Jesus, who was made for a little while lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man." Christ humbled Himself by taking on the form of a man, and going to the cross, in order to redeem fallen man. So, for a little time, He was indeed lower than the angels, but now is exalted in glory and “given a name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Jesus took a human body and died for a reason. “For it was fitting for Him, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (vs. 10).
The death of Christ on the cross also accomplished something that no angel, no matter how powerful, could do. He took a human body so that “through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (vs. 14). Jesus did not die as a helpless victim, and He did not die in defeat. He died as a victor over sin, death, and the devil. “It is finished” was the cry of the victorious One, the triumphant One. No angel could save mankind from the curse of sin—only God, taking a human body, could accomplish that!
Verse 16 shows that the redemptive work of Christ on the cross did not benefit, or “give aid” to the angels, but it did benefit and give aid to the seed of Abraham (mankind). We know that, according to Revelation 5, angels throughout eternity will praise God for something they never experienced, namely redemption. They will sing praises to God for elevating fallen man, through redemption, to the exalted position of being His children, His bride, His Church. They will bend their knee in adoration to us because we belong to Christ.
But there is another reason why Jesus took upon Himself a human body, besides the capacity to suffer death. “In all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest . . .for in that He Himself suffered, being tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted” (vs. 17-18). During the life of Christ, He was subjected to all the temptations of the human condition. He identified completely with us. He became “like us” so that He might be our merciful High Priest. We can go to Him with all our struggles because He understands and identifies. Later (chapter 4, verse 15) we read, “We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Yes, Jesus understands our weaknesses. Angels do not have this capacity because they aren’t “human”.
Take time right now to thank the Lord for understanding, for caring, for helping. Norman Clayton, the songwriter, put it this way:
“No one understands like Jesus, He’s a Friend beyond compare; Meet Him at the throne of mercy, He is waiting for you there.”