The first stage of God’s great salvation program was fulfilled in Jesus’s humiliation – His incarnation, suffering and death. Having come in human form, Jesus was the founder of our salvation, which was achieved through His suffering and death on the cross. One of the glorious benefits we receive in knowing Jesus is that He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (v. 11); as concurrently we become children of God (v. 13). The benefits of such blessings are immeasurable. As the author of Hebrews continues this line of thinking in verses 14-18, we discover another benefit; Jesus destroyed the power of death, delivering us from its fear (v. 14-15). Furthermore, as Jesus was tempted in His humanity, we again benefit from His help when we are tempted (v. 18). In the climax of this text the author reveals that all of these wonderful blessings are the work of Jesus, in His role as our great High Priest (v. 17) – a theme that is going to dominate much of the rest of the epistle (in particular chapters 5, 7, 8, 9 & 10). In fact, this is the first of 17 times that the term “high priest” will be used in Hebrews.
Death could only be undone by death. John Owen wrote in his classic commentary on Hebrews: “All of Satan’s power over death was founded on sin. The obligation of the sinner to death gave Satan his power. If this obligation was removed, Satan’s power would also be taken away. Now this, with reference to the children for whom he died, was done in the death of Christ–virtually in the death itself, actually in its application to them. When the sinner ceased to be a slave of death, Satan’s power was broken.” In anticipation of chapter 3, where the author will compare Jesus to Moses, Jesus is here portrayed as a deliverer of His people from Satan’s slavery to freedom, in the same way Moses delivered the nation of Israel from their slavery in Egypt; only Jesus’s deliverance is greater than that of Moses. In the next two chapters of Hebrews, the author will demonstrate how this freedom (or rest) that we receive from Christ’s triumph over Satan at the cross, is superior to the Sabbath rest found in the Law of Moses.
This week in preparation for the conclusion of chapter 2, read all of chapters 1 and 2 again, so as to gain an appreciation of the full context of the passage. Observe how the author builds from the argument of the Son being greater than the angels, to identifying this Son as the man Jesus, to His function as our great high priest. Then go ahead and read chapters 3-4 to understand how the work of our High Priest, Jesus Christ ushers us into a greater Sabbath rest. Pay close attention to verses 14-16 of chapter 4, as they expand our understanding of chapter 2 verses 17-18.