Brakes on Sin (Hebrews 5:1)

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)

There’s a dent in the side of my truck. Actually, it’s more of a bashed in right side. I did this damage myself on purpose as I side-swiped the basketball goal in the driveway. My other choice would have been to run into the house. With the brakes failing, I had limited options.

Like a fool, I’d loaned my truck to Josh. He called me to say that a brake line had broken, but–not to worry–he’d fixed it. Great. Here’s a piece of advice that I’ve learned from this experience. When you’re largely clueless as a mechanic, you don’t want to engage someone who is just slightly less clueless than you are to do the repair. Josh, as it turned out, not only installed that brake line backwards but didn’t bleed the brakes.

Every mechanic, even those brothers from Boston on NPR, have limits to their ability. No one can know everything there is about cars. I’d certainly prefer to have Jack from my favorite garage look at my car than Josh, but in the end, we all exist somewhere on the spectrum of cluelessness. That’s the nature of things when you select your mechanic, your doctor, your broker, or anything else from mere humans.

What if Jesus could fix your Ford? He’d get it right, don’t you think? Certainly, he showed himself worthy as a better physician than anybody in his day (or ours). Similarly, when Jesus takes your sins to the father, he does not do so in the limited nature of a human high priest. Jesus can make atonement like no one else. This is another of those things that we, living in a Christian environment, can easily forget.


A Different Sort of Hero (Hebrews 2:16-17)

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human 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. (Hebrews 2:16-17)

I’ve been thinking about superheroes lately. Most of them, it seems, appear to be normal people but they have something special added to them. Spider-man, a normal–perhaps even sub-normal teen–becomes remarkable with the aid of a radioactive spider’s bite. The relatively normal (albeit immortal) Wolverine has an indestructible skeleton grafted into his body. The Fantastic Four start out quite ordinary but then react in distinct and useful ways to cosmic rays. How convenient is that?

Even the father of superheroes, Superman, is essentially a normal human being who happens to possess a set of quite useful qualities. Why he feels it necessary to pursue journalism, I’m not entirely clear.

This model of superhero is nothing new. Homer, in creating Achilles, crafted a character who was a great human warrior with the added benefit of (near) invincibility. Hercules follows a similar model.

While superheroes typically represent humans who add something extra, there is another model available. What if someone who had incredible powers chose instead to make himself perfectly human in every way? Could that hero fight Lex Luthor or the Green Goblin? He wouldn’t be able to shoot spiderwebs or fly or stretch his arms a quarter mile away. What sort of a hero would that be?

Quite out of keeping with the models of superheroes created by man, Jesus becomes completely human in order to accomplish what only a human can do. The notion that Jesus was completely human leads to the idea that we as humans can attain to all of his accomplishments. We too can resist sin. We can work miracles. We can live self-abasing, self-sacrificing lives.

Such a view of Jesus does not diminish him. Instead, it glorifies him. For Spider-Man to do amazing things is expected, but for a completely human figure to do them is more so. And if a completely human Jesus could live in this fashion, what is our excuse?

Undercover Messiah (Hebrews 2:9)

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

Have you ever watched Undercover Boss? In this show, CEOs from big corporations disguise themselves and work in low-level jobs for a period of time, all the while being followed by a camera crew. You’d think that after the first couple of episodes of this show had been aired, the jig would be up and nobody would be able to maintain the charade. Still, week after week CEOs manage to work in convenience stores, garbage trucks, or manufacturing plants, apparently unrecognized by anyone.

This is what happened when Jesus came into this world. The ultimate CEO came into the rabble and lived his life. Of course, Jesus wasn’t followed around by video cameras, so it’s understandable that people didn’t catch on to his identity. On the TV show, the CEO reveals himself at the end, doling out rewards to his good employees and humbly sharing what he learned. It’s amazing that these people never seem to discover slacker, antisocial employees in their organizations. Jesus, of course, returned to his “executive office.” He doesn’t share any things that he learned during his undercover stint, but he certainly has some goodies for even the less-than-stellar followers.

I don’t think we can overemphasize the role change that Jesus underwent, going from Heaven to here, putting off the trappings of Deity to take on human flesh. TV’s undercover bosses do their role reversal for a week or so. Presumably they go home at night. Jesus did his reversal for 33 years, spending 24 hours a day in the land of smelly humans. While the undercover boss does his thing to boost stock prices and his own performance, Jesus did his for us: worthless, ungrateful wretches living in open defiance of the creator of the universe.

That’s a difference that will echo long, long after Undercover Boss has long since been replaced by some sappy sitcom.