“Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did God become a man? No other religion has something like this as a part of its body of beliefs. Well, none did before this. A handful have copied it since, but the very idea of such a thing was completely unheard of before it happened. And the copies that have come along since have been imperfect recreations at best. So, why did it happen? The author of Hebrews gives us a very important reason here.
In order for Jesus to be able to pay the price for our sins, He had to be perfect. Completely perfect. There could be not even the slightest black mark on His record. Not even a shade of gray could be allowed. If He had committed even the smallest, most inconsequential-seeming sin, the whole deal would have fallen apart. In that case, He would have had His own sin to atone for. He would have wrested control of His life from God and the only way to reconcile that theft would have been to return His life to God at which point He wouldn’t have it any longer. And if He didn’t have His life any longer, then He definitely couldn’t have paid the price for our sins. So, perfect it was.
In order for Jesus to be perfect, though, He had to be fully divine. You and I are simply too broken by sin to hit the mark of perfection. If He was anything less than fully divine, sin would have had claim on His heart, and He would have fallen to it. Jesus’ being fully God is a non-negotiable deal.
In order for Jesus to be able to pay the price for our sins, He had to be completely human. The reason for this is that our sins were all committed by someone who was completely human (namely, us). It was our fully human lives that were taken from God when we sinned. There is no one else responsible for our failing. In order for our lives to be reconciled to God, a fully human life had to be given back to Him. If it was not going to be our own lives, then it had to be another human life. Now, our own lives given back to God would have paid the price, but such a payment would have come at the forfeit of our lives. This forfeit of our lives, however, would have meant we could not have a relationship with God any longer as you can’t have a relationship with someone who is dead. God wasn’t interested in that as the outcome of the satisfaction of His justice, so He had to find another way.
The thing is, though, not just any other human life would do. It was going to have to be a human life that was completely without sin because otherwise it would have had to deal with its own sins first…at which point it would have been totally forfeit and no use to us any longer. Do you see how complicated this all was? Our redemption was no small matter to accomplish.
Jesus had to be both fully God and fully man. There could not be a lack of either of those elements in His person. If there had been, His work would have all been in vain. He either wouldn’t have lived His entire life in sinless perfection or else He wouldn’t have been a sufficient sacrifice in the same way that, to quote the author of Hebrews from later in the letter, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Jesus had to be the ultimate both-and: both God and man.
There’s a bit more here. If Jesus wasn’t fully acquainted with our experience as human beings, He could not have interceded for us before the Father. This is what the author is getting at when he talks about Jesus’ becoming a “merciful and faithful high priest.” Under the old sacrificial system, while the blood of bulls and goats provided a covering for sin, they weren’t the ones doing the interceding for us. They were simply the sacrifices. It was a priest who did the interceding. That priest was chosen from among the people. He was one who was fully like them so that He could fully represent them to God. A priest who was not fully aware of his people’s experiences, their strengths and weaknesses, their victories and struggles, could not have made a fair and accurate representation of them before God.
Well, if the people needed a priest who was not just human, but fully like them to minister their interests before God, then if all of humanity was going to be represented before God, we were going to need a great high priest who was fully human. Anything less than fully human and He wouldn’t have been as intimately aware of our situation as He needed to be to be able to intercede for us as effectively as we needed. And my how we needed an effective intercessor!
Yet for God to become human was a ridiculous idea. God was as far above and beyond us as the heavens are from the earth. In fact, even that level of proximity is an insult to the greatness of His inherent glory and holiness. Gods couldn’t…wouldn’t…become human. Everyone knew that. Sure, they would occasionally disguise themselves as human to mix it up with the common folks every now and then (and by “mix it up” I mean…well…you can guess what I mean), but they were never really human when they did it. They were simply wearing a human costume.
And then these folks came along who proclaimed the God of the heavens and the earth, of all creation in fact, didn’t merely put on a human costume to come to earth. He became one who was fully like us. What could possess a God to do such an insane, demeaning, humiliating thing such a this? There was only one explanation His followers offered: love. His love for us and His desire to be in a right and restored relationship with us were so great, that He embraced the humiliation, became fully human (while never becoming anything less than fully God), and bridged the gap between Him and us.
If this God’s love for you is so great as that, perhaps He’s worth your time to consider as one with whom you want to have a relationship. In Christ, you can.