Hebrews 2:17

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God ...” (Heb. 2:17).

Throughout chapter 2, the author of Hebrews develops the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation. The Incarnation was necessary so that Christ might destroy the devil and fulfill the promise made to Abraham. Today, the Scripture writer tells us more about what the Incarnation involved, and gives us another purpose for it.

Verse 17 tells us that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect ….” We are Christ’s brothers because we have been brought into covenant fellowship with Him. Jesus has been made like us in every respect; He has taken all of our humanity unto Himself. Immediately, this teaching seems problematic because this verse might imply that since Jesus is like us in every respect, He also possesses a sin nature. However, this cannot be the case because Jesus is completely without sin (1 Peter 2:22). But this does not make Jesus less than human because sin is not an inherent part of human nature. Rather, sin is an intruder into our originally good humanity.

What then does it mean that Christ has become like us in every respect? John Owen is very helpful here. In His human nature, Christ has “a rational spiritual soul, and a mortal body.” Pertaining to His soul, not only does Christ experience divine affections like love, joy, and sorrow (John 11:35), He also, in His humanity, has experienced peculiar human emotions like dread and shame. The divine affection of love motivated Christ to come and experience dread and shame on the cross where He bore our punishment in our stead. Christ’s physical person was also like ours in every respect. As Owen says, His body “was not free from hunger, thirst, cold, pain, and death itself.”

Finally, we are also told that Christ had to become like us so that He might be a merciful and a faithful High Priest (Heb. 2:17). Only a human being can intercede for other human beings, and so in order to be our High Priest, Christ had to become like us, yet without sin. Christ is also a merciful High Priest. In taking on a human nature so that He could die for us, Christ demonstrated the great mercy of God that we read of time and again in the Bible. In addition, becoming like us makes Jesus a faithful high priest. Unlike all the other high priests who came before Him, Jesus always obeyed God perfectly. He was faithful to the Father in all things, from His incarnation to His crucifixion.

Coram Deo

One of the greatest mysteries of the faith is the Incarnation. How Jesus could be both fully God and fully man at the same time is incomprehensible to us. Though we cannot fully explain it, we know that God knows what it means to be human because He took on our nature in Christ. Praise Him for His merciful service on our behalf.

For Further Study