For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that You are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that You care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
I heart NYC. I have the t-shirt, and the sentiment rings true. I love New York. I love the lights, the busyness, the “pulse” of the city. I love how riding the subway or a crazy New York taxi cab brings a whole new thrill to getting somewhere. A walk through the park feels a lot different when it’s Central Park or when that park is several stories above the ground. A cupcake from Magnolia Bakery or pizza from a street vendor somehow just tastes better. And you’d better believe I’d trade a night at the movies for a night out on Broadway any day. Luckily for me, though I have never been cool nor adventurous enough to live in the Big Apple, my sister lives there, giving me the excuse to visit as often as I can.
One of my favorite aspects of traveling to New York is the view you get of Manhattan as you fly in. It’s exciting to pick out Central Park and Yankee Stadium, and it’s impressive the see the order of all the city blocks. But I think the most awe-inspiring is seeing the Empire State Building standing tall above the rest. The view from above the ground is quite different than the view you get on the streets where nearly every building looks the same. Without looking up, it is impossible to tell the Empire State Building from a normal corporate office—that is except for the long line of people who are obviously not locals wearing foam Empire State Building hats, holding cameras, and turning their maps of the city every which way. The street level can be busy, noisy, and messy. For us tourists, the street level can be confusing, and for many residents of this great city, life at the street level can be hard. Not so from a few hundred feet above the ground. The view from there has order, beauty, and is pretty glorious.
The author of Hebrews is giving us a view from above the ground in Chapter 2. This view was intended to impart hope to a group of struggling Christians who were on the verge of giving up hope and abandoning their faith. This view likewise has the power to impart hope to us, who, even in a season often characterized by merriment and joy, may find ourselves weary, faithless, and struggling to hope. It is a view from above the place where things are messy, painful, and hard. It is a view from the throne of Christ—where He sits, crowned with glory and honor, where everything is in His control and under His authority. This is the view intended to bring us hope!
Our hope is to be grounded in the authority possessed by our now reigning Savior. Four times in these short verses we see some form of the word subjected, thus driving home the theme of the power, authority, and control of Jesus Christ. Three times it is written that everything is in subjection to Him. This word is so familiar to us that we can easily miss the vastness of its scope. It is all-encompassing. The Greek word here for “everything” is ta panta, and nearly every time it is used throughout the New Testament, it has the entire universe in view. Consider its use in Colossians 1, “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.” All things have been subjected to Jesus, and He rules over them all with authority and power. The surety of this subjection and the absoluteness of His authority are intended to bring us hope.
The view from above the ground is glorious, but the reality is that we are living life here on the ground at the street level. Often as we hear these words, these glorious truths, we wonder how all the pain and difficulties of our lives are under His control and authority: The loneliness and isolation we have often felt in the places where we are supposed to be most known—in our marriages, families, and churches. The struggles to find work, and the continual uncertainty of what the future holds. The children and friends for whom we have prayed but have yet to walk with Jesus. The sickness in seasons of life that seems far too early. The unrealized dreams and the seemingly unanswered prayers.
The author of Hebrews knows he is writing to people on the ground level where life is messy and hard. He does not to urge us to disregard all of the difficult things in our lives with a flippant answer that God is in control; rather, he writes to give us hope in the midst of what is real, what is human, and what is hard. He anticipates our questions. He writes, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him…” The reality of Christ’s authority does not make light of our trials, our struggles, our pain, but rather it gives weight to it and hope in the midst of it. How? In what he writes next…
…But we see Him…
If I remember anything my dad preached as I was growing up, it was that but is the most beautiful word in all the Scriptures. But signals God, in some gracious and glorious way, entering into our reality. And this is what we see here: “But we see Him.” We see One who knows our experience, who was made lower than the angels, who was made human, who suffered, and who tasted death for us. We celebrate this Christmas season—that Christ chose to take on human likeness and live life here on the ground level—with us, as one of us, and for us. But this is just the beginning of the story—now He is crowned with glory and honor and is in control of all things. What awaited the other side of the suffering and death for Christ foreshadows what waits on the other side for those of us whose faith is in Him.
As we live life on the ground, our hope must look up—fixed upon Him who has walked where we walk and is now crowned with glory and honor. He has promised to come again to where we are—on that glorious day, when heaven comes to earth, and the view from above the ground becomes the view from where we stand!