He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Most of us are familiar with the saying, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This proverb has been circulated for well over a century, and is attributed to Lord Acton, but the idea behind it is as ancient as humanity itself. While this narrative may be true for most humans entrusted with power, the book of Hebrews reminds us that it is absolutely not true for Jesus.
Hebrews begins by affirming that Jesus has absolute power. The author describes Jesus as the Son of God, the heir of all things, the creator of the world, the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of God’s nature, the one who upholds the universe by the word of His power, the one who sits at the right hand of God, and the one who is superior to angels (Hebrews 1:2-4). Taken together, these descriptions not only reveal Jesus as having absolute power over humanity and earthly powers, but over everything in the visible universe and in the invisible spiritual realm. Indeed, there is nothing outside of Jesus’ absolute power.
With such a strong opening, we might assume the book of Hebrews would go on to give threatening commands for us to fear, obey, and honor this divinely authoritative and sovereign Jesus. Perhaps the author would recount how Jesus will use His power to subdue and finally defeat all of His and our enemies on the last day. But that is not the picture of Jesus that Hebrews emphasizes and celebrates.
The amazing thing Hebrews reveals about Jesus is that He used His absolute power not to exalt Himself, but to humble Himself; not to provoke us to fear Him, but to convince us to trust Him. The author tells us Jesus used His absolute power in shockingly selfless ways.
• Jesus used His absolute power to enter into His creation, being made “lower than the angels…so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).”
• Jesus used His absolute power to be “made like His brothers in every respect…to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).”
• Jesus used His absolute power to become “a great high priest” who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses so that we could “draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).”
• Jesus used His absolute power to become the one who “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”
While absolute, the power Jesus possesses was never corrupt and never selfish; it was always perfect and self-sacrificial. Jesus’ great power is a gracious power.
What does this mean for us?
It means we can be confident that nothing is outside of Jesus’ gracious power. There is nothing on earth or in heaven, nothing visible or invisible, nothing material or spiritual, nothing past, present, or future over which Jesus does not exercise absolute power. And when the circumstances of life are difficult, disorienting, and disappointing for us, we can rest in the reality of Jesus’ absolute power.
And it means we can be comforted that Jesus’ gracious power is a force for our good. In response to our sin, Jesus has not cast us off in judgement; in His grace He offered Himself as our perfect and permanent sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26). And in response to our weakness, Jesus has not scoffed in superiority; in His grace, He sympathizes and offers help at His “throne of grace (4:16).”
So today, and every day, let us be a people who look to Jesus our powerful King and gracious Savior, who in joy endured the cross for us (Hebrews 12:1-2).