12 – Hebrews 2:16-18: Christ Greater Than Temptation

Hebrews 2:16-18

“Jesus did not come to help angels, but rather Abraham’s descendants. For this reason it was imperative that He should be made to resemble His brothers in order to prove Himself a compassionate and faithful High Priest in His service to God and make propitiation for the sins of the people. Inasmuch as He Himself has experienced sufferings and temptation, He is able to give immediate help to those who are being tested and tempted.”     (paraphrased)

v. 16
The writer has proven mankind is superior to all angelic beings. Jesus did not come to save angels: He came to save us. Christ’s work of redemption necessitated His Incarnation. He appropriated the nature of man in order to effect our atonement. Although sinless, He came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). His nature is divine, but He suffered and died as a human being.

Bible writers often refer to Believers as the “children” or descendants of godly people. Paul mentions Jesus as “the seed of David” in this regard (II Tim. 2:8). The Jewish readers of this epistle know it was through Abraham and his descendents the world is blessed (Gen. 12:2). By incarnating, Jesus became “a son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1). As His disciples, we are the heirs of God’s promises to the patriarchs (Gal. 3:7, 29). God instituted His redemptive process through the Jews, but Believers are the true spiritual “seed of Abraham.”

v. 17
Only in Hebrews is Jesus described in priestly terminology. It is characteristic for the writer to touch a subject, only to fully develop it later. This first mention of the priesthood in the epistle soon becomes its dominate theme.

In every possible way it was essential that the Son of God assume the nature of man. He is like us in all respects, except our sinful nature. “It behooved” Christ to take human form. This self-imposed obligation was an act of mercy. As the Son of God, Jesus took the initiative to complete the work of redemption.

As high priest (archiereus), Aaron entered the holy place annually to make atonement for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:16). The primary work of the archiereus was mediation. He represented God to the people and vice-versa. The sacrificial rituals were established by God as a means of removing the barrier of sin between God and humankind. By taking upon Himself our nature, He was eminently qualified to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin. Superior in every way, the high-priestly ministry of Jesus replaces the former Aaronic priesthood.

The concept of compassion was an attribute lacking among temple priests of the first century. Sadducean high priests, such as Annas and Caiaphas, had a reputation for deception, greed and cruelty. Jesus was grieved with their heard-heartedness (Mk. 3:5). Faithfulness is another quality demanded of God’s servants (I Sam. 2:35 & I Cor. 4:2). Our Great High Priest epitomizes the characteristics of faithfulness, mercy and trustworthiness.

The key word in this passage is “reconciliation” (propitiation). The publican cried, “God be propitious (gracious) to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13). The term bespeaks an appeasement of God’s holy indignation against sin (Rom. 1:18). Reconciliation, atonement, and expiation are all terms related to the redemption offered through Christ. What His righteousness demands, only His love can provide. Aaronic priests could offer a sacrifice, but the Son of God offers Himself as the sacrifice. 

v. 18
It is impossible to identify with the sorrows of another unless we have been through a similar experience. Christ endured many trials while on earth. He can relate to our pain and identifies with those to whom He ministers. Because He understands our nature, He is eminently qualified to aid Believers wrestling with temptation.

He was “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). He was hungry (Lk. 4:2). He asked for water (Jn. 4:9). He slept while a storm raged (Mk. 4:38). He was frustrated with hypocrisy (Mk. 3:5). He wept at the grave of a friend (Jn. 11:35). Although He did not succumb to sin, He was tempted and tried in every possible way (Heb. 4:15). Our compassionate High Priest has walked where we walked – and understands (I Jn. 2:6).

“To help” (boethesai) means to run in response to a cry for assistance. Although Jesus was always victorious over temptations, humans are not. We need the help of One who is sympathetic and empathetic concerning our infirmities. The Lord is ready and willing to assist us in our trials. “Tempted” is peirastheis, meaning “tested.” As the writer will later address, his readers were tempted to apostatize from Christianity and abandon their faith in Christ. Our faithful High Priest proactively encourages fidelity.


Hebrews 2:16-18

1. What two qualities of a high priest are found in Christ?  (2:17)

2. What did God promise Abraham in Genesis 12:2?

3. What is Jesus called in Matthew 1:1?

4. According to Romans 4:12, what must we do to appropriate the promises God gave to Abraham?

5. According to II Corinthians 5:21, what did Jesus not have?

6. In Hebrews 2:16-18, the writer first mentions which of the following?
A. the tabernacle
B. grace
C. the throne
D. high priest
E. righteousness  

7. In the Old Testament, who was God’s first high priest?
A. Moses
B. Aaron
C. Joshua
D. Hophni
E. Caiaphas      

8. According to I Samuel 2:35, what attribute is expected of priests?

9. According to Ezekiel 45:15, what was the purpose of making sacrifices to God?

10. Because Jesus endured temptation, He understands ours. Discuss with your make a time that the Holy Spirit helped you in a time of temptation.


Maxim of the Moment

Love’s wounds can only be healed by the one who caused them.