Prior to 1863, slavery was the accepted law of our nation. If you were a black person, you most likely were owned by someone. This was the experience of thousands and thousands of black persons in that tragic era of our nation. However, it was possible for some to be free. About ten percent of black people were classified as free blacks and for some of them it had been possible to purchase their freedom from their owner. The owner would set a certain amount of money and if there was some way you could scrape together that amount of money, you could purchase your freedom. You can easily imagine that this did not happen very often because it would be hard for a person who was a slave to obtain such a large amount of money.
Last week we saw that our only comfort in life and death was to belong, body and soul, to Jesus. Typically when we think of belonging to someone, we wouldn’t think that we are free. However, belonging to Jesus means that we have received the greatest gift of freedom imaginable. Belonging to Jesus means that we have been set free from sin and from the impact that the devil often has on us. [S-4] The Heidelberg Catechism says that Jesus “has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.” This morning we want to look at what it means that Jesus paid for our sins to free us from such tyranny. That is what we read in Hebrews 2:14-15. Let’s read Hebrews 2:5-18.
I. Verse 14 says that we share “flesh and blood” with Christ.
What does the phrase “flesh and blood” mean? First, “flesh and blood” refers to our human physical nature; we have real physical bodies. But the term is used in the Bible to describe not only our bodies, but also our human nature. “Flesh and blood” highlights the frailty of our humanity. Both uses then highlight the difference between man and God. The great God is Spirit while we are only flesh and blood.
The point that the author of Hebrews is making is that this is also now who Jesus is. The One who was far removed from being flesh and blood became “flesh and blood” for us. In fact, the author says that Jesus “shared in their humanity.” “Shared” is the same word as the word we use for “fellowship.” We share the same experiences with each other. Jesus experienced the same thing that we did when He took on flesh and blood.
Listen to what Steve Brown says about Jesus coming in flesh and blood:
“Let me tell you something quite radical: Jesus wasn’t playing games. He didn’t say, ‘Yeah, I’m a man (wink, wink),’ knowing that he really was just God in a man suit. He was really a man. Most Christians don’t have any problem with the God part. It’s the man part that drives us nuts. We want Jesus to wear a costume of humanity, but we aren’t willing to see his humanity as anything more than a costume. We like the idea of Jesus walking on water, but we have difficulty with his loneliness and his fear. We don’t mind the raising of the dead, but we have difficulty with the dirt under the fingernails.”
II. Jesus’ death destroys Satan’s power.
Verse 14 says that Satan had the power of death. How did he get that power? Satan got to have the power of death through our sin. The Bible clearly teaches that God’s punishment for sin is death. When we sin, we are guilty and deserve death as a punishment. One of the things the Bible describes Satan as doing is accusing us. He points out to God all the bad sinful things that we do. When I sin, I imagine Satan saying to God, “Did you see what Jerry just did? That was wrong wasn’t it? You have to punish him for that, don’t you, God.” And that is true; God does have to punish us with death for our sin. By pointing out our sin to God, Satan is saying that we must die; he controls death.
Now this does not mean that we can blame this all on Satan! Satan may lure us but we are willing to go along because sin fascinates us and we like it! Someone once wrote, “Why is it that opportunity knocks only once, yet temptation bangs on the door constantly?” The answer is that we always seem to be looking for things that tempt us. We are always eager to answer the door. Satan lures us to sin and watches with glee as we open the door and grab hold of the sin. And then Satan gladly accuses us of sin so that we must face the penalty of death. Revelation 12:10 says, “Satan, who brings charges against our brothers and sisters, has been thrown down. He brings charges against them before our God day and night.”
Last Sunday morning, as I was praying and going over my sermon for last week’s service, for some reason Satan put into my head a sin that I had done several years ago. That sin made me feel that I was unqualified to bring God’s word. But then in my prayer, God reminded me that I had confessed that sin and as far as God was concerned, it was taken care of and I should not be bothered by that anymore. Satan wanted to derail me but I claimed the promise of the Scriptures that I have been set from the tyranny of the devil!
III. Jesus’ death frees us from slavery to the fear of death.
Verse 15 says Jesus came to “free those held in slavery by their fear of death.” If Jesus’ death frees us from the power or the tyranny of the devil, then Jesus’ resurrection frees us from the final grip of death. Death was finally and soundly defeated when Jesus rose from the tomb. If Jesus had not risen, death would have proved to be victorious. But Jesus did rise and death was defeated; WE ARE FREE! We don’t have to be afraid any longer for we are free from the slavery of death.
Karl Wallenda spent practically his entire life on a high wire, thrilling crowds with his daring high-altitude act. That all ended in 1978 when Wallenda plunged 75 feet to his death before an audience of thousands in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When Wallenda’s widow began to sort out what might have happened that dreadful day, she noted how that recently her husband had become more and more concerned with little details of safety. His precautions became a preoccupation. Instead of all his energies being channeled into performing his act, his purpose had now become how to keep from falling. He was afraid of dying.
Out of this terrible story has come a new label - the Wallenda factor. It cautions us to beware of being so afraid of failure that we dwell only on the negatives. Life is a risk we must take. While we should be careful in a prudent sort of way, we cannot allow ourselves to become paralyzed by the fear of failure. In Jesus Christ we need not be afraid of death and in fact we can be positive and progress on to finish the race because of that.
IV. Is this freedom a reality in your life?
Let’s admit that there are times when our victory doesn’t seem very real. The effects of sin are still very real and evident in our lives. We still struggle with inner temptations and desires. There are temptations that are banging on the door constantly beckoning us to let them in. The world around us seems so out of control and difficult. Sin at times still seems to have a strangle hold on us. And of course, death is certainly still there. Our loved ones die and we feel the intense pain of that loss. Every day brings us closer to the day of our own death. If we are honest, we must admit that there are times when the victory that we believe is true doesn’t seem very real; we don’t feel very free.
Often we get into trouble because we have wandered too close to Satan’s temptation. If we are willing to stay far away, Satan cannot get us for the tyranny of the devil is finished.
“A Christian funeral is a continuation and elaboration of the baptismal service. If baptism is a form of worshipful drama performed at the beginning of the Christian life, a funeral is - or should be - an equally dramatic, and symmetrical, performance of worship performed at the end of life. When Christians traveling along the baptismal path die, the company of the faithful who were there to guide them at the beginning are also there to carry them at the end. In baptism, new Christians are ‘buried with Christ by baptism into death,’ and they come up from the waters raised to ‘walk in newness of life.’ In funerals, these same Christians, having traveled the pilgrim way, are once again buried with Christ in death in the sure confidence that they will be raised to new life. The funeral, then, is not just a collection of inspiring words said on the occasion of someone’s death. It is, rather, a dramatic event in which the church acts out what it believes to be happening from the perspective of faith.”
We have been freed from death’s power because Jesus purchased us. We need not fear death; Jesus’ resurrection assures us of that!