So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1, verse 4.
There are folks who say they don’t believe in Jesus or God because they don’t believe in things that are supernatural. I’ve met them; you probably have as well. One friend told me he didn’t believe in God because he rejected the idea that some supernatural being would hold us accountable for original sin. When I asked him about feeling the consequences of things done before him, he went off on a line of argument I no longer remember because I quickly tuned him out.
But what about you? Do you believe in the supernatural? Do you believe in angels? Years ago, my toddler son and I were in our two story house, at home cleaning (actually, I was cleaning and he was playing). He was upstairs in his room and I ran downstairs to get something. A few seconds later I heard the stereo start blaring and I immediately thought “what has he done now?” I assumed he had climbed the shelves to jack up the volume. So I angrily ran upstairs to find him still sitting at the other end of the room, where he had accidentally taken a bottle of bleach and sprayed it in his eyes. There was no physical way he could have toddled to the stereo cabinet, climbed the shelves, gotten down and toddled back to where he was and sprayed the bleach. Something else happened. A coincidental power surge? Maybe…or maybe not. I prefer to think the supernatural reached into our natural world.
People of Jesus’ day believed in the supernatural. They lived in the century during the waning years following the fall of the Greek empire: the same Greece who spread her devotion to democracy, philosophy and reason throughout the world she conquered as well as the assumption that the supernatural was just as real as that new humanist thinking. People back then believed that angels were real, and that they regularly participated in human existence as agents of the supernatural Almighty. Angels were beings with mighty powers, able to do superhuman tasks that regular people couldn’t do.
Have we become so ‘advanced’ as to think the supernatural possibilities no longer exist in a natural world we don’t fully understand?
No matter, the author of Hebrews states that Jesus the God-man is superior to the angels. He, the Almighty deity who chose to immaculately conceive of Himself in humble origins, is superior to the angels created to be supermen. Jesus, the obscure carpenter and wayward prophet who was executed as a heinous criminal is superior to Michael, Gabriel and all the other supernatural beings – even Lucifer – created to serve God’s purposes.
Jesus is the bigger man…because He’s God. Consider all this is being said in a letter to encourage new Jewish converts familiar skeptical of these ideas. Remember that this verse comes immediately after verses establishing how Jesus exactly is and represents God the Father in every way God ordains. When we see Jesus, we’re seeing God. You and I, we’re sinful, impure human beings; I’m the father who immediately assumed his son was misbehaving instead of assuming he could be in danger. Without Jesus making things right, we have no way to stand in front of the just and holy God and not be vanquished for eternity.
What’s more, consider the name. First century Jews understood that a name represented much about a person. Their character, their mission in life, attributes about them: all these things were summed up in one’s name. In the Hebrew language, Jesus means “God saves.” In Hebrew and ancient tradition, as well, angels could not have or be sons. But Jesus was given the name “God saves” and He was a son: a human adopted son to Joseph and the begotten Son of God. The name Jesus would have held great importance to the early believers of the church. Kind of makes you give pause when selecting baby names today.
Yes, Jesus did make things right; He restored harmony to God’s plan by bringing the means for salvation. He did it because He is all-powerful, because He’s greater and above the things we think of as powerful. He did it because He and He alone could supernaturally reach into our world and set things back in order. An angel couldn’t do that. Lucifer doesn’t want that done. But Jesus did it. He still does it today.
In the coming verses we’ll see how the author uses Old Testament Scripture (with which the Hebrew converts would have been familiar) to prove Jesus’ divinity. And in the years since that day when I was cleaning the house, I’m thankful some angel paid us a visit to convince a distracted young father that his infant son was in danger.
For more reading: Ephesians 1:21, Philippians 2: 9-10.
Lord, I’m thankful that You and only You are above all beings and above all names.