The Hebrew writer has some compelling things to say about death in 2:5-18. In doing so, he speaks of two individuals and one group.
- He first talks about “Jesus . . . suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (v. 9);
- Then he mentions “him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil (v. 14);
- Finally, he speaks of “those who all of their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (v. 15).
There you have it—Jesus tasting death for everyone, Satan’s power, and man’s fear. It’s not just compelling, it’s comprehensive!
Christ tasted death for all men. He didn’t have a sip or a quick swallow—He tasted it. He wasn’t worthy of death. He had done nothing to deserve seeing His life end in the way that it did. But He went to His death in obedience to His Father and on behalf of others. Through His death on the cross we’re told that Jesus made atonement for the sins of man (v. 17).
In making atonement, the writer zeroes in on two things that were accomplished. The first is that Jesus broke the power of the one holding the power of death (i.e., the devil). Satan has the power of (sin and) death in that (adapted from J.C. Philpot):
- through him it came into the world (Genesis 3; John 8:44),
- by it he rules his kingdom (Colossians 1:13),
- with it he terrifies (if we have no Savior, then death is our enemy because it is where hope ends).
By contrast, Jesus brought in righteousness and life (Romans 5:17). Because of this, Satan has no power over Him. Three times in John’s gospel Jesus alludes to this as He says of Satan:
- he has no hold over Me (John 14:30),
- the prince of this world stands condemned (John 16:31),
- the prince of this world will be driven out (12:31).
Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities (Colossians 2:15). More to our point, because of His sinlessness, death had no (lasting) power over Him. Peter will says, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24). The Hebrew writer will speak of His “indestructible life” (7:16). Unlike us, Jesus’ life couldn’t be picked apart by Satan or anyone.
That’s where we fit in. Because death had no power over Jesus; it has no power over those who belong to Him. In Him, there is peace with God (Romans 5:1), because there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). The fear of death and been replaced by the assurance of life (1 John 5:13).
What happened at the cross was momentous and needs to be pondered, appropriated, proclaimed, and appreciated. As Paul said, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56).