There has been a lot of talk in recent decades, and more militant talk with each passing year, about the global catastrophe we human beings are wreaking upon poor planet earth. Granted, some of the details seem to change over time – like just how many people is too many (is it 3 billion, 4, 5, 8?) or whether the planet is going to freeze to death or suffer from heat exhaustion, or just go crazy with all kinds of dramatic change – but there has never been any doubt among any of the doomsayers as to who or what is to blame. It is us. Humans. And you know, while we are free to disagree with their predictions for our future (and you should if you have read your Bible) you cannot really disagree about the special impact we humans have on this world.
Our honoured place in creation is something Christians have recognized from the very beginning. 6It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.
But while recognizing our particular place in this world, notice that we believe it is an honoured position not a criminal one. We human beings have been honoured by God to take care of His creation. Now, truth be told, there has been debate as to whether this quote in Hebrews refers to Adam and Eve or if it refers to Christ. The answer is probably yes to both. The language of Psalm 8 quoted here cannot help but evoke the imagery of Genesis 1:26–31 in which God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth. At the same time, this Hebrews text clearly makes strong connections to Christ. So, how might we do justice to both at the same time? By realizing they are both part of the same story – a story that also includes us.
Humans are creatures of God. What is man that God is mindful of him? He is simply a creature along with all the other creatures. Yet, we are also singularly not like the rest of God’s creatures (even the militant environmentalists are happy to say so). God has made us a little lower than the angels and given us our honoured position to reflect God’s own dominion over creation. So how does God rule? So that everything blooms and blossoms like in a well-watered garden (Isaiah). God rules so that everything flourishes by His work. That includes the creation, animals, and humans. That was God’s vision for His creation. It also became our responsibility as image bearers of God. We are to be the custodians, the namers, the caretakers, and stewards of God’s creation. We are to mold and shape this creation to His glory, making it truly flourish and thrive. But that brings us to how the author to the Hebrews connects Psalm 8 to Christ.
8At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. We don’t see that dominion that God intended. Clearly something has gone wrong with the original intention. Humans did not rule for the benefit of creation. They did not want to rule as a reflection of God’s gracious dominion. They wanted to rule and be in control as God himself. They wanted to rule for their own benefit. And as a result, everything has gone wrong. In this at least the environmental alarmists are close to the truth. You may deny the apocalyptic visions of our devastated future, but you cannot deny that our world and so much of what is in it is broken. Garbage, pollution, wars, conflict, greed – natural disasters, sickness, disease, killing indiscriminately. A nature red in tooth and claw is not the very good vision God intended, it is the consequence of our failing to live up to the honour we were given in the garden.
And that is why this quotation speaks not just of us, but of our brother and saviour too! 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
And this is the Good News for those so very afraid of where we are headed as a species. We who were honoured to care for this creation but failed, are now twice honoured to receive care directly from our creator! Not only did God honour us with the role of being responsible over creation, he now honours us by becoming a human creature so that in Him, that right dominion would finally be restored. The Creator enters His creation by becoming incarnate. For a time Jesus voluntarily set aside the divine majesty shared with His human nature so that He might suffer and die for us. And even more, that He might be raised up and seated at the right hand of God for us.
10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin … 14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery
The Word of God, by whom all things were spoken into creation is Himself enfleshed in this creation to re-create it. But to do this He must himself be broken and discarded. To bring back life and hope, our Lord had to lower Himself to death and despair. Jesus’ death has drained the cup of sin and death that poisoned every person and the whole of this creation. The Son of God assumed into the unity of his person this same human nature, though without sin, and thus took on Himself not alien flesh, but our own, and according to our flesh has truly become our brother1
17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
In Christ Jesus the Creator became our brother. And “brother” is not limited to the Jews or to believers. It denotes all human beings – activist, skeptic or outright denier. A brother who was honoured to lay down His life for one and all. In Christ Jesus a man rightly rules over all creation. He is in control, even when so much seems distressingly out of control. The world will not end by our hand no matter how bad it seems. It cannot, for He holds it in His own. And it is an honour – twice the honour – to know it and share it with those still trapped in their sin, those who still live in fear, as we once did.
1The Formula of Concord, Epitome, I,5 (Tappert 466)