Christ, Our Captain, Compared with Joshua
Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Captain America is not the most powerful superhero on the Avengers roster. He is not as powerful as the Hulk. He is not a god-like being like Thor. He cannot fly, nor does he have an arsenal of weapons like Iron Man. But what he lacks in power, he makes up for in other areas. One of his greatest hero qualities comes not from the super-soldier formula that he was given as a short and skinny Steve Rogers. Rather, it comes from his leadership.
When the Avengers assemble during the battle of New York, Captain American is their leader. During the battle, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow all gather together on the street. Iron Man turns to Captain America and asks what they should do. Captain America takes charge. He gives specific instructions to everyone. Under the leadership of Captain America, the battle is won.
Under the leadership of Captain Joshua, many battles were won by the Israelites. After the Israelites were freed from their slavery in Egypt, twelve men were sent into Canaan to spy on the Promised Land and bring back reports. Joshua and Caleb were the only two out of the twelve spies who trusted God’s promise that God would help them defeat the Canaanite giants.
Joshua was made the Captain of the Lord’s army during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Moses, Aaron, and the people trusted His leadership skills. While striking a rock to miraculously provide water for the people in the desert, Moses let his anger and self-glorification get the better of him. Because of these sins, God did not let Moses lead the Israelites into Canaan.
At the end of the forty years of wandering, at the edge of the desert, Joshua took over the leadership mantle from Moses. He led where Moses could not go. Joshua was chosen to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He led Israel on the last leg of the journey, across the flooding Jordan River, past Jericho’s tumbling walls, and into a land flowing with milk and honey.
Joshua led an effective seven-year military conquest of Canaan. Joshua always trusted that since God set the agenda and sent His army on the campaign, they would be victorious. Joshua wasn’t intimidated by the size of the warriors or the strength of the cities. If God took care of the mighty Egyptian army, He could certainly take care of the various Canaanite tribes.
Captain American led the Avengers into battle against Loki and the Chitauri. Captain Joshua led the children of Israel into battle against the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Hivites, and others. Each Captain was willing to give his life in battle as he led his forces against staggering odds.
Yet, Jesus is a Captain that is above all other captains. He went into battle against the forces of humanity’s sinful natures, against the dictator of the devil and his demonic hordes, against the tyrant of death, and the vast army of world leaders that have opposed Him. He didn’t lead His army into battle. He is the army. He is an army of One. Not only was He willing to give His life in battle – He did that very thing.
The inspired writer to the Hebrews writes: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Our Lord did not sit in some remote throne room in heaven, watching and sadly shaking His head at our feeble and futile efforts. Instead, He Himself came down to earth and took on our human nature. He made Himself a little lower than the angels. He shed His robes of glory. He took off His crown of majesty. He laid them aside to put on human flesh and blood. What a sight that must have been for the angels as their Lord stepped down from His glorious throne and into the womb of a woman and thereby made Himself a little lower than the angels.
Jesus lowered Himself so that He might “taste death.” This means more than a mere sip of the dreadful cup of God’s wrath poured out on humanity. Rather, Jesus came to drain it completely and drink every last drop. He came to experience it fully.
How can we reach the Promised Land of heaven? How can we be prepared to live and reign in the world to come? The writer to the Hebrews says there is only one way – by seeing Jesus.
“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Various English Bibles call Jesus in this verse our “Captain,” “Pioneer,” “Source,” or “Author” of our salvation. That’s why Jesus is a Captain of our salvation compared with Joshua, the captain of the Israelites.
God, the Commander and Chief, sent His Captain on a military campaign into enemy territory in order to rescue humanity from the dictator of the devil. This rescue plan was not some haphazard happening. It began in the heart and mind of our eternal God “for whom and by whom all things exist.”
God made Jesus “perfect through sufferings.” Jesus reached His goal. And that goal was to win salvation through His sufferings. Jesus, our Captain, went behind enemy lines. He was betrayed by one in His own ranks. The rest of His rag-tag group of patriots fled at the first sign of danger. He was arrested, beaten, and humiliated. He was not treated humanely as a prisoner of war according to the provisions set forth by the Geneva Convention. He was unjustly condemned to death and punished as an enemy combatant.
Yet it was through this suffering that our Captain won the greatest victory. He crushed the dictator’s head. He freed us from the sin that shackles us. He released us from the prison of hell. He paid the ransom price and rescued us from our captors.
Jesus didn’t merely lead to salvation. He did more than blaze a trail to the Promised Land of heaven. He is the Source of our salvation – salvation comes through Him. He is the Pioneer of our salvation – He is the way to the Father (John 14:6). He is the Author of our salvation – He wrote and carried out the plan of saving us. He is the Captain of our salvation – He broke down the walls so we might enter the Land promised to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua.
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Think about your relationship with Jesus. Because of sin, it began as one of hostility and hatred. You didn’t want anything to do with God. You were enjoying your life as a slave in Satan’s household. You didn’t know any better. It wasn’t always great, but it was pleasurable. You had no interest in a Promised Land. You were comfortable and complacent in your slavery.
But then Jesus came along to pull you out of the dark pit of your own sin. This was no sterile exercise on His part. For Him it was personal. Whether you wanted it or not, He came because His compassionate heart could not bear the thought of letting you perish. And so He left His glory among the angels to make Himself lower than the angels. He was conceived in an unwed teenager. His first crib was a feeding trough. As a traveling rabbi, He had no place to lay His head.
He escaped the murderous plans of King Herod. He endured the temptations of the devil. He withstood the attacks of His religious enemies. He sustained wounds to His head, hands, feet, side, and back. And yet, through it all, He did not sin once. By becoming human and suffering as the God-Man, He took your place. He lived the perfect life you could not live. Then He took upon Himself the crushing weight of all your sin and endured the horrors of hell to pay for them in full. In doing all of this, your Captain won your salvation.
Now the Captain of your salvation lives. And because He lives, you do, too. You live life hand-in-and with the Captain of your salvation, free from sin’s curse, free from the guilt of your past, and free from fear about the future.
But there’s more. The Holy Spirit has brought you to faith in your Captain. That means He sanctified you. He makes you holy in Christ’s holiness. But you aren’t sanctified to just remain servants of another master. Or sanctified as grunts in a different army. You are sanctified as part of God’s holy family. You belong to God and God belongs to you. That’s why this last phrase is so awesome: “Jesus is not ashamed to call you brethren.”
How awesome is that? Jesus has every right to be ashamed of us. We allowed ourselves to be captured by the devil. We were so far lost that we didn’t even know we needed rescuing. Every time we sin, we flee back to the dictator’s headquarters. We caused the Son of God to humble Himself, leave heaven, and suffer hell. It was our fault. Despite all that, Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brethren.
Captain America’s leadership led to earthly victory. Captain Joshua’s leadership led to conquering Canaan. But the Captain of our salvation led to an eternal victory over sin, death, and the devil. Follow your Captain to your salvation in the Promised Land of heaven. Amen.