Hebrews 2:11-15 is one of the great theological statements in the New Testament about Jesus and his death:
The one who makes others holy, and the ones who are made holy, all belong to the same family. This is why he isn't ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters, when he says, "I will announce your name to my brothers and sisters; I will sing your p;raise in the middle of the assembly," and again, "I will place my trust in him," and again, "look, here I am, with the children God has given me." Since the children share in blood and flesh, he too shared in them, in just the same way, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and set free the people who all their lives were under the power of slavery because of the fear of death. (N.T. Wright, Hebrews for Everyone).
This text says we are all in the same family. A number of texts in the New Testament speak of the church as a family with God as Father and us as brothers and sisters. The Gaithers wrote a song about it: I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God …”. But this text focuses on something that the others do not. It is all about the elder brother in the family.
Elder brothers have not always enjoyed a good reputation. Sometimes they are patronizing, bossy, and look down on their siblings, or just ignore them. But even when there is squabbling among brothers and sisters, if an outside threat appears, the elder brother or sister will do everything possible to protect the others. As in Sprague, WA last recently when a young man attempted to kidnap a toddler and his oldest sister screamed and chased him until others joined in and saved the boy.
When I was a boy about 12 years old I had a newspaper stand in down town Milwaukie where I sold Portland papers on Saturdays. One day a bigger, stronger bully showed up who wanted to take over and threatened bodily harm if I returned the next Saturday. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have an older brother to take along for support. Fortunately, my Dad learned about the problem and went with me to make sure nothing happened.
Hebrews is saying that we have an elder brother who has acted on our behalf. The biggest bully on the block, the devil, had threatened our very lives. He held the power of death and there was nothing we could do about it. But then our elder brother came and, as Hebrews says, through death he destroyed the one who has the power of death and set us free. He fought the fight for us. He laid down his life on our behalf. Which is why we hear him say to us now: “This bread is my body, given for you … this cup is my blood shed on your behalf”. And we respond, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord – our elder brother!”