Held in Trust
It’s an interesting Psalm, partly because it does not seem to ring true; and when that happens in the Bible we might be on our way to an insight.
Psalm 8 says, “what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4-5) And now here comes the kicker, “You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:6-8)
You might say, “Well, that would be nice. All the beasts of the field? ‘Hey bear, leave that alone,’ and it does? ‘Hey deer, come on over here,’ and it does? ‘Hey fish, jump in the net, OK?’ But you know, I haven’t seen any of that lately.”
You would be correct. That’s why so many interpretations of Psalm 8 say, “this is obviously about Jesus.” Yes, it is, and that is a good beginning. But we should not stop at the beginning. This is Ascension Day and this psalm has a lot to do with the Ascension of Jesus.
Jesus is the Son of Man, and for a while He took a place lower than the heavenly beings. He was born and made Himself part of the flesh, blood, bone and skin collection of human beings – one of us. Paul says, “He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant …” (Philippians 2:5-11) But even as Jesus took on our lowly nature, the world of nature was coming back into harmony with Him. Mark tells about the temptations in the wilderness like this, “He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And He was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to Him.” (Mark 1:13) Jesus was restoring the original pattern of creation, standing in our place. In His person Jesus restored the proper relationship between mankind and nature. Jesus holds that in trust for us until the day of the resurrection when we are glorified.
Jesus went further. “He became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) And as Jesus laid down His life, the natural world responded. Matthew reports, there was darkness for the tree hours, and “the earth shook and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:45, 51) But then there is the victory. "Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name." (Philippians 2:9)The whole creation joins in praising Him. (Revelation 5:13)
I haven’t even named the verses that talk about wind, waves, water, wine, bread, fish, and a fig tree. All of creation is subject to Jesus. In fact, the whole creation longs to be subject to Him. “… the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:20-22)
But once again this is Ascension Day. We are celebrating that Jesus (our brother) ascended (as our brother) into heaven. He rules all things and God has given Him the name above all names – and He is still our brother.
When the Psalm says “son of man” (Psalm 8:4) it is calling Jesus your brother. When it says, “You have put all things under His feet …” (Psalm 8:6-8) it is calling you His brother or sister. You see, the victory He won; He won it for you. And Jesus has taken the place of glory, but the glory of Jesus is to make us glorious.
There is a part of the letter to the Hebrews that meditates on Psalm 8. It says He “was made lower than the angels … that by the grace of God he might suffer death for everyone.” And then it talks about, “bringing many sons to glory” and says, “That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers …” (Hebrews 2:9-11)
Jesus has dominion over the created world. But He does not hoard dominion for Himself alone. What Jesus holds He holds for you. He holds it in trust until the day when He can bring us all into glory and fully share the glories and blessings with us. The ascension and glory we celebrate today is actually a promise of our future. Like Paul says, we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23) The apostle John joins in and says, “when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
Lord Jesus, fill my vision this day with the promises You have given, that one day I will see Your glory and share in the blessings of eternal life. One day You will bring me into the full glory You have prepared, and I will celebrate and sing, and then live forever. Right now, in the middle of following You, help me to live in hope, and trust You for each of the days that come along. Amen.
Rev. Mark Willig
Pastor Willig is pastor emeritus of Friends in Christ Lutheran Church.