My wife Melody's self control is impressive, especially this time of year. Over these next few weeks, she and I will be attending several Christmas parties, all of which are bound to have a wide array of holiday treats and eats, from Christmas cookies to cakes to brownies to fudge. It is in these times that Melody's willpower most clearly shines through. With a table of caloric temptation spread before her, she grabs a plate and takes hardly a thing. When I ask her, "Don't you want some more to eat?" her response is inevitably, "No, I just want a taste." Just a taste? Just a taste of gooey chocolate chip cookies? Just a taste of melt-in-your-mouth delectable fudge?
Unfortunately, I do not share Melody's self-control when it comes to food. To quote the old Lays Potato Chip slogan, "No one can eat just one." This is most certainly true of me. If one piece of fudge is good, two must be better. My plate will probably wind up piled all too high at these yuletide galas.
In our reading for today from Hebrews 2, Jesus takes just a taste. But the taste that he takes is not of some holiday treat, but of a dreadful death: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (verse 9). Jesus, the author of Hebrews says, is our "taste-tester." And he has tasted the bitter plate of death for you and for me.
But how can a person just "taste" death? After all, death is not exactly something you can sample to see if it's to your liking. No, once you die, you have ingested the totality of death. No leftovers of life remain.
But with Jesus things are different. For Jesus did indeed die, but he did not stay that way. His death was just a taste of death, for life awaited three days later. And by his death and resurrection, Jesus also managed to destroy the very chef of death, Satan himself. As the author of Hebrews says: "By his death Christ destroyed him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil" (verse 14). And now the promise is that because Jesus has tasted the eternal death of hell for us, we will never have to: "If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death" (John 8:52). Jesus has tasted - and trampled - death's diner of hell.
Now, in Christ, we are invited to another taste. But this taste is a taste of life: "Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him" (Psalm 34:8). Our Lord invites us to taste his goodness, savor his life, and sample his salvation. We can taste him in his Word, which is food for our souls (cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). We can taste him in Communion as he comes to us with his body and blood (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). And one day, we will taste with him in a heavenly feast that will have no end (cf. Revelation 19:9). This is the glorious taste of God. And the best part is, you don't just have to have a taste. Go ahead, devour everything on your plate. After all, it's definitely good for you.