Hebrews 2:9 and New Coke?

Do you remember New Coke? You have to be a certain age even to be aware of this story. It happened during my teen years, so I remember this pretty well.

In the Spring of 1985 some knuckleheads at Coke decided they would launch the reformulation of Coca Cola to compete with their rival, Pepsi. Obviously this was months, even years in the making.

Just after World War II Coke’s market share was 60%. By the 1980s it had fallen to 24% and Pepsi was beginning to outsell Coke in supermarkets. Coke was still dominant because of its vending machines and restaurant sales, but the executives thought the handwriting was on the wall. They were scared.

Pepsi was promoting taste tests that kept coming back with Pepsi being the preferred drink. Coke downplayed them, but their own internal research showed the same thing. They were afraid Pepsi was going to overtake them.

So in a bit of hubris they decided to change the taste of Coke and make it sweeter, like Pepsi’s taste. They completely eliminated the old Coke formula and went 100% with New Coke. They were all in. It was a marketing disaster. Within three months they brought back the taste of Coke under the Coke Classic brand name. Eventually that went away and New Coke died the death it needed to die. Coke completely reverted to its original formula.

Why did they change the formula? Why not just add the New Coke taste as another product and still keep the Old Coke too?

I read a story on this a few years ago in the book, Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell that said part of the problem was how they conducted taste tests in the ‘80s. Pepsi was winning taste tests head-to-head with Coke, but they were a particular kind of taste test. They were actually called sip tests. As you can guess, you didn’t drink an entire can, you just took a sip or a small cup. And in sip tests Pepsi would win hands down. But the problem is nobody drinks pop like that. Nobody takes a sip and puts it back in the fridge. Another taste test involved giving tasters a case of Pepsi and a case of Coke and checking back with them in a few weeks. In those home tests Coke would win.

So the Coke executives changed the formula for Coke on the basis of sip tests even though that’s not really the way to taste a product.

Hebrews 2:9 (ESV) But 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.

Jesus tasted death for all of us, and it’s important to know that this wasn’t a sip test. The word “taste” might make us think that it was just a little mouthful, but that’s not the intention of the Greek word.

When our oldest son was a baby, my in-laws visited us one time. We were at a restaurant and I think my mother-in-law put a little pop in the end of a straw and put it on Justin’s tongue. His little baby face showed shock at the taste of Coke. You could say that he tasted Coke.

The word in Hebrews 2:9 doesn’t mean a taste like that. It actually means that Jesus thoroughly tasted death. He experienced it all. He didn’t take a sip test or just the little drop in the end of a straw. He drank it all.

This means that we don’t have to face death like Jesus did. He took the punishment for sin. He faced God’s wrath in death so we don’t have to.

Jesus tasted death for you. That’s what this passage says. Now it’s not saying that you won’t die if you trust Jesus. He’s saying that death has been stripped of its power, or its horror. We don’t need to fear death. You will die should Christ tarry His coming, but you won’t experience what makes death truly horrible—separation from God.

Paul the Apostle says it this way.

1 Corinthians 15:55 (ESV) “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Death has been stripped of its sting for the Christian. Jesus faced the sting of death. He was separated from God the Father for six hours on the cross so you don’t have to be. God the Father condemned Jesus as He became sin for us. That’s the sting of death and Jesus took it for you.

Death has been emptied of its power for the believer. We don’t need to fear it. Many Christians have believed this at the point of death, and they have calmly, joyfully, gone to see their heavenly Father.

Now, because of Jesus, we don’t lose with death. We only gain. We gain heaven. We gain Christ. We gain freedom from sin. We gain presence with the Lord. Death has been emptied of its power by the One who tasted death for every man.

Lost then Found

There’s a story to this picture. This past weekend we were driving to see our son in Colorado when we pulled off the interstate for a minute. My wife was sleeping, and my daughter was driving when we were in the middle of nowhere in Northeastern Colorado. The exits on that stretch of interstate are about 10 miles apart. It’s a desolate area. It was one stop on a long, 11-hour drive. We arrived at our hotel that night and while we were getting our luggage my wife told me she could only find one shoe. I had noticed her shoes when I got out earlier in our journey, but I thought I was careful; however, one shoe was missing. Laura walked to our room with only one shoe on—she really did! I was sorry, but there was nothing I could do. They weren’t expensive, but they were new shoes.  

We had a great weekend, dropped our daughter at the airport, our son back at school, and we hit the road. My daughter told us that she thought we were about 2:20 from our hotel when we stopped. Our hotel was south of Denver so Laura plugged in the address and tried to figure out what exit we might have stopped at. She offered to drive and we arrived at the exit where she thought we might find her shoe. We pulled off the road and there was her shoe, sparkling in the sunlight. We were both so thrilled—my wife because her detective work paid off and me because the shoe I accidentally kicked out of the minivan was found undamaged. Some lost things are found.

I’ve been thinking a little about finding things that are lost. My son texted me this week that he needed his social security card. I went to the place in the house where I keep them, and it wasn’t there. I found passports, birth certificates, and other social security cards, but not his. Laura and I looked all around in every place we could imagine, and we never found it. Some lost things are never found.

My wife’s shoe did nothing to be found. It was in exactly the same spot as when it fell out of the car three days previous. And I know my son’s social security card hasn’t done anything to be found because we haven’t found it!

Every person alive today was lost; some have been found. But if you were found, it’s all because of Christ. You did nothing to be found.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10 (ESV)

I’m glad Jesus sought me and saved me. I’m glad salvation doesn’t depend upon me. If it did, I’d still be lost—like my son’s social security card.

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