The last month or so, my church has been in a teaching series that has been a reflection on some of the older hymns not as commonly sung during Christian worship services anymore. Throughout the series, we have sung contemporary renditions of these same hymns that resonate in the soul with their simplicity and power.
The series has been a coming home for me. The words of the hymns are familiar, and they speak of the greatness of God.
This past week, I have been reflecting on a recent Sunday message on Hebrews 11 and 12. Please hear my heart on this: I am not playing armchair critic, nor am I trying to detract from what was taught. I simply want to offer some additional reflection on the closing exhortation given in the week’s teaching as we were encouraged to do.
Consider Jesus (Hebrews 12:3)
In order to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1), we keep our eyes on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We meditate on who He is, on what He has done and on what He will do.
Jesus’ brief human life and ministry left a remarkable impact on the world. So much so, people are still talking about Him and what He did two thousand years later. Jesus taught His disciples to love God and to love others. He showed them what love was and how to love well. Jesus commanded the disciples to go to all the nations and to teach others what He had taught them.
But to look simply at the man and his teachings as a guide for good and moral living can reflect a narrow view of who Jesus was and what He came to do.
Let’s take a closer look at who the author of Hebrews stated this Jesus was.
First things first: remember that the Christian Bible is a collection of 66 books written by some 35+ human authors over an estimated span of 1500 years. The common thread throughout the Bible is the divine author who guided (not dictated) these writings in order to reveal Himself to humanity. Biblical scholars estimate the book of Hebrews was written sometime before the fall of the temple in Jerusalem (70 AD) because of mention of priestly works in the temple in the present tense throughout the book. It is also very likely that if written after the temple’s destruction, then the author would have made mention of that fact. This means the book was most likely written in the forty year period following Jesus’ crucifixion. The author is unknown but understood Jewish law and tradition and presented a highly organized, well-written argument for who Jesus was.
Jesus Christ is God’s Son
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3).
Bold words with which to start a letter.
Jesus’ divinity is declared at the outset of the epistle as the One “who is the exact representation” of God. Jesus, the Son, was “appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He [God] made the universe (Hebrews 1:2). The author asserts that Jesus now sits in the place of honor and authority at the right hand of the Father in heaven after having “provided purification for sins.”
As the letter unfolds, the author also states: “He [God] also says [of Jesus], ‘In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” (Hebrews 1:10).
Jesus was there at the beginning of creation (cf. Colossians 1:16-17). Like the Father, He exists outside what we know as time. He is unchanging and eternal: “But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Hebrews 1:12b).
Jesus is Greater Than the Angels
“After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs” (Hebrews 1:3b-4).
Angels are created beings, separate from and higher than mankind (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7). According to Hebrews 1:14, they are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (people who choose to put their faith in Christ). The author of Hebrews makes a comparison between the angels and Jesus showing Jesus as their superior (Hebrews 1:5-13). He also states that in the Incarnation (Jesus’ earthly life), He “was made lower than the angels for a little while” (Hebrews 2:9).
This could be confusing, right?
Jesus’ human life however, had a divine purpose. It is in His humanity that Jesus became a “merciful and faithful high priest in service to God” (Hebrews 2:17). It is only in His humanity that He could understand our temptations and suffering, and yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). This is how we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
This “Jesus lives forever”, the author argues, and “He has a permanent priesthood” (Hebrews 7:24). Because of this, He can offer reconciliation with God for those who place their faith in Him (Hebrews 7:25).
“He [Jesus] is the kind of high priest we need because He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.” (Hebrews 7:26).
Jesus is Greater than Moses
“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are His house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory” (Hebrews 3:5-6).
Moses was a leader for the nation of Israel and a faithful servant (Numbers 12:7). He led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, through forty years in the wilderness and introduced the Mosaic Law to the people of Israel. This law was written by and given to Moses from God. As a child, Moses was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter and yet as an adult, he refused to be called her son and enjoy riches, choosing instead to suffer along with the rest of God’s people (Hebrews 11:24-25). Moses has been revered as a great leader throughout history, having suffered the grumbling and rebellion of the people he led. Moses is also commended for his great faith and was able to do what he did “because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:3-4)
Moses, while a great leader and a man of tremendous faith, was human. He was a part of creation. In this analogy, Moses is the house as are the rest of God’s people. The builder is Jesus (Hebrews 1:10). Moses is extolled for his faithfulness as a servant to God’s people, and yet “Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house” (Hebrews 3:6).
Consider Again This Jesus
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”(Hebrews 12:3).
This Jesus was rejected. He was beaten. He was crucified.
Jesus died a death He did not deserve. He died for us the death that we earned. Jesus was buried in a tomb and was resurrected three days later. Jesus appeared first to Peter, then to the Apostles and then to 500 witnesses.
But Jesus is no longer on the cross. He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is the God who entered into human history as a man to suffer and die for our sins and to offer salvation to those who believe.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19).
Can you consider this Jesus?
Photo credit: RomoloTavani