My passion is to preach Christ from all of Scripture. Should you wish to listen, I invite your reflection (and comments if you wish) as to whether the words you hear bear His character. Are they, like him, “full of grace and truth”? (John 1:14)
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These verses serve to introduce the high priesthood of Christ, one of the major themes of the letter. Much of what’s introduced in summary here is filled out in the following chapters. The doctrine of the humanity of Christ is fundamental to the complete, eternal salvation we receive in him. Jesus, fully God and fully human, knows our weaknesses. Not only can he represent us to God, he can bring us right into the majestic and holy presence of God. And when that happens it’s for keeps.
Continuing from chapter 3, we consider the ‘rest’ that is still God’s promise to his people. God’s rest is kept for us in heaven, and is certain so long as we, unlike Israel, trust God’s capacity to keep his promise however bleak things may look. Finally Psalm 95’s plea to God’s people not to harden their hearts by unbelief is met with the best cure for hardened human hearts — the penetrating power of the word of God. Has your soul been pierced?
Here is the most extended warning in the book of Hebrews so far. The awful possibility in view is sliding into unbelief, even after seeing God’s mighty work in salvation. It happened to Israel in the desert. And church history has been the story of the waxing and waning of real faith and Christ-like living. How unwise we’d be to imagine it could not happen to us. Two antidotes to spiritual drift:
- Don’t stop thinking about Jesus;
- Encourage one another.
Jesus challenges a zealous crowd of materialistic political activists to invest their energy on the kind of food that lasts. This, the fourth ‘sign’ recorded in John’s gospel, points us to the raging spiritual hunger Jesus really wants to satisfy – forever.
Hebrews is a warning letter. The first of several warnings against ‘spiritual drift’ opens this chapter. We’re warned against sliding away from following Jesus by neglect. Having paused for the warning, the writer returns to extolling the perfections of Jesus. Jesus became one of us, and as such he is able to be the complete Saviour we need.
The message of the writer to the Hebrews might be summed up like this:
I want you to know just how gloriously splendid Jesus is, that he has no rivals. I want you to be left in no doubt about his matchless supremacy, so that from now on the very idea of giving up on him, or drifting off into some kind of spiritual half-life, or trying something else – will seem pure madness.
Jesus is uniquely God in person and action, superior to everything the old covenant could offer. (Just for starters, in this first chapter, there’s no comparison between his dignity and that of any angel.) Most importantly, his high priestly work of providing purification from sin is complete.
Ordinary Sunday 17, Year C
Jesus gives his friends a prayer to pray, now known to us ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. It seems to be an actual prayer he intended us to pray when together, in the best tradition of the synagogue. It’s a very Jewish prayer, which also captures many of the themes prominent in Jesus’ teaching. But for the whole breadth of Christian prayer according to the Scriptures, we need more than this prayer alone. Just for starters, Jesus moves on to a ‘parable sandwich’, which encourages us to pray with confident expectation of being heard.
The gospels invite us to ‘look’ at Jesus through reading the record of his life, actions and teaching, and then to form our own conclusions on what we observe. This, the third of John’s recorded ‘signs’, invites us to observe Jesus doing what only God can do, and then to decide the implications.
Ordinary Sunday 14, Year C
Jesus has come not only to be the Messiah of Israel, but the Saviour of the whole world. With such a vast mission (plentiful harvest), many many more labourers are needed. So pray … but don’t pray unless you’re willing to be among those who go as one of the gospel workers. And the kinds of gospel workers Jesus seeks are those first captured by the joy that all their sins are forgiven and that God knows them forever.
God has always been more ready to than even his most fervent intercessors are to pray, and his purposes are the ones that carry the day in the end.