That’s how this chapter opens. We are reminded of the relevance of God’s message, as revealed through Jesus Christ, and instructed to stay focused on the greatness of what is offered through God without straying.
Most Bibles have headings before each section of text. The Bibles I looked at have this section labeled as, “Warning to Pay Attention,” or something similar. These headings are not part of the original text but are added by the publisher. And, while sometimes helpful, I think that in this case the heading is misleading. The first verse and a half sound a bit like a warning, but the rest of this passage is more a celebration of God’s redemption as declared by Jesus Christ, perpetuated by those who heard Jesus, and validated by the distribution of gifts of the Holy Spirit.
What strikes me in this brief passage (besides that it is not so much a warning but an affirmation) is that the author acknowledges the importance of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and humanity when speaking of salvation! We often think of salvation as being wrapped up completely in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While this is not an incorrect understanding, the author of Hebrews broadens the scope and invites us to stretch our thinking as well.
This passage opens with a reminder to hold fast to the message of justice and salvation, then quickly reminds us that justice and salvation can be best understood when we recognize the work of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and recognize the gifts bestowed upon humanity as well.
As you read this passage, I encourage you to think about how you understand salvation and redemption, and to reflect on what gifts the Holy Spirit has gifted to you? How do you use those gifts to move toward redemption in the world?
We had recently moved to a new town and were getting to know all the little shops and restaurants. One day I was having lunch at a little restaurant and was chatting with the server about all that they had to offer. The server was very knowledgeable about their food and drinks, when the restaurant had opened and all of its operations. It was a great pleasure to talk with him. A couple weeks later, Holly and I were in the same restaurant for dinner. I saw the server but this day, he was not serving tables. He was on his cellphone ordering food and merchandise and making schedules because he was the owner.
The first day I was there, the restaurant had been slow and I didn’t realize the actual role this man had. I should have paid closer attention to who this person was. He had given me enough clues to make it out but I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
This is what the author of Hebrews is doing in this section. The author is calling our attention to see Jesus as he really is. There are seven different quotations from the Hebrew scripture in this section of this letter. They come at us fast and furious. The author is using these texts to make a very important point. Some thought that Jesus was simply an angel sent from God and not God’s son. They had missed the very nature of who Jesus is and the author wanted to set them straight.
The author points back to the Torah and Psalms to say that God never spoke of the angels like God speaks of the Son. God claims Jesus as God’s Son and the angels are called to worship him. This Jesus, which the author will spend most of the letter talking about, is the one who is called to be on the throne at the right hand of God. And this one who is seated on the throne is the one who is going to bring about God’s justice.
As we study through Hebrews this Lent, pay close attention to the way the author describes Jesus. What are the new things being revealed to you about Jesus? What parts of Jesus’ nature are being revealed to you?
– Pastor Drew
HEBREWS 1:1-4: AN EXALTED AND LOFTY VIEW OF CHRIST
The author of Hebrews comes out of the gate swinging.
Unlike some of the other New Testament letters we encounter before Hebrews, this missive does not contain a familiar greeting, an identification of the sender/recipient, or any of the more personal touches that one comes to expect from the books of the New Testament. Instead, we hit the ground running with four verse of intense theology, a high Christology, and confessional statements that make most seminarians’ heads spin. It is a dense four verses we are given to start the book and it is appropriate for us to dwell a bit in the language, the assertions, and the tone that is being set for the chapters that follow. The author insists that Jesus is king, prophet and priest and he is far above and beyond our wildest expectations of Emmanuel (God with us).
First, we should acknowledge the historical, theological and literarily contextual debate surrounding the authorship of Hebrews. It is unlike any other text we have in the New Testament. It contains a complicated structure from start to finish. It is full of Old Testament references and allusions. The title of “Letter to the Hebrews” was a later addition, coming sometime in the 2nd century after the text was already being touted as having been written by Paul. It’s unlikely that Paul is the author since the words, the themes and the history of Paul do not seem to match up with anything we see in this book. In Chapter 13, we will get some personal references from the author, but nothing so definitive as to make us believe Paul is behind this book.
It reads more like a sermon or theological essay than a letter. I think that is why I enjoy the notion of studying this book together this Lent. It is full of callbacks to the law and prophets, along with numerous eloquent and convincing theological concepts about the identity of Jesus Christ.
This Lent, we are preparing to be confronting by this same Jesus at the cross and again at the empty tomb. But who do we think, know, believe and hope Jesus is? When we describe him, what language do we use? What truths do we lean upon? I would challenge you to consider three questions throughout this study through Hebrews. Ask these questions each time you read the passage and see what God reveals to you through your interpretation.
1.) Who does the text say Jesus is?
2.) Who do I believe Jesus is?
3.) How do the answers to these two questions impact my life?
I look forward to your comments, questions, thoughts and wonderings as we read Hebrews together this Lent.
Per requests from folks yesterday, here are video and audio versions of my sermon on Luke 6:1-26. We cannot stand by and say the actions barring refugees from our country are purely political. They are profoundly spiritual and theological. Stand with me.
Forgive my arrogant assumption but I am prouder of the sermon I delivered yesterday, in celebration of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., than I am of the hundreds of sermons I delivered prior to yesterday. The Luke 4:14-30 text was so appropriate for today. Please give it a listen and feel free to share it with others.
Do we say what people want to hear? Does our faith guide our politics or are our politics guided by our faith? Do we substitute contentment and satisfaction for the challenge of the gospel?