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.
Peace be with you!
– Pastor Andrew