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Nov 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 29, 2020

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1

Intro: This is the Sunday we begin preparing ourselves for Christmas

We start with what Mark calls the beginning of the good news
– Mark doesn’t take us back to the birth of Jesus,
• but to the birth of his ministry, the hour he was baptized
• this was not the beginning of a brand new story,
◦ it was a new episode of a bigger, older story,
. . . when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” (Gal. 4:4-6)
◦ the story of Jesus emerges from Israel’s long history with God
– and now we jump from Mark to Hebrews
• we entered Hebrews this year about the time of our first lockdown,
◦ and spent thirty-six weeks taking a close up look at what’s there
• today we’ll view Hebrews from 30,000 feet
◦ try to grasp its entire landscape, even if we miss many details
◦ with this review of Hebrews, we’ll launch ourselves into Advent season

What is the message of Hebrews?
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4

The message of Hebrews is the same message of whole Bible
– God has spoken and continues to speak to humankind
• his first recorded words: And God said, “Let there be light . . .”
◦ for first six days, God’s only tool was his creative word
◦ he did not roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty until formed the human (Gen. 2:7)
• God’s message has always had one purpose:
◦ to reveal himself to those he made in his image
◦ reveal his intention, his goodness, his love
– John’s gospel opens, In the beginning was the Word
• here it is again, God’s creative Word–only here it is personalized
◦ from here, John builds to,
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)
◦ then further, and to make his point clear, John writes,
No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Jn. 1:18)
• the message of Hebrews is the fullest unfolding of God’s word,
◦ summed up and reaching its climax in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
◦ what is revealed is not mere ideas and propositions, but primarily a person
– everything God had spoken prior to Jesus, was in reference to Jesus
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Lk. 24:44-45)
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (Jn. 5:39)

God sometimes spoke through angels
(see Heb. 2:2; Acts 7:53)

The writer Hebrews had to make it clear that Jesus was not an angel
– he pulled out a cluster of Old Testament quotes to make his point
• humans are lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7)
• and Jesus became one of us,
◦ but he was always more than human or angelic
Richard Bauckham, “To be above the angels is to be God, to be below the angels is to be human. Above the angels, Jesus transcends all creation, sharing the divine identity as Creator and Ruler even of the angels. Below the angels, Jesus shares the common identity of earthly humans in birth, suffering and death.”
– the writer reminds us, we don’t see ourselves as all God has destined us
• but we see Jesus – and this vision is what we hang onto
◦ the writer tells us to consider Jesus, God’s ambassador and mediator (3:1)
• he compares him with Moses – to whom God spoke his law
◦ John made a somewhat different comparison, but it cuts to the point
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17)
◦ Moses was a faithful servant, but at a critical point he failed
◦ he was not able to get Israel out of the wilderness into the land of promise

Joshua took up where Moses left off

He brought Israel into the land
– however, he wasn’t able to lead them into their spiritual destiny
• the problem was with the people
◦ God’s diagnosis of their problem was their hardened hearts
• and behind those hard hearts was unbelief (Heb. 3:15-19)
◦ this sets up one of big ideas in Hebrews: the necessity of faith
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6)
– Israel’s spiritual destiny was to rest in their trust in God
• the writer wants us to reach that destiny in Jesus
◦ it is not merely rest from trouble or chaos, but rest even in trouble or chaos
◦ it is a soul rest that allows us to move through life without anxiety (Mt. 11:28-30)
• we don’t have to create this rest or earn it, the work has been completed (Heb. 4:3)
◦ the door is open – we just have to enter
– it is here we discover God’s word is living and active,
• it will find us and reveal what is inside us
• whether it is what unites us with God or keeps us from coming to him

Jesus is more than angels, Moses, Joshua, and now Israel’s priests

The writer begins this comparison and contrast with a radiant statement,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:14-15)
– and through Jesus, our high priest, we can
with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:16)
• we learn how Jesus was appointed by God to this role
◦ and how he was qualified to fulfill it through what he suffered (Heb. 5:5-9)
– this long section of Hebrews educates in the roles and duties of the priests
• but just as the writer is about to go deep into into it, he stops
◦ he explains that there’s a problem, and it is their failure to thrive (Heb. 5:11-14)
• it is like Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus
◦ they had all pertinent information, but they were missing its meaning
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Lk. 24:25)

By this point in our overview, we see a pattern
– alternating currents of instruction and warning flow through Hebrews
• so the writer prefaces his teaching on Jesus’ priesthood,
◦ with a severe caution
– returning to his subject, the writer can now dive deep
• being a high priest, Jesus is allowed into God’s inner sanctum
◦ not on earth, but in heaven – the real deal
• there he has secured an anchor of the soul
◦ a sure and steadfast hope (Heb. 6:19-20)

We learn that there is not one, but two priestly orders
– they run parallel to each other – they never overlap
• one is the order of Levi – the other is order of Melchizedek
• Jesus belongs to the second
◦ the Levitical priesthood was necessary and effective
◦ but Jesus accomplished everything the other order could not

The new covenant

In carrying out his work as high priest, Jesus became the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb. 7:20-21)
– a covenant is a treaty or agreement that binds two parties in a relationship
• Israel constantly broke God’s covenant with them
◦ God’s solution was to re-write a new covenant, on their hearts
• he made this happen in Jesus
– this brings us to another radiant passage in Hebrews
Therefore, brothers [and sisters], since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:19-22)

Draw near is one of the key themes in Hebrews and appears in a variety of contexts. If we were to ask the writer of Hebrews, “What is worship?” his answer would have been, “It means to draw near to God.” Everything we do as followers of Jesus and in his name is a drawing near to God. This includes not only prayer, praise, and reading the Scriptures, but also our excursions into nature, our interaction with other Christians, and living by faith in God as we walk and work in the world.

• this is followed by a record of people who lived by faith (Heb. ch. 11)
◦ from them we learn what faith is and what it looks like in real life
• but our ultimate example is not the men and women listed here
◦ but Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith
◦ we are to look to Jesus as we run the faith race
and we are to consider him (Heb. 12: 1-3)
– in light of what Jesus endured, we have two important reminders:
first, everything we suffer can be regarded as discipline (Heb. 12:7-12)
◦ a necessary stage of education and enhanced performance
◦ also, a validation of our relationship with God and his love for us
second, where Jesus has brought us (Heb. 12:18-29)
◦ Mount Zion, the spiritual city of God
◦ which is contrasted Mount Sinai, which is where Moses led Israel

The Book of Hebrews trails off with practical concerns

Inserted among them is this important revelation:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever
– Jesus completes the story of God
• he fills in all the missing pieces
• and he meets us in our story
◦ our journey, regardless of how crazy it gets,
◦ takes us closer to God every day

Conclusion: In preparation for Christmas day, here is what we can do

Consider Jesus, look to Jesus, draw close to Jesus
– take a story from one of the gospels and sit with it
• contemplating the scene as it unfolds before you
◦ observe the characters in the story
◦ notice how they interact with Jesus
• let you imagination help you see and hear how Jesus responded
◦ then hang on to whatever truth or insight emerges
◦ write it down and keep it as a reminder

I’ve been thinking about something I watched many times as a child. “Christmas Comes But Once A Year” is an old black and white cartoon that was written in 1936. It begins in an orphanage on Christmas morning as the orphans wake up and jump out of bed with excitement. They run into the main hall of the orphanage, where we see the saddest looking Christmas tree ever. They open packages and pull out what appears to be old and worn out toys and stuffed animals that have seen better days. And as they begin to play with their toys, they immediately break and fall apart. Soon every heart is broken and every child is crying as they drag themselves back into the dormitory and weep on their beds.
An old guy in a sleigh, with “Professor Grampy — Inventor” emblazoned on the side, passes the orphanage and hears all the crying. Looking through the window, he sees the broken toys and broken hearts. He enters the kitchen and starts gathering every utensil and gadget he can find. Soon he has fabricated a host of make-shift toys. He then disguises himself as Santa Claus, and rings a bell in the doorway of the dormitory. The children again jump out of bed, elated to see Santa and discover their new toys. Soon the orphanage is glowing with Christmas magic and the laughter of children.

If such cartoons can carry a message, I think this would be:
Christmas cannot be broken
not by pain, not by poverty, not by loss, or any other hardship
Oh, the materialistic holiday can collapse
Even the nostalgic memories of warm family gatherings
(that few of us actually experienced) can disappear
But not the holy day

After all, Jesus entered the world in poverty,
he was born into a dark, chill night
Coming to earth,
he brought light and exuded warmth
Now, with his compassion and our creativity,
we can take the pieces of Christmas that we have
and reconstruct this season of joy
Ring the bells,
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
once again

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