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May 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 10, 2020

Podcast

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was Hebrews 5:1-4

Intro: Wednesday evening, our meditation was in Luke, chapter 9

Speculation was growing regarding Jesus
– he was a spiritual leader, but what kind of leader?
• 2,000 years later theologians and anthropologists are still asking
• where did Jesus fit in his culture’s conceptual framework
◦ a prophet, a Rabbi, a sage, a healer, a mystic?
– there is not one label that captures all that he is
• even for believers: he is our Lord, Savior, Messiah
◦ Hebrews has already referred to him as
God’s Son, the pioneer of our salvation, and an apostle
◦ each is an attempt to get to at an important truth
• the writer of Hebrew’s special interest is, Jesus our great high priest

What service did the high priests perform for Israel?
– above all, they provided access to God; they served as a go-between
• sacrificial worship opened up a lived-experience of God
• the priest maintained a channel of communication and interaction
◦ providing instruction, assistance, and purification from sins
– chapters 5-7 will explore the high priest’s role:
• what qualifications were required of priests?
◦ and what services did they provided?
• the writer want his readers to see Jesus in this light,
◦ and how he is superior in every respect to those who came before him
◦ one of the priests’ requirements is irrelevant to Jesus
◦ Jesus did not qualify for another prerequisite, technically
yet in that prerequisite, he surpassed them
– we’ll find insights that are intriguing, and found nowhere else in the New Testament
• but our main concern will be, What does this mean to us?

Three Qualifications and two obligations

The first two qualifications:
chosen from among men (generic: humans)
• the priest had to be human in order to represent humans
• people had to be able to identify with him, and he with them
◦ a social worker can be educated in the psychology of poverty
◦ but have no personal understanding of what it is to live it
• high priest had to know human condition from the inside
◦ intercession is to pray for another as fervently as if for oneself
◦ in the case of the priest, he was interceding for himself as well as the people
appointed to act on behalf of men and women in relation to God
• the high priest’s assignment: service the spiritual needs of others
◦ one of the ways Paul described his role is found in 1 Corinthians
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1)
• at the heart of the high priest’s ministry was the altar
to offer gifts: thanksgiving offering, peace, daily offerings
and sacrifices for sins – sins, guilt, impurities (Lev. 7:37)

Two obligations:
– first, to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward
ignorant: note the “unintentional sins” in Leviticus chapter 4
◦ education was included in the priests’ job description (De. 3:10)
wayward: misled, to wander off
◦ these words represent normal life situations
◦ the purpose of the law was to correct these conditions
• the sins for which Israel suffered most severely were different
◦ we’ve seen: disobedience, rebellion, unbelief
◦ these instances were not unintentional–they knew better
– second, to offer sacrifices for sins–his own as well as theirs
• the high priest not only resolved the sins of the people, he shared them
• this is one of the points where Jesus differed from the priests
Jesus is a high priest who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)

A third qualification: no one takes this honor for himself
– when Israel was ripped into two nations,
• this was one of the great sins in the north
◦ Israel’s king invented a new cult for his subjects
After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places (1 Ki. 13:33)
• the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Aaron was called by God
◦ and later on, God chose the entire tribe of Levi to be his priests

Jesus meets these qualifications and obligations
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek Hebrews 5:5-10

The writer begins with the last qualification mentioned
So also Christ did not exalt himself to made a high priest
– this takes us back to an earlier quotation; Psalm 2:7 (in Heb. 1:5)
• and he returns to a Psalm he has already quoted; Psalm 110:1 (in Heb. 1:13)
◦ this particular verse was well-known to the early disciples
◦ Jesus quoted it, and so did Peter in his first sermon (Acts 2:34-35)
• but the writer doesn’t quote that same verse from Psalm 110
◦ he quotes a verse no one else in New Testament ever mentions
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”

– even in Psalm 110, this verse is a mystery
• it is a reference to an obscure event
◦ an event from Abraham’s life that happened in a flash
• we’re going to have to wait awhile,
◦ before the writer unloads all that is revealed in this verse

The obligation Jesus fulfilled was what he offered up
– this is the same word used for offerings on the altar (vv. 1 & 3)
in the days of his flesh – for the writer this is important
◦ he sees a clear distinction between two realms of Jesus’ existence
◦ one material and temporal, the other is spiritual and eternal
his physical existence in the past and his spiritual existence now
• the only instance of Jesus praying with loud cries is from the cross
Jesus cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34)
◦ but would we refer to that as prayers and supplications?
– the point I’m trying to make, is this:
• the writer may be referring to Jesus in Gethsemane,
◦ but perhaps there is also something more
◦ that Jesus fulfilled a priestly service through his prayer for others
a service he continues to provide today
• regarding his Gethsemane prayer, the prayed to the One
who was able to save him from death, and he was heard
Timothy Johnson, Jesus prayed that he would not have to drink the cup of death, but he also prayed your will be done, not mine. “The passion account that follows in the Gospels makes clear that Jesus’ prayer for God’s will to be done was heard, rather than his prayer for the cup of suffering to be taken away from him.”
◦ what gave Jesus’ prayer its force, was his reverence

And speaking of reverence,
– the next three verses deserve our most reverent attention
Although – because Jesus was God’s Son,
◦ you would think obedience came easy for him
◦ that it would just be handed to him or he’d come equipped with it
• but obedience was something he had to learn
◦ like everything else about being human
through what he suffered
William Barclay, “The Greek phrase . . . is a linguistic jingle, emathen aph hon epathen. And this is a thought that keeps recurring in Greek thinkers. They are always connecting mathein, to learn, with pathein, to suffer.”
• learning is connected to experience and experience to suffering
• various forms of suffering: physical, mental, personal, relational, etc.
◦ and also when we have to overcome the resistance of our will to God’s will
Timothy Johnson, “. . . no human can step all at once into God’s will, for two reasons: the first is that God’s call is new every day; the second is that humans can dispose of their freedom only moment by moment.”

In what sense was Jesus made perfect?
– in John 5:36, the same word is used when Jesus referred to the works he was given to accomplish
• perfection is a completeness, a fullness
Howard Marshall, “‘Perfection’ . . . means ‘excellence’ in doing whatever a thing is supposed to do; it signifies fullness and completeness for whatever a person or thing is meant to be and do, often as a result of training and practice.” “Perfection is not realized in a moment . . . . it is both process and result.”
– the picture given to us of Jesus is deeply human
• this is what he went through to become
the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him

Finally, we leave this passage with reminder that Jesus was
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek

Conclusion: Jesus could not be like us until he learned what we know

We know suffering, and we learned it through experience
– Jesus learned suffering in the same way
• his last utterance from the cross was a loud cry
• a cry of abandonment that reaches to the depths of human pain
– suffering does not make us human, we suffer because we are human
• a person who hasn’t suffered isn’t fully human
◦ that’s why people who don’t know the suffering of others
are frequently inhumane
Abbot John Chapman, “Perfection in this world is not a calm union with God, unless God so wishes. Our Lord suffered temptation and desolation to show us that they are not incompatible with perfection, but are perfection.”

I belong to an online group chat, where we discuss Christian prayer. Eight months ago, a young woman posted the following:
“I am a 14 year old living with the most painful chronic pain condition on earth. I’ve been Christian all my life but I’ve been doubting that God is a loving God lately. Why would God let me go through horrible pain every day? I would really appreciate it if someone reached out to me.”
I responded, reminding her of Job whose suffering also caused him to doubt God’s love for him, and that he was especially critical regarding God’s justice in allowing innocent people to suffer. His pain, sadness and frustration caused him to say some harsh things about God that, to his pious friends, sounded like blasphemy. I wrote to her,
“Sweetheart, that is what suffering does to us. The disappointment with God that you feel is normal. ‘It is not an imperfection to find it painful to submit to God’s will. Our Lord showed us that, by His Agony in the garden.’ (Abbot John Chapman). Don’t let your doubts and bitter feelings make you think something is wrong with you or your faith. In his worst hour of Suffering, Jesus also felt unloved and forsaken by God.
“You will have days, perhaps weeks or seasons when God seems remote or disinterested in you. But you will also have moments when he is so incredibly close, it will make you cry. In either state or feeling,
God IS ALWAYS CLOSE TO YOU.
‘The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).’ ”

With apologies for making this run so long, I want to share two more quotations that are relevant. The first comes from the hand of a theologian and the second comes from the heart of a poet.

Timothy Luke Johnson, “Faith, then, is a deeply responsive hearing of God’s voice as it comes to humans in the circumstances of their worldly existence. It is saying yes to a ‘call’ (3:1) that leads them beyond their present world into a larger one defined not by their desire but by God’s creative and commanding word. Such faith is ‘obedience’ because it is a hearing that overcomes the human reluctance to move into a larger and more frightening world, and the human preference to live within the comfort zone of the accustomed. It is important to note that for Christ as for other humans, such obedient faith cannot be accomplished once for all.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear.

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows that I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

May 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 3, 2020

Podcast

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account Hebrews 4:12-13

Intro: This week it occurred to me, it might be good to stop here

To not go any further in Hebrews
– until our experience catches up with what we’ve learned
• for instance, we learned about an constant inner peace
◦ a Sabbath rest that doesn’t depend on our circumstances
◦ we can enter God’s rest in bad times as well as good times
• and our Sabbath rest is not limited to one day a week
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. (Ro. 14:5)
On our Facebook page where the video of my talk last week was posted, Bill Livingston commented, “When seven days are holy you’ve entered his rest.”
◦ God’s will is that we always find rest in him
– so the question is, have we enjoyed that Sabbath rest this past week?
• have we been going there with our anxious thoughts?
◦ with our troubled hearts? with our anger and disappointments?

Well, I decided we have to continue going through Hebrews,
– because the next thing the writer tells us, how we are to move forward
• and that is with two definite actions
• both are introduced with the words, “Let us”
Let us hold fast and Let us draw near

At first it looks like writer has jumped to another topic

Namely, the word of God
– but he is reinforcing what he told us to do in verse 11
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest
• his entire message is a development of the word of God
◦ this is where he began in chapter 1, God spoke and he has spoken
• every point he’s made has been drawn from God’s word in scripture
◦ this chapter hinges on the good news, the message (v. 2)
◦ to enter the Sabbath rest requires faith in God’s word
the word of God has a rich history, playing a central role from the start
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3)
• the word of the LORD was more than a message; it was an agent of revelation
◦ a conduit by which God revealed himself to a person
(an encounter with the word of God was an encounter with God)
This emerges powerfully in each instance where prophets receive their call from God (e.g., Jer. 1:4-10), and especially in the case of Samuel. He was born into a time when the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision (1 Sam 3:1). When still a child, God called to Samuel, but he thought it was the old priest calling to him. That is because Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him (1 Sam. 3:7). Notice how the revelation of God himself comes with the revelation of his word. After Samuel’s first encounter with the LORD (Yahweh), things changed for Israel. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:21)

Walther Eichrodt referred to the word of the LORD as “a cosmic power of God.” He said, “God’s intervention in history [was] attributed to the Word as an independently active force.”
◦ and that is exactly what it sounds like when we read:
in the Psalms,
He sent out his word
and healed them (Ps. 107:20)
in Isaiah,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11)
and in Jeremiah,
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29) In fact when Jeremiah decided he would no longer deliver the word of the LORD because it only brought him trouble, he found,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot (Jer. 20:8-9)
• the Bible is not exactly the same as the word of God
◦ it contains the words of God, and word of God can move thru it
◦ but God’s powerful word is more immediate, more direct
• so, sadly, people can read the Bible yet not hear the word of God

Characteristics of the word of God that the writer lists include:
– it is living:
• the writer has shown that the word, even written long ago, still speaks today
• it derives its life from God who speaks it
◦ again we see a strong identification of God with his word
Luke T. Johnson, “In short, Hebrews applies the same quality of life that is normally associated with God’s being to God’s word.”
• it never expires, never dies
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mt. 24:35)
– it is active: the word of God is a creative energy
• not only on earth, but in spiritual rebirth of believers
you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pe. 1:23)
– it is sharper than a two-edged sword:
• not, “the word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword,”
• but sharper than – as the next characteristic indicates
– it is piercing: it can penetrate anything
to the division of – making a distinction between
soul and spirit – the scripture does not supply technical definitions for these terms
◦ in fact, sometimes they are used as synonyms

Sidebar: why would God’s word divide soul and spirit?
– between the psychological self and the spiritual self?
• we can mistake soul force for spiritual power
◦ mistake soul enthusiasm for spiritual inspiration
• and therefore assume we’ve encountered God,
◦ when we’ve only encountered our own emotions and feelings
– we cannot always discern this division on our own
• God’s word can reveal which one is at work now
of joints and of marrow
The Greek word translated “joints,” was used of the mortar between stones set in a wall. If you visit Israel today, your guide will take you to the Western Wall outside the precincts of the temple. You will be shown stones that date back to the time of Herod. Still today, the guides will boast that the stones were carved so well and are so compact that it is impossible to insert a thin knife blade between any two stones. The word of God enters those spaces that no other blade can penetrate.
marrow gives us a sense of the deepest, most hidden parts of a person
discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart:
• nothing about us is more hidden from others than what’s in the heart
intentions may be misleading, because it simply refers to another sort of thought
◦ for instance, notice how the Greek word is translated in 1 Peter
arm yourselves with the same way of thinking (1 Pe. 4:1)
◦ what a fine distinction this is between subtle differences
and no creature is hidden from his sight
• is the writer still talking about the word of God or about God himself?
◦ we refer to a word as “it,” not “his” or “him”
◦ the dynamic word of the LORD was incarnated, that is to say,
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14)
Walther Eichrodt again, “It holds good more than ever when, as a result of being equated with Jesus, the Word becomes an independent person, and thus enters on a mode of existence apparently at variance with traditional beliefs.”
• God’s word exposes everything
Luke T. Johnson, explains that the word translated exposed “has a range of meanings, all involving the neck . . . and all involving some sort of vulnerability.”
◦ the neck is one of most vulnerable parts of body (cf. Jos. 10:24)
◦ the point here is that we are transparent and vulnerable before God, as his word probes our lives

We need to know what we have going for us

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Hebrews 4:14-15

“High priest” doesn’t mean much in our culture today
– for us to appreciate what Jesus is to us, we need the Scriptures
• in Leviticus we learned that a priest was a mediator
◦ his role was to make things right with God
◦ he helped remove sin and guilt,
and purify people and things from uncleanness
• this was especially the role of the high priest on the Day of Atonement
– our high priest is “great” – extraordinary
he passed through heavens
When Israel came to Mount Sinai, God established “zones” of distance; each zone with a different degree of holiness. The people could come to the foot of the mountain, but not touch it. Aaron and the elders were allowed part way up the mountain, but only Moses was allowed to enter the cloud and God’s glory at the pinnacle of Mount Sinai. Once God’s sacred tent was set up, God’s glory moved from the top of Sinai to the holiest place in the sacred tent, where the same three zones were established. The people could enter the courtyard, the priests could enter the holy place, but only the high priest could enter the holiest place. This may be what the writer has in mind when he says that our high priest has passed through the heavens (an idea the writer will make explicit in 6:19-20 & 9:11-12, 24)
◦ Jesus entered most intimate space of God’s presence
not in a vision (like Paul, 2 Cor. 12:1-4), but the real deal

Let us – the next thing we can do, is hold fast our confession
our confession (cf. 3:1) is what we already know and believe about Jesus
• and why do we want to hold fast to it?
For we do not have the kind of high priest that doesn’t care
(there were priests like that!)
– it is easy for us to think God doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer
• the same way the wealthy are cut off from the miseries of the poor
• but Jesus is not unable to sympathize; he knows the human experience
◦ sympathize does not mean “pity” – rather, he feels what we feel
◦ he is not unable, because he has no empathy, or is incompetent, or inexperienced
our weaknesses – yes, it’s plural!
• in 2:17, Jesus was made like us in every respect
◦ the same words are used here, only applied to a specific situation
temptation – yet without sin – Jesus did not “miss the mark”
• he has experience, and that is what enables him to identify with us
◦ not only empathize but he is also able to be helpful
He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness (Heb. 5:2)
I know a married couple who both lost their parents. They have also battled cancer together–twice. Whenever they are told that one of their friends has learned that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia or has a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, this couple immediately offers them resources that they found helpful in their ordeals. This is one of the great values of experience, and Jesus has all the experience we could ever need.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:16
Let us – there is one other thing we can do
draw near – typically, a throne was about power, majesty, authority
• this throne is all that, but it also about dispensing grace
◦ and, we don’t have to approach timidly – but with boldness
• in Acts 4:13 Peter and John displayed boldness before the Jerusalem counsel
◦ and later, when they rejoined their friends, they prayed for more boldness (Acts 4:29)
– at God’s throne we receive and we find
• we receive mercy – for the wrong we have done
• we find grace – for the good we have yet to do
in time of need – or, “well-timed”

Conclusion: Do you see what the writer is doing for us?

He is providing us reassurance and encouragement
– he is telling us,
“You have not gone as deep as you can go. You have help to go deeper!”
Luke T. Johnson, “This short exhortation breathes an air of encouragement and confidence.”
• Spirit-guided reading of scripture is a great help to personal growth
◦ it will tell you the truth about yourself–the deep stuff

What gives us the greatest hope and reassurance
is Jesus, the Son of God
That it is possible to draw near to him,
and through him, draw near to God
Not only over our lifetime,
but every day,
and any time of day
or night

Apr 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 26, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. Hebrews 4:1-2

Intro: Hebrews chapter 4 is like a mixed-green salad

It has four different types of lettuce:
Let us fear (v. 1)
Let us strive (v. 11)
Let us hold fast (v. 14)
Let us draw near (v. 16)
– this is one way to read this chapter
• the first Let us presents us with a problem
• the other three offer solutions
– also, notice the number of times “enter” pops up
• this is a key word in Hebrews – and related key phrase, draw near
• both suggest the idea of movement, of approach
◦ Hebrews reveals a potential experience of God
◦ we are urged to come close to God and step into that experience

“Let us fear”–the writer warns us of a legitimate concern

He began this train of thought with a quotation from Psalm 95
– what he found there was a promise that he says still stands
• sometimes retailers advertise, “We will still honor your coupons”
◦ in a similar way, God’s promise has not expired
◦ the promise is an invitation for us to enter God’s rest
• the danger is some believers will seem to have failed to reach it
◦ there are two ways that we could interpret this concern:
otherwise you will miss your opportunity, or
otherwise it will seem as though you missed your opportunity
◦ if it seems like the promise has not been fulfilled in our lives, we may give up the quest before we reach the destination
– why should we be concerned about this?
• because we are not the first to be presented with this opportunity
◦ the good news came to Israel in the wilderness
◦ but it didn’t do them any good (did not benefit them)
• now the message comes to us – will it benefit us?

The last part of verse 2 is not easy to translate, but this much is clear,
– something that needed to happen, did not happen
• the way I read this is the message did not unite with faith in them
◦ the promise was not integrated into their hearts and minds
William Barclay translates it this way, “But the word which they heard was no good to them, because it did not become woven into the very fibre of their being”
◦ this is a reminder that knowing is not the same as having or being
• how does the promise become integrated into lived experience?
by faith
– faith activates the promise–faith owns everything God says
• of course, hearing the message is necessary
How then will they call on him in who they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Ro. 10:14)
• but to own the message, to experience its fullness requires faith
So faith comes from hearing through the word of Christ (Ro. 10:17)

A description of the ideal Christian community

For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ “

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Hebrews 4:3-5

This is what the Christian life looks like when everything goes as it should
– if we follow the personal pronouns we find there are:
• those of us who with all believers need to be concerned (fear)
you who seem to have failed
us, to whom the good news came
• and we who have believed
◦ the we would include the writer and apostles,
◦ other Christian communities, and at least some of the readers
• they entered that rest, and were seeing the promise fulfilled
– why does he repeat the quotation here?
• the connection swings on the word “enter”
◦ the quotation is a negative example of what had become the positive experience of others
• everything that needed to be done had already been done
from the foundation of the world
◦ God’s rest was waiting for them–it was there, but they weren’t
◦ until now, God’s rest referred to the promised land
but now it refers to something more

This would be a good point to pause and take a deep breath
– many of us have a tendency to create unnecessary obstacles
“I’ll have a stronger faith once I’ve read through the Bible”
“I’ll be closer to God once I’ve overcome my worst temptations”
“I’ll spend more time in prayer when I’m not so busy”
• whatever work you feel has to be done for you to be close to God
◦ has already been done – from the foundation of the world
• what we need is faith — we need to trust God
◦ trust his love for us, and trust his grace
◦ trust that he meets us right here, right now, and accepts us
– here are two reminders from Paul:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ep. 2:8-10)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Php. 1:6)

The writer now takes us to another quotation, Genesis 2:1-3
– God rested on seventh day, and he made it holy
• the writer then returns to the Psalm quotation
shall not enter my rest
◦ in the psalm passage, Israel’s rest was the promised land
◦ in Genesis, God’s rest was his repose after completing the six days of creation
• moving between these two passages,
◦ the writer has developed and deepened the meaning of rest
– God is inviting us to rest with him – and to rest in him
Timothy L. Johnson, “. . . the promise offered to God’s people now is no longer that of a material possession, but of a participation in the divine life.”

A conclusion we can draw from this

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
Hebrews 4:6-8

I’ll try to simplify this:
– the door to God’s rest remains open
• those who were first invited failed to enter that door
◦ they failed only because they disobeyed God
• since they failed, God decided on another day – “Today”
◦ that is the point made from the quotation in Psalm 95
– the writer attributes this psalm to David
• he points out that it was written so long after Moses and Joshua
◦ and that God spoke of another day later on
◦ hundreds of years later on!
• the point is, if the promised land was identified as God’s rest,
◦ then four centuries later he wouldn’t be saying, “Today”
◦ Israel could have experienced God’s rest in the land, but they didn’t

God’s rest is not found in any particular place
– not even in Jerusalem, or in the temple
Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?”
(Isa. 66:1)
• it is not like going to a park or finding the perfect hammock
– so if 400 years after Israel entered the land, God says, “Today,”
• then his rest means something else and the offer is still open

Listen, if you and I hear God say “today,” then this word is spoken to us, and the moment we hear the word is precisely the time for us to respond. Today coincides with hearing and responding. If we do not immediately respond to God, in the present moment, we run the risk of our hearts growing hard
[God says] “In a favorable time I listened to you,
in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
. . . Behold, now is the favorable time; now is the day of salvation
(2 Cor. 6:1-2)

Another conclusion that we can draw from this

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11

This is the second time we find the word “remains” – and it’s his whole point
– a “Sabbath rest” – not Saturday, as a day off work
• but a state in which our soul is at rest
For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
(Isa. 30:15)
• again, our rest is with God and in God
St. Augustine, toward the beginning of his Confessions, prayed these famous words, “You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”
– so what do we do today? Let us strive to enter that rest

Conclusion: What is presented to us here is obviously not a familiar concept of rest

This rest is not what comes after chaos, conflict and confusion die down
– it is, instead, an inner peace that carries us through the chaos, conflict and confusion
And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 Jn. 5:4)
• we overcome the world, not be conquering it,
◦ but by not letting it get to us
• God’s rest is an inner peace that we enjoy even while we work
◦ it is not like fall asleep,
◦ but more like being awake for the best moment of our life
– we do not rest in our accomplishments or even in our faith
• we rest in God himself
I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me
(Ps. 131:2-3)

Do you realize that “today” is right now?
It is so difficult to keep our minds in the here and now
If we are haunted by our past or obsessed with the future,
we will never experience life in present moment
It takes the discipline of trust to fix our attention on today

I suggest that when you sit in prayer,
and you make yourself aware of God’s presence,
that you consider using the words of this Psalm 116
to enter his rest:
Return to your rest, O my soul; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living
(Ps 116:7-8)

Apr 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Sunday’s Prayer

O God, our Father,
Creator of all that is good
and beautiful,
breathe again Your Spirit into our hearts.

Today we are grateful for all those
who every day risk their own health and safety
to devote themselves to healing others.
Please, Lord, protect them from this disease.
And also, keep safe all those
who are most vulnerable,
because of their age,
or impaired health,
their living arrangements,
or their poverty,
or homelessness.

Bless all those who continue working
to provide essential services.
Bless all farmers and packing house workers,
all truck drivers and grocers,
all pharmacists and clerks.

Though we are separated by the danger
of worldwide pestilence,
let us feel the oneness of heart
that we have together in You.
A safe distance from each other,
may we feel our sacred togetherness.
Let this time be to us
a valuable investment in our spirits,
to keep us strong and loving for others,
and faithfully devoted to You.
These things we pray
through Jesus Christ,
Your Son and our Lord and Savior.
Amen

Apr 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 19, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness . . . . Hebrews 3:7-8

Intro: Since our text begins with a quote from Psalm 95, let’s go there first

The psalm begins with a call to worship
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
(Ps. 95:1-2)
Next, the psalm tells us why we worship
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land
(Ps. 95:3-5)
Now the psalm repeats with another call to worship
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
(Ps. 95:6)
And, again keeping with the pattern, we are told why we worship
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand
(Ps 95:7a)

So, first we worship the LORD, because he is a great God
– then, second, we worship him
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture
• and worship is what his people do

With the last line in verse 7, the poet makes a turn
– and it seems like he is saying,
“Well? What are you waiting for?
Don’t drag your feet, and don’t do
what our ancestors did!”
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have now known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest”
(Ps. 95:7b-11)
– the wilderness generation paid a terrible price for their rebellion
• so now the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers,
◦ if they follow the example of that earlier generation,
◦ they will forfeit something wonderful

Now back to Hebrews chapter 3, verse 7

The writer began by telling us to consider Jesus (v. 1)
– we benefit from what he does for us as our apostle and high priest
• and we benefit from his faithfulness to God
◦ he calls us to a transcendent partnership
◦ and we become members of his household, under his care
• but this meditation on Jesus ended with an “if” (v. 14)
– to illustrate why there’s an “if,” the writer turns to the psalm
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
• this intro to the psalm deserves attention
1. it shows us his profound respect for inspiration of scripture
◦ it is no less than God who speaks by his Spirit
2. note how he uses “says” instead of “said”
◦ the Bible isn’t just a book of messages for long ago,
◦ in Jesus, scripture speaks through time in the present tense
and in Jesus, the old Scriptures become fresh and are filled with new meanings

I have been reading in the Book of Acts this week, and it seems remarkable to me how quickly the apostles found references to Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, in Peter’s first sermon after Jesus’ death he quoted two passages at length and referenced other sayings. Not long after, the Christian community was quoting Psalm 2 in their prayer (Acts 4:25-26). This is a psalm that our writer of Hebrews has also mentioned (only he emphasized a different verse from the ones they quoted). So almost immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples were going over their Scriptures and finding many references to him.
In Luke’s gospel, one of the last things Jesus did for his apostles–and it was a wonderful gift that he gave them–he told them,
“. . . 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)
Our Wednesday night Lectio Divina is rooted in this practice. We listen (lectio) for the Spirit to speak to us today through the sacred (divina) Scriptures.

Notice that the writer chose a psalm that also has an “if”

In fact, that is where he begins his quotation
Today, if you hear his voice
– he is going to stay with this psalm for awhile; almost to the end of chapter 4
• he will quote different lines from it and emphasize specific words
◦ he is using it as a warning
• there were others who had journeyed with God in the past,
◦ yet failed to attain their destiny
– where did they go wrong?
• the simple diagnosis is, they had “heart problems”
. . . do not harden your hearts (v. 8)
They always go astray in their heart (v. 10)
• they did wrong, because their hearts were wrong

When I read the psalm, two place names were mentioned
– the original readers would have recognized Meribah and Massah
• and they would have known what happened there (Ex. 17)
• but those who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek
◦ did not use the Hebrew names, but translated their meaning
rebellion and testing
– that particular event was not the last straw for Israel
• but it is and example that represents forty years of bad behavior
• what does it mean to “test” God?
◦ it is like children when they test their parents
◦ they explore their boundaries to see how far they can go before there are real consequences for their actions

Therefore I was provoked with that generation – they finally crossed the line
– they reached border of promised land and rebelled
• this was indicative of a set pattern, They always go astray
– I want to point something interesting, threaded through the Old Testament
• God said of Israel, that they
saw my works and yet they have not known my ways
ways refers to what is internalized in God’s heart
◦ how he operates (so to speak), what he wants in our lives
◦ for example, God said that if someone is going to boast, let him
boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD (Jer. 9:23-24)
and
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; . . .
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD
(Isa. 55:6-9)
• God’s “works” refers to his “ways” when acting on them
◦ so,
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel
(Ps. 103:7)
◦ think of how those differ
God revealed to Moses the intent and motive behind his actions
The people only witnessed his actions

As I swore in my wrath
– the writer of Hebrews has a keen interest in all that God says
• so he pays close attention to the times when God swore an oath
◦ he will cite three instances of God swearing an oath
◦ regarding Israel, regarding Abraham, and regarding his Son
• the point: with the oath, God shut the door on Israel
◦ there would be no opening it,
◦ to allow that generation to enter the promised land

What does this psalm have to do with readers?

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion Hebrews 3:12-15

Take care translates one Greek word, “to see” – “Look out”
– Paul in 2 Corinthians wrote,
examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5)
• the writer of Hebrews is saying something similar
“watch out, because there may be in you an evil heart of unbelief”
◦ “evil” is not always moral, but can mean bad, like an over-ripe fruit
“Don’t drink the milk, it’s gone bad”
◦ e.g., our hearts go bad when our love for God goes cold
or when we settle into a fixed, negative attitude
unbelieving – can mean that our faith gives out
◦ or it can also mean that we become unfaithful to God
◦ when Israel went astray, it was usually to pursue other gods
leading you to fall away from the living God
– it is the heart that leads a person
• what matters is not only what we know,
◦ but how we feel about what we know
living God occurs four times in Hebrews
◦ the Old Testament prophets pointed out that idols did not have breath (or sight, or speech, nor could they do anything)
◦ they said idols were “vanity”–i.e., emptiness, nothingness

I am not a fan of the word “exhort”
– too many Christians assume that it gives them license to rip on others
• to fix others, straighten them out, give them a good dressing down
◦ what they call exhortation is, in fact, condemnation
◦ but exhortation and condemnation have two different goals
– a better translation here would be “encourage”
• it is related to word Jesus used for the Spirit – the Comforter
◦ person you call when you need support, comfort, affirmation
as long as it is called today
◦ the writer will emphasize that there’s no expiration date for “today”

How can we provide this encouragement and support for each other during a time of quarantine?
– e-communication, of course, offers several ways: text, e-mail, social media
• a friend who participated in lectio divina by way of Zoom afterward said,
“I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but I really got something out of this”
• keep warming up faith – in your heart and in the hearts of others
For we have come to share in Christ
– to share gives us a sense of belonging
• Jesus belongs to us–though we don’t “own” him
(no one corners the market on God)
• we belong to Jesus
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song 6:3)

A quiz–and there are three questions

The answers to the quiz are in the quotation from Psalm 95
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who ere disobedient? Sow we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief Hebrews 3:16-18

Luke Johnson, “. . . each question has in effect, the same answer from a slightly different perspective.”
– the conclusion drawn by our writer is that Israel came all that way, for all those years, but stopped short of their goal
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief Hebrews 3:19
– it was a failure of faith, and a failure of faithfulness

Conclusion: Does God punish us for our attitude and behavior
when we’re having a bad day?

No, I don’t believe we’re punished for how we feel on our bad days
– but there’s always a danger that a bad attitude can harden a heart
• and then become a permanent disposition
• more importantly, every day we are given the chance to choose better
Today, if you will hear his voice
– we can listen, we can respond, we can choose:
• to come and sing to the LORD, to make a joyful noise
• to come and worship and bow down, and kneel before God
• to go on regardless of how we feel
◦ we can still do good things on our bad days
◦ we can still follow God on this journey of faith
• to not allow our hearts to be led astray
◦ and when we find we have gone astray, to return–quickly!
• to learn God’s ways
make me to know your ways, O LORD (Ps. 25:4)
• to stay in “today” – with focused attention on God NOW
• to hold fast and hold firm our confidence in God

Jesus has faithfully brought us this far,
we can trust him for the rest of the way

Apr 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 12, 2020

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. John 20:1

Intro: The formal Christian greeting this morning is not “Happy Easter”

It is, “He is risen” – and when greeted this way we respond,
“He is risen indeed”
– this morning we remember the most imp event in Christian history
• the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior
• we will resume our journey through Hebrews this week
◦ but today we will meditate on Jesus’ resurrection
– all four gospels tell the story, each focusing on certain details
• in John’s Gospel, the story is told in two parts
• part one begins with Mary Magdalene

Part One
Mary
Too eager to wait for the sun to rise, Mary made her way to Jesus’ tomb while it was still dark. This would not have been easy (or safe) without the benefit of street lights. Perhaps she carried with her a small clay lamp to help identify landmarks.
As she entered the garden and approached the tomb, she felt that something was off. Then it hit her. The stone that should have covered the entrance to the cave-like tomb was gone! Shocked by this unexpected situation, in her state of confusion she panicked. She did not take one step closer to the vault or try to look inside. Instead, she turned and ran back into the city, to the place where she knew she could find Peter.
Finding Peter and “the other disciple,” she blurted out, “They’ve taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him!”

Peter and “the other disciple”
Hearing this, Peter and John immediately reacted. Jumping up, the bolted through the door and ran to the tomb. John outran Peter, and without going inside he bent down looked inside where he saw the empty linen shroud that had been wrapped around the body. John, the contemplative disciple, was taking it in, wondering what it meant.
Then a moment later, Peter, the reactive disciple, arrived and charged inside, where he also saw the linen shroud–and another detail. The cloth that had covered Jesus’ face was folded neatly and set to one side by itself. Why would anyone–especially a grave robber–bother to do that?
John followed Peter into the tomb, looked around, and later he reported that at that moment he “saw and believed.” But just what he believed is ambiguous, because he admits that at that point the still did not understand the Scripture, that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
Not knowing what else to do, Peter and John returned to their houses–an anticlimax to say the least after the strange discovery that morning. Nevertheless, and undeniable electricity continues to pervade the plot.

Mary
Now back in the garden alone in garden, Mary is bending down to look inside the tomb. Surprisingly, she does not seem phased by the fact that two angels are sitting in there on the stone slab where the body had been laid, one at the head and the other at the feet of where the body had been lying. The angels spoke to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Sobbing, she answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they put him!
Did the angels sit there without saying anything? Did they give her a consoling smile, as if to say, “It’s okay”? Or did Mary not wait for their response? She turned from the dark entrance, perhaps planning her next move or looking for clues. Mary was on a mission! She had to find out what happened there that morning. She had to do something. And then . . . .

Jesus
He was just–there. Mary saw him, but through her tears she did not recognize him. Jesus spoke first, asking the same questions the angels asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Then he added, “Whom are you seeking?” Mary cried, “If you know anything, can you help me? Just tell me where he is and I’ll go and get him myself. I’ll take care of everything!”
Jesus spoke one word–a name, her name, “Mary.”
This is one of those moments in scripture, where I would give anything to hear the tone in Jesus’ voice. What intonation did he use? Was it sympathetic? Did it sound as if he were saying, “You know me”? I am sure it was not a flat, matter of fact tone of voice.
A light went on for Mary, a thought occurred in a nanosecond, “I know that voice!” She wiped the tears from her eyes and really looked at him. Then screaming the one word, “Teacher!” Mary lunged at Jesus.
Please forgive me for adding to the story, but I imagine a detail John must have left out; namely, when he said, “Mary, don’t cling to me!” Oh yes, she had him in a bear hug. She had lost him once, she was not going to lose him again. No one was going to take Jesus away from her now. But as she loosened her grip, he explained she could not cling to him, “For I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Not that Mary understood what he meant by that, but she obeyed him.
Jesus gave Mary a new assignment., “Go to my brothers,” he told her, “and tell them I am ascending to my Father, who is also your Father, to my God and your God.” So off she went.

Part Two
The disciples (minus Thomas)

Later, that same day in the evening, fearing that the guards who arrested Jesus would be looking for them, the disciples locked themselves in private room in Jerusalem. suddenly, Jesus was standing there in the room with them.
“Peace be with you, he said.” Then he held out his hands toward them so they could see the puncture marks from the spikes. He pulled back his robe so they could see the wound in his side. Seeing him, they felt joy but were apparently speechless. So he said again, “Peace be with you.” Then he completed a chain by adding, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” We do not have to understand why he breathed on them, but I am thinking that it replicated the moment God first breathed the breath of life into humankind (Genesis 2:7), only this was the breath of new life. Jesus did not communicate this gift to them in words alone but with a real experience of the words he spoke, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Thomas
When Thomas rejoined the other disciples, they told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he answered them, “How am I supposed to believe that! I would have to see him for myself; in fact, I would have to touch him, feel the nail print with my finger and place my hand on the wound in his side!”
Thomas prided himself on being a realist, a rational person who was not easily moved by the hysteria of others. He refused to believe what he could not see. So, eight days later the disciples were together again and this time, Thomas was also present. And again, Jesus revealed himself to them and greeted them with, “Peace be with you, he said.” Then he went straight to Thomas.
“Put your finger here,” he commanded Thomas, “and see my hands. Stretch out your hand, and feel my side for yourself. Do not disbelieve, Thomas–believe.”
Amazed, Thomas whispered, “My Lord and my God!” And now we are given the point of the whole story. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”
All through his ministry, Jesus was preparing witnesses who would tell others about him–his life, his miracles, his teaching, his death and his resurrection. Those who heard his witnesses would tell others, and those who heard them would tell others, and so on until the whole world knew that God had provided a way to himself through Jesus, his Son. And way down the line, we are among “those who have not seen and yet believed.”

Conclusion

Reading this chapter last week, something caught my attention
– John does not use the word “body” very often in his Gospel
• the first time he uses it is in chapter 2
◦ there he was asked for a sign that he was authorized to clear the temple of the money-changers and those who sold doves
◦ he answered, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up
• there, John ways he was referring to the temple of his body
◦ I find it strange that John does not elaborate on that statement
◦ but then again, Jesus used lots of metaphors and figures of speech
(e.g., Jn. 10:6; 16:25)
• after that, “body” does not recur until three times in chapter 19
◦ first, the bodies of Jesus and the two others who were crucified next to him
◦ then twice when Joseph requested the body of Jesus
– the last time body appears in John is here in chapter 20
Yet the whole chapter is about the body of Jesus!

Mary could not think of Jesus as a dead body, but referred to him as the Lord or my Lord
When Peter and John entered tomb, the only thing missing was the body
The angels were positioned exactly where the body had been placed
Mary intended to cling to the body of the risen Jesus
Jesus showed the disciples the wounds on his body
Jesus encouraged Thomas to touch his wounded body

So why is mention of Jesus’ body subdued in John’s story?
– perhaps because he never forgot that Jesus referred to his body as “this temple”
• maybe the Lord’s body was too sacred for him to treat it casually
◦ Jesus’ body was more than a shell
◦ it was the means by which he revealed himself, and God, to the world
– for Mary and others, Jesus’ body was how they knew and experienced him
• and as his witnesses,
◦ those who knew him before his crucifixion
◦ had to be able to ID him after his resurrection

Our bodies carry the story of who we are – our ID
– in our finger prints, facial recognition, and DNA
• also in our mannerisms, habits, and the sound of our voices
Pat Ogden, “The body speaks clearly to those who know how to listen. . . . The multifaceted language of the body depicts a lifetime of joys, sorrows, and challenges, revealed in patterns of tension, movement, gesture, breath, rhythm, [vocal intonation], facial expression, sensation, physiological arousal, gait, and other action sequences.”
◦ our bodies contain, act out, and reveal our personal histories
• our bodies have a destiny – now and in the future
Now:
The body is for the Lord . . . So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20)
. . . present your bodies as a living sacrifice (Ro. 12:1)
Arthur Vogel,“Love can literally fill the world if [people] will let it affect the body, for then it will be thick and the same stuff as the world; Christian love is not something spiritual that cannot be seen, for Christian love is Jesus Christ in the flesh. Love that makes no difference in the world is not love.”
In the future:
1 Corinthians 15 where Paul answers questions about our resurrected bodies)
And in Philippians 3:21, where he says we will have bodies like Jesus’ glorious body

My Uncle Bill owned a “body shop” in Santa Ana
He repaired broken cars
He he did the body work
to make them beautiful again
(that happened to be the place where my body got its first scar)

Jesus has a body shop
where he transforms bodies,
and where his Spirit
breathes new life into our bodies
(Romans 6:4; 8:11)

Today, we thank God
for the body of Christ,
given for us
And we thank him
for our own bodies,
that have been given to us,
and that we give back to him

He is risen

Apr 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Good Friday – 2020

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices . . . . Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb . . . . since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:39-42

I have not been especially mindful of Holy Week this year—too many other distractions. However, this morning my reading in John’s Gospel brought me to the crucifixion of Jesus and, appropriately so, that became my meditation.

As John’s footnote indicates, we have already met Nicodemus. It was near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and a moment when the story was filled with hope and promise. Nicodemus arranged a private meeting with this impressive young man whom he recognized to be “a teacher come from God.” Jesus taught Nicodemus the two sides of religion, that which is manufactured by “the flesh” and that which can only come by “the Spirit.” Nicodemus learned from the Lord that he needed to be born into the life of God’s Spirit.

Then, about halfway through Jesus’ ministry Nicodemus resurfaced. He attempted to defend Jesus, or at least slow down a rush to judgment, when the chief priests and Pharisees were prepared to condemn Christ without allowing him a fair hearing. However, Nicodemus was quickly and effectively silenced by a prejudicial attitude the religious leaders held against Galileans (Jn. 7:50-52).

Nicodemus’ reappearance at the end of Jesus’ ministry sharpens the grief surrounding the cross. The Lord’s disciples, family and friends were not the only ones who lost him when he said, “It is finished,” bowed his head, and gave up his spirit. There were others on the periphery of his ministry like the unnamed Samaritan woman, the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, and the blind man whom Jesus told to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam, and when he did he could see.

And there was Nicodemus. His curiosity about Jesus at the first, then the fight in him when Jesus was treated unjustly, and the hope he felt that this man might be Israel’s salvation — all of that was gone. There was nothing left to do than bury the body. It was safe for Nicodemus to assist with this responsibility, because he was not a known disciple of Jesus. Besides, he belonged to the Pharisee sect, most of whom were hostile to the Lord. He was willing to come and help lay Jesus—and the Jesus movement—to rest.

We cannot lose Jesus! To lose him is to lose everything. Jesus cannot become to us nothing more than a fond memory, a nostalgic remembrance of happier times. We cannot return to the garden now and then to leave flowers on his grave, as if the world can go on without him. To his last breath, there was a chance he might somehow escape death. But when his corpse was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb, the stone that was rolled over its entrance, sealed all hope in darkness.

The sorrow of Good Friday is not only the suffering of deep grief, it is complete despair. It is the saddest, the most difficult and frustrating cliff-hanger of all time.

Apr 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 5, 2020

Podcast

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession Hebrews 3:1

Intro: Is there anything in the Bible you wish were not there?

I may be hypersensitive to manipulation
– a by-product of growing up in my religious subculture
• a typical statement would be,
“If you love the Lord, then raise your hands”
◦ the peer pressure was intense
◦ what would the others think if I didn’t raise my hands?
• so whenever I hear an “if,”
◦ I assume someone is trying to coerce or manipulate me
“If you’re a good Christian boy, empty the trash”
“If you’re a real Christian, donate money to our missionaries”
◦ my immediate reaction is to resist
– there is an “if” in this passage
• so that part reminds me of my Sunday School teachers
◦ conditions are placed on me that I may not be able to meet
• however–if the Bible does give us warnings, is it wise to ignore them?
◦ our nation is right now suffering the consequences of ignoring
early warnings regarding COVID-19
◦ it is wise and safe to trust the warnings in the Book of Hebrews
(we will soon see what happened to others that ignored God’s warnings)

“Looking for treasures in the yard sale of life”

A friend once threatened to write a book with this title
– people will spend weekends combing through garage sales,
• hoping to find some overlooked or undervalued antique
– there are rich treasures in Hebrews – widows that open to Jesus
• we read in chapter 2 that we may not see world God intended,
But we see him . . ., namely Jesus
◦ and here we are told to consider Jesus
◦ the writer continues to focus our attention on Jesus
• last week, Jesus became human to take on suffering and death
◦ now the writer provides a meditation on Jesus for us to consider

Notice how we are addressed:
– “holy” – we learned last week that Jesus makes us holy (2:11)
◦ as God called Israel to be holy (Lev. 19:2)
◦ we belong to God, Jesus qualifies us for his presence
– “brothers and sisters” – Jesus forged this bond with us (Heb. 2:11)
◦ and between us and each other
◦ we have been adopted into God’s family – we belong
– “partners”
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus and Peter went fishing. Peter was certain that they were not going to catch anything, but was shocked when his net filled with so many fish they could not haul all of them on board. He needed help, so he called for his partners to come and assist them (Lk. 5:7) That is the same Greek word here that the English Standard Version translates you who share.
◦ we share in the work and the rewards
– “in a heavenly calling” – the word heavenly is not “window dressing”
◦ the writer is aware of two dimensions
one physical, the other spiritual
one is provisional, the other is ultimate
we live in both at the same time
◦ Jesus was also aware of these two dimensions
that was his message regarding the kingdom of God
and, it is why he taught, Lay up your treasures in heaven
– “calling” – an invitation, opportunity that requires response
◦ but it also refers to what we have become
◦ for instance, if by others we are called Christians (Acts 11:26)

What is it that holy people with a heavenly calling do?
– we “consider Jesus”
• to consider is to look intently – contemplate until the truth emerges
◦ as when Jesus said, Consider the lilies
◦ there is a lesson to be learned
• “the apostle,” the one sent by God with a message and an invitation
◦ “high priest,” one who acts on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb. 5:1)
◦ Jesus fills both roles:
he represents God to us and he represents us to God
• “our confession” – the truth that we admit to believing
◦ and the truth by which we live

Verses 2-4, What specifically are we supposed to consider?

Jesus’ faithfulness to God
. . . who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself Hebrews 3:2-3

– the writer has compared Jesus to the prophets and the angels
• now he will compare him to Moses
• there is hardly a more important person in the Old Testament
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt . . . and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (De. 34:10-12)
◦ he was great not only as the law-giver and miracle worker,
◦ but also for his intimacy with God
If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD (Nu. 12:5-8)
– the writer does not a contrast between Jesus’ and Moses’ faithfulness
• rather, he draws a comparison their “glory”
• do you remember Moses’ prayer Show me your glory?
◦ I can’t read God’s self- revelation to Moses without feeling its profound effect (Ex. 33:17-18; 34:5-7)
◦ afterward,
Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (Ex. 34:29)

Paul saw this same comparison between Moses’ and Jesus’ glory
Now if the ministry of death carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? . . . For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. . . . And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another
(2 Cor. 3:7-18)
– one specific instance of Jesus’ visible glory was his Transfiguration
• the Gospel of John does not mention the Transfiguration
• however, the glory of Jesus shines all the way through; e.g., Jn. 1:14; 2:11)
– reading in John this week I cam to the passage we celebrate today as “Palm Sunday”
• like the other Gospels, Jerusalem was filled with breathless excitement
◦ the Pharisees, however, panicked
◦ to them, it looked like the whole world has gone after him
• ironically, some Greek people approached Philip and told him,
Sir, we wish to see Jesus
◦ when Philip told Jesus, the Lord said,
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn. 12:23-24)
◦ the death and resurrection of Jesus were central to his glory

The glory that Moses’ face absorbed was not his own
– it lingered for awhile and then disappeared
• the glory of Jesus is all his own, and it is permanent
He is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3)
• now, the first comparison the writer makes is by analogy
the builder of a house has more honor than the house
◦ the house may be an architectural masterpiece
◦ but the honor for its design and construction,
goes to the architect and contractor
– then he adds a footnote
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God Hebrews 3:4
• again in chapter 1, God created the world through Jesus
• Jesus shares God’s creative role and God’s glory
William Barclay, “Moses knew a little about God; Jesus was God.”

In verses 5-6, the writer fleshes out the comparison he has in mind

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope Hebrews 3:5-6

Three facets of Moses’ faithfulness:
1. it was in God’s house
2. he was a servant (no small honor!)
3. his service had reference to the future (a revelation to come)
Three facets of Jesus’ faithfulness:
1. he is over God’s house
2. he is a son – at that time, a status slaves could never achieve
3. he is the future, now revealed

And now the writer comes back to us
– here is that conditional sentence I mentioned at the beginning
• we were warned in chapter 2 that we could drift away
• to prevent that, we have to hold fast our confidence
confidence is boldness as in Acts 4:8-12, Peter and John did not hold back when confronted by the very people who wanted Jesus crucified
boasting was a way of giving credit to sponsor and expressing gratitude
our hope – hope is what keeps us going
• Hebrews has some of the loveliest insights into hope in all the New Testament

Conclusion: We can find something useful in this passage

First, put together two thoughts, one from the beginning and the other from the end:

“Consider Jesus, our hope”

– What happens in crisis, when we forget to consider Jesus?
• we turn on each other – we become fearful and suspicious
• in the last two months, we have witnessed sad examples of ugly religion
– the worst thing about ugly religion is that it misrepresents Jesus
• we do this, not by our beliefs, but by the way we carry them
◦ our attitudes and actions, our anger and aggression
We retreat into our worldly selves while faking piety
we return to our jealousies, greed, and contempt for others
But that is not the way you learned Christ (Eph. 4:20)

We can avoid ugly religion and misrepresenting Jesus
if we remember to consider Jesus
Several times we read in scripture
that Israel forgot the LORD and forsook him
Jesus provided us with a way not to forget
I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5)
Consider Jesus
Abide in Jesus
His love will constrain us,
his kindness will keep us gentle
Here is the north star to guide us,
the reassurance to calm us,
the hope to inspire us:
Consider Jesus

Mar 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 29, 2020

Podcast

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10

Intro: In every news source, the Coronavirus dominates the headlines

Some of us are obsessed with following the most recent statistics
– how many new cases in Europe, the US, in New York
• how many deaths in Orange County as it creeps closer to our street?
– it seems we have to navigate our way between two extremes
• Jesus described both in his end-of-the-world sermons
◦ those like Chicken Little, who believe the sky is falling
people fainting with fear and with foreboding over what is coming (Lk. 21:26)
◦ others like ostriches, with their heads in the sand
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, util the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them away (Mt. 24:37-39)
• I doubt this virus will be the end of the world
◦ however, we are living in a time of global crisis

And now this morning we come to a passage that talks about suffering
– in fact, it is enclosed by references to suffering – verses 10 and 18
• this is a surprise
◦ Hebrews is a revelation of how awesome Jesus is
◦ how does his suffering play into that?
• but this is all part of the mystery–Jesus had to suffer
– last week we learned that Jesus was for awhile was lower than angels
• we are about to learn why that was necessary

Every word in verse 10 is meaningful

If we go straight to the heart of verse 10, God has a goal:
to bring many sons to glory
– sons and daughters (v. 13, “children”)
glory is the atmosphere God’s presence radiates
◦ basically, God’s goal is to bring many people to himself
◦ glory is how we see Jesus as he is now,
crowned with glory and honor (v. 9)
fitting is “appropriate” – Jesus fulfills a specific requirement
– the founder – a leader, originator, or pioneer – Jesus forged a trail
• we follow him into our salvation
• our liberation, our healing, the wholeness of our whole person

Here is a truth the writer will emphasize over and over
– that Jesus’ experience of life was fully human
• he has always been the pioneer of our salvation,
◦ but he was not complete (“perfect”) in that role from the start
◦ as a human, he had to be made complete – mature
• his experience was that of a normal person – as a boy:
Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52)
Luke T. Johnson tells us that ancient philosophers believed “the education of the mind, body, and emotions required pain . . . mathein pathein, ‘to learn is to suffer,’ which can also be reversed, as ‘to suffer is to learn.’ . . . The training of the body and mind and will went together in Greco-Roman culture, which used the same term . . . for education, culture, and discipline.”
“Hebrews makes sufferings essential to the process of perfection.”
John Polkinghorne, “Not only is developmental growth recognized as present in the life of Jesus and his followers, but it is the painful process of suffering that is particularly significant.”

In verse 11 we learn why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers . . . Hebrews 2:11

I am not referring to the obvious fact, that Jesus’ death was for our sake
– but why was it important for his sake?
• because he and those he serves have one source–that is, God
• deriving our human existence from God as Jesus did makes us the same
sanctifies – to make holy
he who makes holy and those who are made holy
• remember when we were in Leviticus?
◦ making Israel holy was what the sacrificial ritual was all about
You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy (Le. 19:2)
and, I, the LORD, who makes you holy, am holy (Le. 21:8)

So this is how it works:
– Jesus is the one who makes holy, we are the ones who are made holy
• we both come from God, and God has one goal
• to fulfill that goal, Jesus had to become one of us
Karl Rahner, “We imagine this incarnation as if God were dressing up in costume, so that God remains in essence still God and we cannot be sure whether God is really where we are.”
“God has become human, and that really says something about God.”
– the writer of Hebrews goes on,
That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
• Jesus not only recognizes his relationship with us,
◦ but he embraces us as his siblings

One time in Jesus’ ministry, he was teaching a group of people in a home. His mother and brothers had arrived to “seize him,” because the thought he was “out of his mind” (Mk. 3:20-21). However, they could not get through the crowd to reach Jesus, so they sent him a message, “Your mother and brothers are outside, seeking to see you.” How did Jesus respond? “And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 3:31-35). Jesus did not reject his family, he just redefined family. In his redefinition of family, he includes us.

The writer of Hebrews now returns to quoting scripture in verses 12-13

Only for the writer, it is not like quoting, but more like listening
– in the verses he quotes, the writer hears Jesus’ voice “saying,”
“I will tell of your name to my brothers
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
“Behold, I and the children God has given me” Hebrews 2:12-13

The particular psalm quoted above is significant for two reasons:
– first, Jesus himself quoted from it on the cross
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psa. 22:1)
– second, it is a poem that is full of pain and suffering
• about halfway through, the poet prays for deliverance (vv. 19-21)
◦ after that, the prayer turns upward (vv. 22-31)
◦ it is right here that we find the verse quoted in Hebrews
Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” are his fellow human sufferers
• then, in the Isaiah quote,
◦ when he presents himself to God, he presents us with him
Behold, I and the children God has given me

The sentence that runs through verses 14 and 15 is complex

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery Hebrews 2:14-15

The main point here is to:
– explain the opportunity given Jesus by his becoming human
• it begins with the substance of our mortality: flesh and blood
◦ again we are reminded of Leviticus
◦ the sacrifices are all about flesh and blood
arranged on the altar and used for purification and atonement
• so, in becoming human, Jesus partook of the same things
◦ I’m going to say this in rough way: Jesus shares our animal life
◦ flesh and blood is the vulnerable human person
– like us, Jesus could die – only, for Jesus death was more like a weapon
destroy – the Greek word means to make void, to render inoperative
◦ our greatest enemy is the devil; his greatest weapon is death
◦ Jesus took on death to defeat death and the devil
Timothy Johnson, “Jesus does not conquer death by avoiding it or commanding its disappearance, but by experiencing it in the manner of other human beings.”
• the devil may not seem like a real concern to many people
◦ what is a real concern is the fear of death
◦ even if we push it out of our minds,
the ongoing, chronic dread of it stubbornly lodges deep within
• the writer’s description of lifelong slavery is more than poetic
◦ some people are driven by fear of death, so as if to avoid it
◦ others are imprisoned within a small circumference by fear of a death
– do you live free of that crippling fear?

The writer returns one more time to the angels in verses 16-18

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted Hebrews 2:16-18

Jesus did not die to help angels (who cannot die, Lk. 20:36)
– and now we come to another reason why he was made like us
• to become a high priest
◦ this is the first time this title for him occurs in Hebrews
(there will be much more on this title later on)
merciful to us, and faithful to God
propitiation – once again the Book of Leviticus comes to mind
◦ the Greek word here translates the Hebrew word kipper atonement
(“to cover” — sins were effectively covered and so removed)
◦ see especially, Leviticus 16, the Day of Atonement
– being human, Jesus can feel sympathy with us (4:15)
• but he does more than empathize (v. 18)
• he is able to give us real help

Last year when we talked about repentance and “rewiring” the human brain, we learned about “mirror neurons.” These brain cells trigger different areas in a person’s brain in response to seeing another person performing an action or experiencing a painful event. The motor and sensory areas of the brain that are activated when we watch a person throw a ball or fall off a fence are the same areas activated in the brain of the person who performs the action or receives the injury. You feel what the other person feels, however to a lesser degree. The more your past history of experience resembles the person you watch, the greater your feeling of empathy will be.
William Barclay, “It is often true that a person who is clever and who learns easily cannot understand why someone who is slow finds things so difficult. A person who has never sorrowed cannot understand the pain at the heart of the person into whose life grief has come. A person who has never loved can never understand either the sudden glory or the aching loneliness in the lover’s heart. Before we can have sympathy we must go through the same things as the other person has gone through—and that is precisely what Jesus did.”
◦ when Jesus tells you, “I understand,” he does
◦ when Jesus tells you, “I can help,” he can

Conclusion: We can do better than say that the Coronavirus is

God’s judgment or a heavenly wake-up call
– that is certainly not a creative way to respond
• and this period of history calls for creativity
◦ and it also enhances creativity
◦ as it has been said, necessity is the mother of invention
– life with Jesus is never small and narrow – it is abundant
• yes, he gives consolation and comfort, reassurance and compassion
• but he also gives peace that surpasses understanding and fullness of joy
– we are not without resources
Alan Mitchell, referring to the many positive gifts presented to the readers of Hebrews said, “The catalogue of their spiritual possessions are quite impressive”

Do you see the adventure today?
Is any real adventure without risk?
Times like what we are living through now
do not diminish Christian hope
The darker the times, the brighter our light
Reading the Gospel of John this last week,
I was struck by Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman,
If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (Jn. 4:10)
It struck me that, if only . . .
If only we knew Jesus,
and his deep empathy for us,
and what he is ready to do for us,
if we only knew what we have going for,
we would be excited
as we anticipate living into the next twelve hours
And the next twelve hours after that,
and the next twelve hours after that . . . .

Mar 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 22, 2020

Podcast

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

Intro: We have seen that there is an overall structure to whole book

It is a wave-like pattern that alternates between revelation and warning
– the first revelation came in chapter 1,
• and now in chapter 2 we have the first warning
◦ the warning sections can be severe
◦ but the writer also softens them softened with encouragements
Harold Attridge, “The God who speaks through . . . the Psalms defines for a covenant people the goal toward which they strive and motivates through words of encouragement and warning, their [faithfulness] to that covenant. . . . They have heard him promise, as well as threaten. They have heard words of encouragement and consolation as well as words of warning. They have heard in the person of God’s Son a model for their own dialogue with God, a paradigm for words of faith lived out in action.”
• the writer reveals new dimensions of Jesus’ awesome nature and gifts
◦ so he tell his readers, “You do not want to miss out or lose this!”
– why the warnings?
• Christians were not the first people to be called by God as his own
◦ God first chose Israel to be his people
◦ their history is clouded by many failures (e.g., see Psalm 106)
• as Hebrews explores the spiritual wealth we have in Jesus,
◦ the writer recognizes humans have not held up their part very well
◦ failure is possible, but it is also preventable

Verse 1, The first warning

As always, the word “therefore” is a link to what came before
– in this case, that includes everything all the way back to first verse
Long ago . . . God spoke
◦ the same word for “spoke” is here translated “declared”
◦ only now the emphasis is not on the speech, but our response
• the “therefore” points to an additional factor
◦ an insight to be gained, a conclusion to be drawn, or a lesson to be learned
– “we” is inclusive: the writer, his audience, and every reader ever since
• he pulls us onto the stage of this cosmic drama
◦ there are ramifications to the message that affect us
◦ we are the people who benefit from service of angels
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Heb. 1:14 )
Timothy Johnson, “. . . receiving so great a salvation demands a response.”

What are we warned to do? To pay attention
– this word is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament
• it can mean, watch your step, be aware of your surroundings, beware of others, and so on
◦ here it is applied to what we have heard
◦ that is the message regarding Jesus and through the person of Jesus
• and not just pay attention, but much closer – more intensely focused
◦ notice that the writer is not saying merely to “hang in there”
◦ but to dig deeper, look more closely, be more attentive and alert
– the danger is that we can drift away from what we know of God
• let’s put a bookmark here and return to it further down

A two-part argument

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Hebrews 2:2-3a

The particular form of this sort of argument was very common
– rabbis referred to it as kal wahomar – “light” and “heavy”
• it is not like drawing a contrast between right and wrong
◦ it is more of a comparison of what is good to what is even better
◦ Jesus used it often, usually with the phrase, “how much more”
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk. 11:13)
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Lk. 12:24)
– the message declared by angels proved reliable
• there was a tradition about angels being with Moses on Mt. Sinai (Acts7:53)
◦ how did that earlier message prove “reliable?”
every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution
◦ Israel never got away with disobedience to God’s commandments
• so the question is,
how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
◦ the point is, the message through the Son is more reliable than that of angels
◦ and if Israel suffered the consequences of breaking God’s covenant,
how much more will wee

There is a subtle idea here, but one that is important
– it is in the word “neglect”
• we do not have to reject Jesus, or act defiant, or rebellious
◦ the danger for us is not that we will turn and walk away,
◦ but that without turning, we will drift away
we will let too much space grow between us and the Lord

Years ago, the youth ministry of Capo Beach Church hosted a summer camp on Catalina Island. That week, the youth minister sustained a serious injury and was in significant pain. So he allowed six students to return the ski boat to the mainland. But as they were navigating their way home, the boat engine failed and they were adrift at sea. All night long a search and rescue helicopter flew between Catalina and the Dana Point Marina looking for them. At last, just after dawn a fishing vessel spotted them at sea out from Oceanside. They had drifted more than thirty miles south of their destination.

• the natural motion of boats is to drift,
◦ carried by the forces of currents and winds
◦ to resit drifting, they must be anchored or moored to a dock
• we cannot think our spiritual journey will take care of itself
◦ by paying closer attention to what we have received from God,
◦ we anchor ourselves in him

The message we received was not delivered by angels

It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will Hebrews 2:3b-4

It was declared first by the Lord
– no more messengers, the Lord came and delivered his word himself
• notice, the author still hasn’t referred to him by name
• after the Lord, the message was “attested” by those who heard
◦ attested means “confirmed”
◦ it is the same word translated “reliable” in verse 2
◦ the Lord’s message was reliably transmitted by his apostles
– God also became a witness to truth of the message
• in John 5, Jesus claimed to have the support of certain witnesses
◦ John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, the Father, and the Scriptures
• God’s witness to the apostle’s message was through
signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will
(we see this many times in the Book of Acts and in the letters of Paul)
◦ the last line is remarkably similar to what Paul says about spiritual gifts in the church
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:11)
◦ the Spirit continues the work of Jesus in the Christian community

The flow of the message turns in a new direction

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking Hebrews 2:5

This is not a totally different theme – angels are still kept in view
– but there is a shift in perspective and a new theme
the new perspective shifts to the world to come (future tense)
◦ but notice “subjected” is in the past tense
◦ something regarding the coming world has already been arranged
It is a “done deal”
the new theme is “subject”
(five times in this chapter: subject, subjected, and subjection)
◦ this means to “submit,” to be placed under someone’s authority
◦ the point is, angels are not in charge of the world to come
of which we are speaking
• even though the writer has not really been discussing this
◦ he could be referring to general Christian discourse
◦ after all, Jesus taught us to pray
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:9-10)
• our entire Christian life is built on this
◦ it is what Paul refers to as “the blessed hope”

If the world to come is not in the hands of angels, then who?
– the author answers the question in a round about way

We return to the Psalms–this time Psalm 8

It has been said somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You have made him for a little while lower than the angels:
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone
Hebrews 2:6-9

This psalm is a favorite of many
– it also gives us a clue as to how we pay much closer attention
• and that is, by immersing ourselves in scripture
◦ the writer found something in this psalm that shed light on Jesus
◦ we can have a similar experience through the close attention we give to scripture in reading, studying, meditating, and sharing with others
• the psalm asks a question–in light of the universe, What is man?
◦ God placed humankind on highest rung of the animal kingdom
◦ slightly lower than the angels, but above everything else
God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Ge. 1:27-28)
– the author adds three points to the quote:
• “everything” means everything (even death; 1 Cor. 15:22-25)
• we do not see everything in subjection to humans–at least “not yet”
◦ by nature, not every insect, reptile, mammal, or primate is our pet
◦ however,
we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels

The writer of Hebrews has waited until now to reveal the name
– he is the Son, and he is the Lord, but here we learn he is Jesus
– when we look at Jesus, what is it that we see?
• for a short time he was lower than angels
◦ Jesus did not always have this status, he submitted himself to it
. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Php. 2:6-7)
◦ this will be explored more fully in the following passages
now crowned with glory and honor
◦ he fulfills God’s destiny for humankind
◦ in doing so, he became the firstborn of a new people (Ro. 8:29)
because of the suffering of death
◦ the reason why he made the descent into human flesh

The final themes are too big to tackle right now
– but the writer will share many more details regarding:
• Jesus’ suffering — its purpose and goal
• his death — what he accomplished by it
• how through Jesus we have access to the grace of God

Conclusion: There are many thoughts I could leave you with for now

Like ways that we could pay closer attention to what we have heard
– but for me, the most striking and reassuring thought is this:

We do not see our God-appointed destiny fulfilled
we do not see the heavenly world to come,
but we see Jesus
We see him in multiple dimensions;
in his earthly life,
in his transition through the human condition,
in his suffering and death,
and in his resurrection to glory and honor
We see Jesus in the Scriptures,
many times in each other,
and also in the widow, the orphan, and the stranger
And with eyes of faith,
we see Jesus in there here and now of prayer
It is when we cannot see Jesus that we start to drift
It is in paying closer attention that we see him,
and in seeing him that we are safely anchored in him