Let go of the postman! (Hebrews 1)

Let go of the postman! (Hebrews 1)



„Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” – as the words passed through the mouth of Jesus on this Jerusalem night the silence became tangible in the torch-lit room. Did he really say that? This was the question the eleven disciples were pondering. It was a huge statement. Anyone who has seen Jesus has seen that Father? God the creator? In a few days’ time they understood it more, and within a few weeks their lives were turned upside-down by this statement. They saw Jesus dying, only to have him share a meal with them a few days later when he rose from the dead. They then witnessed him go to heaven. A few weeks went by and the Holy Spirit came upon them. From that point the disciples started to proclaim a message about Jesus courageously. Their message was that Jesus was not just another prophet, not just another messenger of God, but Jesus was God himself. They had looked God in the eyes.

Recently the news of Robert Williams’ passing away was all over the internet. His movies were known and loved by many. The news of his tragic death got people talking and drew numerous reactions of all kind. His colleagues talked about losing Hollywood’s kindest person, who was able to make anyone laugh. Many, including Christian media and blogs, started to discuss the subject of suicide. Going through the news I got to a forum where people discussed how actors get more attention and respect compared to other important players in the movie industry like directors, producers or scriptwriters. Many argued that actors don’t deserve the hype that happens around them since they have the smallest part in shaping the message of the movie. The actor’s role is “simply” to deliver the message crafted by the director and the producer in the most authentic way. Yet, people are much more familiar with actors, them being the most visible part of the crew while the actual authors of the message remain in the background. As human beings we have a tendency to focus in on the messengers instead of the sender – and this also happens in our faith walk all the time.

In my previous post I shared the story of Baruch and Talia which is a great illustration of the life and situation of the early Christians to whom the Book of Hebrews was originally addressed. They came to believe in Jesus, but this new faith brought tremendous pressure. Their fellows, thousands of Jews still lived out their faith in Judaism based on the mosaic laws and thus rejected Jesus. For the Jews the law wasn’t merely a legal document produced by politicians but a message from God delivered by angels. For this reason they had such a high respect for angels that this hindered them from accepting Jesus who brought a new revelation of God: his message was about grace and righteousness instead of judgments. These early Hebrew Christians were also raised with a high respect for angels, the messengers of God. It’s no wonder that under intense pressure they became instable: does Jesus really have greater authority than angels? Is the gospel truly stronger then that law?

Addressing these believers Hebrews chapter 1 makes a strong point on the basis of Old Testament Scripture that Jesus is greater than angels. He is not an angel (as still taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Christian groups), but he is the subject of angelic worship. He is God. He’s not only a messenger as angels are; he’s also the sender and the message in one. He is – as this chapter puts it – “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being “. This is why Jesus said that anyone who had seen him has seen the Father. Building on our previous analogy he is not merely an actor, but director who appears in his movie. The whole point of Chapter 1 is to prove that the message that Jesus brought about God is of higher authenticity, clarity and importance than any message delivered by proceeding messengers.

Now, I don’t think many of us today struggle with the temptation of reverting to Judaism. Yet, this chapter has a huge teaching for us, because in fact we also have a tendency to hold on the deliverers of God’s message instead of holding on to Jesus. We tend to give higher respect for the postman than the sender himself. God still speaks to us in many ways. He may do so through pastors and teachers, through a local church, books or thousands of other means. We need to be cautious not to start sticking to someone or something just because God has already spoken to us through that instrument of his. We shouldn’t give anyone or anything higher respect than God. Jesus need to remain in the center of our attention, because he’s the ultimate authority. He’s the message himself.

Just a quick note on what it means that Jesus is the message. It means that when we look at him, we can see exactly what God is like and what he thinks about us. He’s not Zeus who can hardly wait until we fail to strike down on us from the heavens. Instead, he is a God who literally loves us to death. There isn’t a place so low he wouldn’t humble himself to just to regain our trust that we withdrew from him. This message is of higher authority than any other message about God. James puts it this way: “mercy triumphs over judgment”. So true!

Read Hebrews chapter 1 and give some thoughts to these questions:

  1. In what ways, through what messengers has God spoken to you in your life?
  2. What may help you, while remaining thankful for these messengers, to keep Jesus as the primary authority in your life?

 

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