Meet Baruch and Talia (Introduction to Hebrews)

Meet Baruch and Talia (Introduction to Hebrews)



In this study series we’ll go through the Book of Hebrews, which has a lot to teach us. In order to get the most out of it, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the original addressees as we begin. This fictive story I’m about to share with you as an introduction helps us to do that. I heard the first version of this story from Mark Zeeman some years ago and it really helped me understand the context for Hebrews. Please don’t close your eyes while reading, but use your imagination.

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Imagine that you’re a 45-year-old Jewish man. Your name is Baruch. You’re married to a beautiful woman named Talia, and you also have a few kids. Growing up Jewish you became familiar with the Scriptures; you heard stories about how God led your people throughout the centuries. You attended Temple ceremonies with your family, and brought the sacrifices. The whole experience was very beautiful and deep. You have a blurry memory from the time you were ten, your parents sat at the kitchen table talking a lot about a man named Jesus. Then you heard about his execution. But life went on. When you grew up you married Talia. Now you also go to the Temple with your family to share in Jewish history and bring the sacrifices.

Then you begin to hear more and more of a group who call themselves Christians. Later one of your friends invites you to one of their gatherings that happen in homes, and you go. They’re talking about this Jesus, the man who died 35 years ago; you still remember the news of his execution from your childhood.  They think he’s God, which is a very strange thought for you. Still the genuine love and the simplicity you experience among Christians blow your mind. After a time you realize you have been attending these gatherings regularly. At first you go alone, but later Talia also joins you occasionally.

One day you decide to accept the message of the Christians, and you become a follower of Christ. When you come home and tell Talia what happened, she first thinks you have lost your mind. She says: “Baruch, what did you think?” You respond by saying: “You know I really liked the love, the power and the simplicity I saw among the Christians and that convinced me they’re right.” So Talia keeps going to the synagogue and the Temple, but now you attend this little house church which has become your spiritual home. After a time Talia also comes to believe in Jesus and becomes a Christian herself. Now both of you attend the little house church.

Your neighbors just don’t understand what is going on with you. You get strange looks whenever you meet them and they debate you at the fence calling you to sober out and realize what you have given up on by turning your backs on the Temple, the sacrifices and the whole Jewish heritage. They don’t understand how one could give up thousands of years of history for a man who only died 35 years ago. After a time they start to give hints that they no longer like your company. You decide to move to a little town outside Jerusalem and you continue to attend the small house church. But even the moving doesn’t help much. Wherever you go, the air freezes around you. Even in the marketplace people are courteous, but you just sense the resentment and the growing distance. They think you’re stange.

One day you receive an invitation to a relative’s wedding. You and Talia decide to go; after all it’s been long since you last saw the family. The event lasts for 3-4 days as usual. You stay till the end and really enjoy the party. Then the next day is a holiday and all your relatives plan to go to the Temple, and of course they invite you to come too. You’re reluctant because you know that Jesus has fulfilled all that the Temple was a picture of, and there’s no more need for sacrifices for sins because his sacrifice was perfect. But the relatives keep nagging you to go, at least for memories’ sake. At the end you decide to go. When you enter the Temple, you start to smell the incense, you hear the hush of the priests’ robes, the clang of the sacrificing tools and you’re flooded by memories. This used to be your life. And you gave up on all this – although this has also been established by God and thousands of your fellow people still live in it – you gave this up for a man who died 35 years ago.

A few days later you’re at home again. One night the visit to the Temple comes up in the conversation. You both admit that it was good to go back. It brought back good memories. So you decide that even though you are Christians and believe in Jesus, you’ll check out the local synagogue on Saturday. So you go. A few months down the road you notice you’re attending regularly, plus you also bring the sacrifices to the Temple occasionally. You still believe in Jesus, but you have some doubts. More and more you feel like believing in Jesus is not enough in itself. Maybe you should still keep the law in order to please God. After a little time you stat sensing that the ice around you starts to melt. Your friends and neighbors greet you more warmly, they are more accepting. Again they feel like you belong with them.

This letter was written for you.

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