Present-day lessons from the letter to the Hebrews
“…you need to persevere…” Hebrews 10:36
Following Jesus in the western world today is a tough call. For the first time in hundreds of years, it means going entirely against the flow of the culture and society around us: life at 1800.
In such a context it’s very tempting simply to tone down, or ease back on, our commitment to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, and revert to being .. well, just mildly religious.
It was that sort of temptation and pressure which those to whom this letter was written were facing. They were Jews (Hebrews) who had boldly placed their trust in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), the One to whom their Scriptures had pointed. But increasingly they were facing persecution from both the Jewish faith and the Roman state – and with that came the pressure to ‘shrink back’ into the religion of the Hebrews, a Judaism without Jesus.
Or as we experience it today, the pressure to pursue a Christianity without the Christ – religion without a relationship with the risen, living Lord Jesus.
Because the original recipients were largely (if not wholly) Hebrews, the writer spends much of his letter comparing and contrasting Jesus with the best that the Old Testament can offer. Angels? Jesus is better. Moses? Jesus is better. The high priest? Jesus is better. The sacrificial system? Jesus is better. And so on.
If the Old Testament seems a strange and unfamiliar book, don’t panic! In these studies we’ll be aiming to stand back a bit from the detail and see in broad brush strokes the picture of Jesus which the writer is seeking to paint for his readers.
In the slightly altered words of an old 13th century prayer from Richard, Bishop of Chichester – may the fruit of these studies in the letter to the Hebrews simply be that we see Jesus more clearly, love Jesus more dearly, and follow Jesus more nearly.
Useful books include ‘Hebrews for everyone’ [Tom Wright]; ‘The Message of Hebrews’ [Raymond Brown]; and ‘Experiencing the presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews’ [A W Tozer]Series-Outline