Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - vii. Our Great High Priest

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 4:14-5:10

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The word ‘better’ occurs some seventeen times in the New Testament, thirteen of which occur in Hebrews alone.  Whilst in one sense the majestic Jesus is incomparable being the unique Son of God, God through him “planned something better for us” (11:40).  The passage before us describes Jesus as a better high priest.  The writer draws on the history of Israel in the wilderness and the role of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement offering sacrifices on behalf of the people and himself in the Tabernacle.

 The focus is not simply on the person and work of Jesus on earth, the empty cross and the resurrection, but the ongoing work of Jesus as high priest, having passed through the heavens as the human high priest passed through the curtain in the Tabernacle into the holy of holies to make atonement for sin.  This is the main point of the passage, indeed the whole of the book: Jesus’ ongoing work presenting the fruit of his sacrifice before the Father and interceding for his people on earth.

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - vi. Entering God's Rest

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 4:1-13

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The writer of Hebrews often uses the word ‘better’ to describe Jesus.  In one sense Jesus is incomparable.  He is unique: the majestic Christ supreme over everyone and everything.  However, in terms of salvation history Jesus is indeed ‘better’: better than angels, Moses, Joshua, a better high priest sacrifice, and rest to name but a few.

 And now the writer invites us to reflect on our relationship with Jesus in what has been described as ‘one of the most fascinating, enigmatic and tightly argued sections of Hebrews’.  The Israelites of old failed to enter God’s rest through unbelief and disobedience.  However, rest is more than a metaphor for the Promised Land.  The inclination to enter God’s rest still stands millennia after that event.

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - v. The Danger of Hard Hearts

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 3:7-19

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The writer exhorts his readers (and us) to attend to one’s heart.  Having warned about the danger of drifting in chap 2, he now addresses the matter of hard hearts by way of examples from Israel’s history.  He uses the familiar synagogue call to worship from Psalm 95 “Today if you hear his voice” to arrest our attention.  He places his finger on a two-fold problem: rebellion against God and testing his patience in the face of his provision and patience.   

History is a humbling exercise.  By ignoring the mistakes of the past, we are prone to repeat them, just as the Israelites did.  After 430 years of slavery in Egypt, God delivered them through Moses “by his mighty hand”.  Pharaoh’s army was destroyed and the people had miraculously crossed the Red Sea.  Having “plundered the Egyptians”, they had provisions and resources, a sign of God’s generous providence.  And then the most amazing thing happened.  As they entered the wilderness an immense pillar of cloud formed in the sky before them to lead the way and at sunset it transformed into a pillar of fire.

 

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - iv. Free Indeed

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 2:5-18

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The writer of Hebrews once again addresses the person and work of Jesus.  He has exhorted his readers not to drift away from faith (2:1-4).  Having highlighted the divinity and supremacy of Jesus in chapter one, he now stresses the humanity and humility of Jesus (2:5-18).  His concern is both theological and pastoral lest one succumbs to mere pragmatism or the passing facts of the day.

 Two errors were faced by the early church which still remain today.  The full divinity of Jesus was questioned by Arias a presbyter in Alexandria.  On the other hand Docetists (from the Greek dokeo ‘to seem’ or ‘appear’) argued that it was unworthy for the divine to take human flesh, much less to die in shame and weakness upon a cross. 

 

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - iii. The Danger of Drifting

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 2:1-4

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Hebrews is quite different from other books of the New Testament: a sermon in the form of a letter.  It is addressed to second generation believers who face circumstances they cannot control.  They are in danger of falling away from Christian commitment.  They are weary and their faith is sagging.  Accordingly, the writer offers a sensitive pastoral response.  Before he resorts to exhortation, he highlights sound theology, always good pastoral practice.  Chapter one underscores the majesty of Jesus in a profound way: supreme over creation and the cosmos by way of seven arresting statements (1:1-4) and supreme over angelic revelation by way of seven quotations from the Greek version of the O.T. (1:5-13), seven being the number of perfection.

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - ii. The Supremacy of Jesus

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 1:5-14

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The first four verses of Hebrews are like an Overture to a Symphony where the melodic theme introduces the composition.  The writer is anonymous, more than likely an associate of Paul, concerned that Jewish believers faced with opposition were being tempted to revert to Judaism.  He wrote from an urban context prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  He presents a high view of Jesus in a pluralistic age similar to ours.  Indeed, the classical scholar E.M. Blaiklock argues that the 20thC, of all past centuries, is the most similar to the 1stC by way of religious pluralism.  This is equally true of the 21stC. 

Jesus is God’s final word in the midst of a plethora of voices claiming ultimate allegiance.  The prophetic witness of the O.T. (v1) in all its variety of genre and context is but a prelude to Jesus “in these last days” (v2) i.e. the time frame ever since the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Hebrews for Today: The Majestic Jesus - i. God's Final Word (including Bible Study notes)

Preacher: Alan Cameron

Verses: Hebrews 1:1-4

God's Final word.jpg

The first four verses of Hebrews are like an Overture to a Symphony where the melodic theme introduces the composition.  The writer is anonymous, more than likely an associate of Paul, concerned that Jewish believers faced with opposition were being tempted to revert to Judaism.  He wrote from an urban context prior to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  He presents a high view of Jesus in a pluralistic age similar to ours.  Indeed, the classical scholar E.M. Blaiklock argues that the 20thC, of all past centuries, is the most similar to the 1stC by way of religious pluralism.  This is equally true of the 21stC. 

Jesus is God’s final word in the midst of a plethora of voices claiming ultimate allegiance.  The prophetic witness of the O.T. (v1) in all its variety of genre and context is but a prelude to Jesus “in these last days” (v2) i.e. the time frame ever since the death and resurrection of Jesus.