“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
And whether pigs have wings.”
When I was in Mr. Brock’s eight grade algebra class, those words meant it was time to change up our seating chart. They still stick with me today and ring in my ears anytime I embark on something new. Well, it’s time for something new. The last week was a nice, natural break, but I am ready for a new journey with you. This is actually a journey I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. Over the next few months, we are going to be slowly making our way through the New Testament letter of Hebrews. Hebrews is one of the most theological rich and pastorally impactful documents in the whole of the Scriptures. It easily rivals Romans on that score, in my opinion. But instead of offering a basic primer on the Gospel, Hebrews takes its readers deeper in an exploration of the preeminence of Christ. As we go, then, we are going to see why Jesus is so great. We’ll also encounter several applications of His greatness that are designed and intended to make us squirm a bit. I’m excited to dive in with you. I hope you’ll come with me for every step of the journey.
Hebrews, like any document in the New Testament, begins with an introduction. The introduction here gives us a bit of a taste of what’s to come. The author is going to be talking about Jesus. More specifically, he’s going to be talking about Jesus’ being greater than anything or anyone that came before Him. Speaking of the author, we don’t actually know who wrote Hebrews. While there have been a whole variety of suggestions over the centuries of church history, the simple (and frustrating) truth is that we don’t know who did it. What we do know is that the author was writing to a group of Jewish-background Jesus followers to help them understand how and why Jesus was greater than any of the things Jews normally turned to for their help, hope, and inspiration. All of the attention they might have given those things in the past can and should now be directed toward Jesus.
This ongoing comparison begins right out of the gate here. While God spoke to us in various ways through the prophets in the past, now He speaks to us through His Son. Actually, the Greek phrase translated “his Son” there doesn’t actually say that. The word “his” doesn’t appear in the Greek. And, the word “son” doesn’t have an article. A more literal reading would be “in these last days he has spoken to us by son.” That doesn’t translate so smoothly into English, though, so translators are left with a decision to make in order to render the Greek readable in English.
As you look at the context of this phrase along with the context of the larger letter, what becomes clear is that the author isn’t focused so much on the content of God’s further revelation of Himself to the people as he is the quality of it. In short: the new stuff is better than the old. More specifically to this verse, when the author talks about God speaking “by son,” the next verse makes clear that this son enjoys a relationship with God the Father that goes beyond his being some generic son (like the way some older men are in the habit of calling all younger men “son”). This is a family relationship. This is not merely “a son,” but God’s Son. What’s more, the revelation coming through His Son is superior to any other revelation God has delivered. Not only is the vehicle of the revelation superior, but the revelation the vehicle delivers is superior. Everything about what God has accomplished and delivered to us through His Son is superior to what He did and accomplished before. This is not to say none of that mattered, but what we have in Christ is better. Period.
If you want to think about it this way, in the past, God sort of played telephone with us. Now, He made sure His messages came through clearly by choosing His prophets carefully and instructing them very specifically, but there was always an intermediary between us and God. Through Jesus we are able to hear from God directly. There is no more intermediary. Well, Jesus is our intermediary (a point the author will come back to later and spend a great deal of time unpacking for us), but because of His unique relationship to the Father (namely, the He and the Father are one and the same person), we are hearing from God directly rather than through another person.
The rest of the letter goes on to explain why this is such a good thing. What we will have to keep in mind as we go, though, is that these explanations are being delivered to folks whose concerns and questions aren’t necessarily our concerns and questions. In fact, we can say it more plainly: They are not our concerns and questions. What this means is that some of the comparisons the author is making are not ones we would have ever thought to make on our own. The material is nonetheless of vital importance for us to understand because it conveys an awful lot of powerful truths about Jesus that do touch on concerns and questions we have. We just need to do a bit of applicational work which we will do as we come to them along our journey.
That’s about all I wanted to clarify for you as we get started on this journey. This morning was just to introduce you to the book and to get you ready for what is to come. Allow me to offer one more observation before calling it for this morning. While the author’s point is to note God’s revelation through Jesus as superior to His revelation through the prophets, and while He describes the revelation through Jesus as coming “in these last days,” Jesus Himself was not someone new God created to try another approach to get us to listen. Instead, God was drawing on something old. Very old. In fact, this new source was the vehicle of creation. God made the universe through His Son. That’s about as old as you can get. But God’s Son has also been made the heir of all things. That speaks to His longevity. In other words, He’s been around forever (literally), and He’s going to be around forever (literally). The revelation He delivers is about as firmly rooted in reality as you can get. That means we can trust it. We can trust Him. As we continue in this journey, we are going to see just how true that is.