Read Hebrews 1:1-4 in your favorite Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
“In 1868, Bret Harte wrote a short story called ‘The Luck of Roaring Camp.’ It turned Mr. Harte into an internationally known writer. The story was written about a mining town in California called Roaring Camp. The only woman in the town was a Cherokee named Sal. She became pregnant but died while giving birth to a son. This left a baby in a town full of single men. Not just men, but rough, tough, rude, crude men of the WILD west. What are THEY going to do with a baby?
“The child was thought to be a sign of good fortune so they gave him the name Thomas Luck. They put him in a dirty box, wrapped in dirty clothes. But that didn’t look right, so they ordered a rosewood cradle with satin sheets and a soft pillow. The best room they had was filthy, so these men got on their knees and cleaned the floors and the walls. Then they decided that if they were going to take care of a baby, they needed to start using soap. They needed to wash their hands and bath more often. And then they said, ‘Maybe we don’t need to be gambling so much. Maybe we don’t need to be fighting so much. Maybe we don’t need to be drinking so much.’ And as the story progresses, the entire town of Roaring Camp was transformed by the arrival of a single baby boy.”
(Retrieved from illustrationexchange.com.)
This story is a humorous parallel to the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth. The Bible recounts the story of a baby boy who came along and changed everything.
There are other answers to the question “Why Christmas?” but today we’ll examine the third of three:
Jesus became one of us to introduce all of us to our Heavenly Father.
Fun Fact: In the original language, these four verses are all one long sentence!
1. We used to have a partial revelation. (1-2)
The Father’s original revelation came THROUGH THE PROPHETS to the Jews’ FOREFATHERS. From the very beginning the author of Hebrews engages in what will be his method throughout this book: comparing the Old Covenant to the New Covenant to spotlight the superiority of the New. This first example is how God used to reveal His will THROUGH THE PROPHETS.
God spoke through these men AT MANY TIMES AND IN VARIOUS WAYS, in contrast to the New Covenant, where He spoke through one person, HIS SON, not many prophets. He revealed Himself in MANY WAYS in the Old Covenant, but established the New Covenant through a single witness, Jesus Christ.
The writer’s purpose may be to convince the reader of the greater reliability of the New Covenant as it was delivered to us by a more authoritative source, God’s Son. At the same time, he argued for continuity between Old and New, as both come from God and the New completes the Old.
The Father’s final revelation came to us BY HIS SON. The word SPOKE is in a tense that this revelation is the final and complete one. This final revelation has been given IN THESE LAST DAYS. LAST DAYS is another contrast with the phrase IN THE PAST. It is also a reference to the times in which we live, the “Millennium” described in Revelation 20.
In His life and ministry Jesus perfectly represented the Father. The word PROPHETS should be understood as a broad reference to all exemplary men of faith in their various situations, not just those called to the role of a prophet. These men expressed the promises of God and Jesus fulfilled them. As human beings, the prophets presented the will of God to the limits of their ability and obedience. But Jesus Christ, being both God and man, was the EXACT REPRESENTATION of God.
2. Jesus is the full revelation. (2-4)
These three verses give us eight descriptions of Christ that contribute to a full-featured revelation of God the Son, the Revelator of God the Father. The first of these descriptions is in verse two where we are told Jesus is the HEIR OF ALL THINGS (3). The important part is ALL THINGS: as Romans 8:16-17 attests, Jesus has authority over all of creation.
His authority comes from His nature, being very God. It also comes from His role as Creator: THROUGH WHOM [God] MADE THE UNIVERSE. The word UNIVERSE here is synonymous with ALL THINGS in verse two. Jesus has authority over all of creation because He was the creative means used by the Father (see John 1:3).
Jesus is THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY (3). Light is the visual representation of God’s glory and the emotional response of worship as we feel awe in His presence. RADIANCE is a reflected light. You cannot look directly at the sun for very long without risk of injury to your eyes but you can look all night at the sunlight reflected from the moon without fear of injury.
Jesus is THE EXACT REPRESENTATION OF [God the Father’s] BEING (3). The word REPRESENTATION pictures a stamp, an impression made in some object to verify its authenticity, a wax seal. Jesus verified all that had been previously revealed about God the Father. In John 14:9 Jesus told Philip, ”ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER.”
Christ is constantly SUSTAINING ALL THINGS THROUGH HIS POWERFUL WORD (3). The word translated as SUSTAINING is not just preserving creation, it is also managing it to its intended end. It can be translated “bearing” or carrying creation forward. All human history has been used to direct humanity to the victory of God and invite us to join God in it.
In this phrase – HE PROVIDED PURIFICATION FOR SINS (3) – we get to the heart of the passage. Seven of the eight things revealed about Jesus have to do with the salvation He offers us. Notice PURIFICATION FROM SINS can only happen in this life. Our Catholic friends believe in a second kind of afterlife called “Purgatory” where purification from sins can take place. That is not biblical.
What isn’t translated from the original language (Greek) to English is the personal involvement of Jesus in purifying us from our sins. This is the chief goal of the Incarnation and Jesus’ personal mission. And it implies He did it Himself; there was no other agency.
This ended in Jesus’ glorification: HE…SAT AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE MAJESTY IN HEAVEN (3). This is a posture of rest in a position of honor. It shows that Jesus accomplished everything the Father intended by His Incarnation and now occupies the place of high honor and authority.
This is also a way for the author to show how Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies about the Messiah. The phrase is a partial quote of PSS 110:1, a verse the Jews believed to be a prediction about the Messiah.
In returning to heaven victorious, [Jesus] BECAME SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS (4). This is another instance where the writer compared the Old Testament ways with the New Testament ways, pronouncing the New Testament ways SUPERIOR. SUPERIOR is a word used often in this letter (13 out of 19 New Testament uses of this word are found in Hebrews).
In this case Christ is SUPERIOR to THE ANGELS in glory and authority because He is their Creator too. He is also SUPERIOR because Jesus had an experience of humanity and transcended it by obedience.
Jesus became one of us to introduce all of us to our Heavenly Father.
Pastor Joe McKeever wrote about the Incarnation in his blog:
“In a different way and to a lesser degree, Jesus is incarnated in the lives of humans who turn to Him in repentance and faith. ‘Christ in you’ is the mystery that was hid from the foundation of the world, said the Apostle Paul to the Colossians (Col. 1:27). ‘Christ in you’ is the essence of the Christian life. ‘Christ in you’ is the open secret of the disciple’s life on earth.
“Salvation is when Jesus Christ is ‘born’ in you. It is your own individual incarnation, to stay with the metaphor.
Now, if God had something to say to our world which He could say only by being incarnated in human form in First Century Galilee and Judea, it is no stretch to conclude that by being incarnated in you and me, He’s also trying to say something to our world.
“Your assignment is to find out what the Lord is saying to your world–your family, your circle of friends and acquaintances, your co-workers–through living inside you.
You are God’s answer to the questions of the skeptic.
The skeptic wants to know: Is God real? Are the promises of God true? Does Jesus truly live? Does He answer prayer? Is this ‘for real?’
You are the answer.
“We are Exhibit A of Jesus Christ. Like it or not. The burden of that is staggering; the blessing is wonderful.
That has to mean something.
“Let us pray that in beholding us–listening to us, seeing how we behave and talk and move–that outsiders will feel they have come into contact with the very grace and truth of God.”
(Retrieved from joemckeever.com.)
Zondervan Bible Commentary, Hebrews, Gerald F. Hawthorne.
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Thomas Hewitt.