We live in a world where propriety is considered higher than truth. In the name of diversity and inclusiveness, permissiveness is rampant. We live in a country where anything is “worshippable”. A nation where spirituality is equated with “Doing Good” where any religious organisation is automatically termed a “Charitable Institution” there by equating charity with religion and faith. How do we handle people who believe that “all religions lead to god”.
When we present the gospel to anyone, we usually depend on one the Gospel books of the bible. How can we make the message of the gospel more relevant to people who want answers to questions like, why is Jesus Christ better? How is He different from the many avatars that are worshipped in our country? Thousands of years ago a group of Jews faced the same questions and the author of the book of Hebrews puts forward some very convincing answers to their questions. Let us see what we can learn about Gospel from this book.
The book of Hebrews was written to an audience who were struggling with faith, just like some of our friends might be, people who were Judaic Christians struggling with doubts about the relevance of Christianity, struggling to see if Christianity was in any way “better” than the Judaism that they were following. After all, Jews were a nation chosen by God. Jews were also the most hunted, the most hated and the most hurt people on earth (The film fiddler on the roof has a dialogue where the hero asks “God, I know we are the chosen people, but why don’t you choose some one else for a change?”) So what is different about Christianity that they should follow this Jesus of Nazareth? What is different about Him that they should take that plunge? A number of our friends might ask the same question. In line of Melchizedek (Priest and King in one, priest forever) 7:1-10. Ravi Zacharia in his book, “Jesus among other gods” says “Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true, Morally, you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim it to be a ‘better’ way. Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it. How does one, to a mood such as this, communicate the message of Jesus Christ, in which Truth and absoluteness are not only assumed, but sustained?”
The Book of Hebrews gives us a number of reasons to tell us why Jesus Christ is superior. Let me dwell on just three of them this morning.
1. Why Jesus had to come down to earth as fully man?
2. Why did He have to live like an ordinary human being?
3. Why did he have to die a horrible death like an ordinary human being?
1. Why Jesus had to come down to earth as fully man?
Six reasons are stressed here in Hebrews,
1.1 So that he could taste death for everyone, even though He is immortal God 2:9
1.2 So that He could suffer for us, even though He is the omnipotent saviour 2: 10
1.3 So that He could call us brother, even though He is the creator of all 2:11-13
1.4 So that he could share in our humanity even though he is the unlimited perfect spirit 2:14
1.5 2:14-17, so that in dying he could free us from the power of death
1.6 2:18, So that in experiencing temptation, he can better help us with our own temptation
2. Why did Jesus have to live like an ordinary human being?
Take a look at two of the authority figures in the old testament. The High Priest and the King. The pomp and power associated with the high priest can be seen from Exodus 28. The luxury and richness of the King could be seen from the Book of 1 Kings and other history books (1 Kings 4:22-28, 1 Kings 9:26-28 ,1Kings 22:10, 1 Chronicles 15:27, 2 Sam 1:10 ,2 Kings 11:12, 1 Kings 10:14-29, 2 Samuel 23:8-39) . The book of Hebrews establishes Jesus as the permanent High Priest 5:5-6) and the King of Righteousness (Ch 7). Now when we put the pictures of High priest and king together, we should expect the richness and power and authority multiplied. Instead the picture that Jesus presents is that of one who washes the feet of his disciples. (John Ch 13), and does that knowing fully well that He has all the power and authority given by the Father (John 13: 3). Many leaders before him have chosen the Power and authority model of leadership. For example see the story of Rehaboam. He inherited the Kingdom of Israel arguably at it’s wealthiest best. When Rehoboam became King of Israel after the death of his father Solomon, he held an audience with his followers who proceeded to lay down conditions for their continued faithfulness to him. They told him “your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (I Kings 12:4). Rehoboam asked for three days to prepare a response and to seek the wisdom of his advisors. The decision he had to make was a choice as to the kind of leader he would be. Two different views emerged. One group of advisors (the elder wise men of the kingdom) instructed him to see himself as a servant to the people. They told him, “if today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants” (I Kings 12:7). The second group of advisors (the young men, Rehoboam’s contemporaries) gave different advice. They suggested, “tell these people … my father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions” (I Kings 12:10-11). All of us know the choice that Rehoboam made. Rehoboam made the choice that many leaders have made before him (and after him). The choice was to not listen to his people but to claim for himself the right to use power over the people to force compliance. He chose power and authority over the opportunity to serve. As a direct result of his choice the Kingdom was irrevocably divided and he lost the majority of his followers.
Jesus chose Servanthood over power and authority. And that was just one of the temptations he had to deal with. There were many others, there was wealth, there was adoration, there was fame, you name it, Jesus would have had the temptation. Jesus Earned His right to be followed by demonstrating what we should do, by enduring every temptation that we are faced with, yet not yielding to any of them. He had to live like an ordinary human being so that he could demonstrate that it is possible. Jesus became like us, so that we could be like Him.
3. But why was it necessary for Jesus to die as a man?
There is this beautiful explanation in Hebrews 9:16-17. If I have a rich uncle and he writes all his wealth to me through a will, the will is of no use until my uncle dies, and till the time he dies , he has the power and authority to change the name in the will and give it away to any one else. A will comes into effect only when the author of the will dies, and the death is established. Now consider this, what did God will us? The abundant Grace, and how could we inherit that except through the death of the author? The death on the cross freed up the inheritance for all of us who were sinners. Isn’t that a beautiful thought?
I want us to compare with the other faiths that we are familiar with. Which other “god” offers this? Which other “god” has gone through the suffering of complete humanity to buy salvation for the whole of mankind? Which other faith, which other “god” offers this freedom through the death of one self?
So there are enough evidences for us to know that Christ is superior to other “gods”. But is that the reason why we should do what we do? Not necessarily, most of us do this because of our faith.
Faith is defined as “Being sure that we will get what we hope for. And certain of what we do not see”
The book of Hebrews promises us that we can have faith for being made perfect through Jesus Christ, some thing which all the other faithfuls described in Chapter 11 of the book could not get, though they were all commended for their faith. Vs 9: 39-40. This is the faith that we have been asked to share, this is the faith that organisations like yours strive to spread. This is the faith that all of us have in serving Him. Let our faith, fuelled by the knowledge that Jesus is the perfect saviour drive us to do greater things for His Kingdom.
One commentator draws an analogy to the mountaineer’s dilemma when faced with a steep wall in front of him. When you are climbing a mountain and reach a place where these is a steep wall in front of you, with no footholds or anything else to hold , the mountaineer is forced to take a decision. One decision that he can take is to abandon the journey and return back to base camp. The other decision is to use the pendulum method to get across and continue the journey. The pendulum method is exactly what is sounds like, You attach a strong hook to the highest point that you can reach and then pass a rope that is attached to your body through the loop, go down a little bit, hang into empty space, with your foot placed against the wall, and then swing like a pendulum to the other side of the steep wall, where you could get a foot hold, once you , and your team, get your foot on the other side you pull out the rope from the loop and then you have lost all connection with the previous place you were in. The hook that you used is firmly out of reach for you, and there is only one way to go; up!! There is no going back, the only thing you can do is to keep going ahead. This is risky and requires a lot of courage. For many people , who are good, who are well off, who are successful, a decision to follow Jesus, is like this. At some point in time of their faith walk , they reach this position where they have to take a call, to return to the old faith or to take that plunge and keep going in the new faith, with no return. I am sure all of us are familiar with the song “ I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning Back, No turning Back”. I am aware of that many of you have taken that plunge and will never turn back. Keep going, and encourage others to take that plunge. Let me encourage those of you who have not taken the plunge yet, to decide on doing so today. Jesus is the right answer. Take that plunge and you will never have to turn back.
Let us pray