Merry Christmas eve!
As we read through the Bible this week we moved from Paul’s letters to this unusual book called Hebrews. Who do you think Hebrews was written to? Jews or Gentiles? The original audience is obvious by the title, right? This is a book to Jews, to Hebrews, who have become disciples of Jesus Christ. Among these Jews were perhaps some of the earliest Christians. Some, if not many, have seen the amazing miracles of Jesus and certainly of the Apostles. Most of these Hebrews had probably heard the preaching of the gospel of Christ by the very men who walked with Him and witnessed Jesus’ life, His teaching, His miracles, His death, burial and resurrection.
These early Jewish Christians faced rejection by the majority of their own nation, Israel, who did NOT accept Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. But these Jewish Christians soon came to realize that following Christ as Lord would bring them under persecution and hardship from those who rejected Jesus. Those Jews who rejected Jesus were pressuring the Christian Jews to turn back to Judaism. At first the Christian Jews held high hopes that all their friends and families would come to accept Jesus as the Christ, or that Jesus would return to rescue them from this bitter persecution. As weeks became months and months became years, Jesus did not return as they anticipated. Not only that but the pressure against their faith by fellow Jews who rejected Jesus only grew stronger and their hopes of their nation turning to faith in Christ began to dim. As they continued sharing the gospel with their fellow Jews, instead of being met with curiosity and perhaps interest, those who rejected Christ poisoned the minds of others against the gospel, so Christian outreach was often met with harsh treatment, false accusation and sometimes confiscation of their property and even imprisonment.
Persecution has a twofold effect on Christian faith. First, is that it produces in those who are deeply committed even stronger faith and resolve, but, second, is that it causes those with shallow roots of faith wither away. Think of these. Ask yourself: Which of these two best describes my own faith? Are you deeply committed to following Christ and confessing Him, or is your faith too shallow to withstand the pressures against it?
Hebrews was written to address this.
Hebrews was written to strengthen and encourage dedication and faithfulness to Christ among those persecuted Jewish Christians. And it’s message can be a great benefit to us today.
Here we are today, 2000 years removed from these Christian brothers and sisters, yet we are still carrying forward the gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing the same faith, hope and love of Christ here and now, even while facing some of the same fears of rejection and struggles.
Here we are on Christmas eve 2017. This season we call Christmas began to be celebrated as a reminder of the coming of Jesus Christ about 337 years after Jesus’ birth. For the first 300 years of the church, it was a persons death, more than their birth, that was emphasized. You didn’t hear so much about someone’s birthday, but more about the day of their death. For Christians in particular, dying in Christ meant freedom from earthly struggles and a glorious entry into the eternal kingdom of God. Coming into this world was not as big a deal to them as going into the next.
Jesus came to us to bring us this glorious hope. Whatever we do in this world, I pray it will be to help build up and encourage our seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Hebrews gives us many motivational reasons to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness as it encourages us to keep our attention fixed on Jesus, our prophet, High Priest, and King.
Let’s survey these as our lesson today.
Jesus is GOD’S PROPHET: chapter 1:1-4, 2:1-4, 3:12-15
God has spoken through prophets in the past, but His prophet today is His Son, Jesus Christ.
A prophet declared the words of God. Not just to tell the future, but to tell the will of God. Jesus is the very Word of God, thus Jesus Christ came as the ultimate Prophet of God. His words ARE God’s words. We MUST listen to them and heed His words if we would seek God’s kingdom and righteousness.
Jesus is GOD’S HIGH PRIEST: chapter 2:14-18, 4:14-16 (this is the major message of Hebrews). The high priests of Israel came from Aaron’s family line. But before Aaron was born, Abraham, forefather of Aaron, had met Melchizedek, the first High Priest of God mentioned in the Bible. Abraham had worshipped with Melchizedek, given a tithe to him, and been blessed by this high priest. The Hebrew writer declares that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. Later in Psalm 110, God’s word says of the Messiah, “You are my Son, today I have become your Father,” and, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus fulfills this.
Jesus Christ is an eternal High Priest. Though He gave His life’s blood for us as a sacrifice, He rose from the dead and He now lives forever, interceding for us in God’s presence as our High Priest. He fulfills the scriptures: you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus Christ is a sinless High Priest, tempted like we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15.
Jesus Christ is a Royal High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek: King of Salem (Peace), King of Righteousness (Melchizedek). Hebrews 7:1-3.
Jesus Christ is KING OF KINGS. He rules over the unshakeable eternal kingdom of God. Hebrews 1:8-12, 12:22-29.
I love the answer Jesus gave to Pilate in John 18:33-37. Jesus was born to be King!
When? When did this Prophet, Priest and King come?
It was at night, in Bethlehem, under the star. God’s greatest gift of grace and goodness was given. As Isaiah 9 tells us: To us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Jesus came to be our Prophet, High Priest and King. All who are on the side of truth listen to Him.
Do you need to surrender your life to Him today?