Do you ever have doubts, uncertainties about your faith in Jesus Christ. Do you ever think, this is a bit farfetched, doesn’t fit in with today’s rational and scientific approach to life and belief?
Maybe that experience I had of God’s presence was my imagination, or this Jesus chap sounds very good but, “Son of God? – isn’t that taking things a bit far?
I think that it is safe to say that everyone who has faith in Jesus, everyone who chooses to base their life on belief that He is God, has times of doubt, of uncertainty, and many of us have a faith which we find difficult to express, or to explain to others. We are not alone in this. I am sure every Christian has this experience now and again.
Our New Testament reading today is from the letter to the Hebrews, it is quite unlike any of the other letters in the New Testament, and no-one is quite sure who wrote it, but it was written at the same time as many of Paul’s letters and was probably written by one of Paul’s disciples – possibly Barnabus or Apollos. What is important about the letter is the recipients – not the author.
It was written to Hebrews – not Gentiles, to Jews, not Greeks or Romans. And it is generally agreed that it was written to encourage Jews, who had turned to faith in Jesus, Jews who had become Christians – but who were having some doubts so it was written to strengthen their faith and to encourage them in their following Jesus.
The author therefore develops the basis for faith in Jesus out of the culture of the Jews, he takes what Jews will understand, what is in their culture – he takes the message and the content of the Old Testament – the Jewish scriptures and applies them to what Jesus says and did. To his teaching, to his life, and to his resurrection.
This is early culturalisation – we talk today of making the Gospel relevant to the culture of today – so that today’s generation, today’s western culture, can understand and identify with it. Well – this is an example of culturalisation from the first century AD.
If we are not able to present our faith, our Good News of Jesus, our belief in Him as “Son of God” in a way that the society around us can identify with and therefore understand, we might as well be talking in Greek, or Hebrew. That is why new translations of the Bible in more up to date language, and new forms of worship, or new ways of being a Church are normal and essential developments.
What is it that this letter is saying to the Hebrews in a way they can understand?
In the book of Genesis, there is a brief reference to a Priest called Melchizadek, and he is also referenced in Psalm 110. Now Jewish priests all came from the tribe of Levi, descendants of Aaron, who was with Moses. Melchizadek, however, predates them and he appears without any lineage, without a history, more importantly, there is no record of him dying, there is no recorded end to his life.
In Psalm 110 he is referred to as a sort of “type” for the Messiah, a sort of model for what the Messiah would be like – and that is what the writer of the Hebrews uses to connect with the Jews he is writing to.
He takes this image of a Priest who does not die – to connect in to Jesus.
To the Jews, a priest was appointed to go between God and them, they presented sacrifices to be able to come near to God, they were able, after the sacrifices were properly made, to enter into the inner temple to meet God. In the inner temple they could make intercession for all the people, they could pray on their behalf to God. The priest is their conduit to God.
So – the message to the Hebrews is – “remember Melchizadek, who did not have recorded death – well, remember Jesus who died, but then rose again, so he has no death either. Look – in Jesus we have the realisation of an eternal priest – just like Melchizadek – but better.
Since Jesus is always alive – He can always intercede for us – isn’t that a wonderful picture – Jesus praying for us to His Father
Not only that – priests all need to make sacrifices to be able to come to God – but Jesus, he has given himself as the ultimate, complete sacrifice – so he need offer no more. His sacrifice once and for all – no need for more.
Priests need a temple, a building to go into to meet God – but Jesus has ascended to heaven where He can stand eternally before His Father, before God, in intercession for all – for the Hebrews, for the Gentiles, for us here, and for people from everywhere. That image comes out of the roots of Israel and is as vital today as it was to the first Jewish converts to Christ.
Jesus Christ is – listen to this description from verse 26 –
A High priest who is Holy – worthy of worship, undefiled by rebellion, selfishness, sin
A high priest – who is blameless – has done no wrong, is pure and innocent of all charges, nothing at all for which he could be condemned – nothing.
A high Priest – set apart from sinners yet interceding, praying for us – for you and me – constantly
A high Priest – exalted above the heavens, with His Father, reigning forever, living in eternity, Son of God.
This is your Saviour – he says this to the Hebrews – this is your Saviour – he says to us here – hold on to Jesus in His eternity, hold on to Jesus as your everlasting priest – hold on to Jesus as Son of God.
Remember the resurrection – you thought Melchizadek was something – well look to Jesus because he really is something – he is the real thing, the reality of God amongst us, the everlasting intercessor for us in our lives.
He is the Messiah, the Saviour and the Lord.
And he cares for us – to intercede for us – to pray for us – to follow Him.