We’re starting a new series looking into the book of Hebrews. For the next seven weeks or so we will consider a few themes from this new testament writing. I encourage you to jump into this text. Read it for yourself. Allow questions to rise to the surface and then ask them to God. Learning, growing, and understanding is something that’s up to you.
What are the things that keep you from engaging with that process?
Our prayer is that together we can grow through this series, but that also as individuals, we would allow God to help us by pointing out roadblocks and helping us to remove them.
What keeps you from engaging with the process of learning and growing?
Roadblocks are not permanent and community is a place where we can work through them.
Many of the things that we face as obstacles were things that followers of Jesus who heard these writings would have faced too.
The start of Hebrews opens up the concept that Jesus has become the greatest ever. Greater than Moses. The greatest high priest in the history of Israel. Greater than COVID. God communicates through Jesus in a greater way than any previous communication channel.
You might hear the phrase “Jesus is greater,” and automatically picture the old school Jesus salesman in your head.
You have problems? Jesus is greater! JUST LET GO AND LET GOD! Let shamwow Jesus clean up all of your messes for you in no time. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!......
The focus of our series is not to Jesus-away our problems but to learn and grow to a point that we can see God for who He is in light of any problems we’re facing. This has been a season of life where problems and struggles have become more real or more apparent. When we talk about Jesus being greater than things like our problems, we still have to realize that the problems are real, and it’d be a disservice to just wash over them.
Relationship with Jesus is not a quick fix or guarantee for an easier life. We just got done talking about masks. Another mask we could wear would be saying Jesus is greater than our problems and acting like they’re no big deal when, in fact, they are big deals to us.
What do people’s actions say as to what they think is greater than God?
What do your actions say as to what you think is greater than God?
Hebrews was written to followers of Jesus in the first century who were tempted to return to old-school Judaism. They thought they had to get back to the systems of sacrifice and good works to get right with God. They had been facing persecution for following Jesus, and it would have been easier to just go back to what was. A lot of the old covenant Jews were not convinced that Jesus was all that great. Many of Jesus’ followers had died already because Jews who didn’t follow Jesus killed them.
Moses was viewed as the greatest person in the history of Judaism. For good reason. He led the people of Israel out of slavery and into the most crucial time in their entire history. The standards of the day were centered on following the law he had laid out. The external.
The whole of the book of Hebrews is an encouragement to continue on in faith and lays out the reasons why Jesus is actually the greatest. How He is trustworthy. It’s a call to pursue an internal reality as opposed to just focusing on the old, external system.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
Well alright, I guess the text is clear. I guess Jesus is greater!
How easy it can be to just take that as the right answer without processing it internally and asking ourselves what it really means.
These followers of Jesus to whom Hebrews was written would have been at a point that they didn’t want to do it anymore. Especially considering that they didn’t know Jesus personally but had all kinds of writings, literally hundreds of years of tradition, talking about how certain heroes of faith were the greatest. How could we say Jesus is greater than Moses?
Why on earth would they follow Jesus after not having ever met him in the first place? After facing persecution for following him? This is a really good process point for us. The why’s behind what we do in life are important and I think oftentimes the why’s can be things we aren’t very aware of.
Let me ask you a question. Or a few questions.
Why do you love the people you love?
Why do you live where you live?
Why do you work where you work?
Can you feel the tension? I know I can feel it in myself.
Uh, I don’t know, I guess...just...because.
Maybe we need to be aware of our why’s more often. This leads to another deeper question.
Why do you follow Jesus?
Christian culture can often propagate this idea that following Jesus is about what we get out of it. I think that misses the boat entirely.
Why would these people have followed Jesus?
It seems like they’re experiencing something similar to the people of Israel after their miraculous delivery out of Egypt. They celebrate after escaping Pharaoh's army. Miriam and Moses have this wonderful song of praise to God for what He’s done. And then very quickly, the people are hungry and thirsty in the wilderness of the desert and seem to forget.
They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
The followers of Jesus here facing persecution may have dealt with this too. Okay so Jesus died and resurrected. So what does that even mean for me? Why does that matter? Especially now that people want to kill me. It’d be better for me to just go back to what was.
Why does anyone choose to follow Jesus?
Why have you chosen to follow Jesus?
A big part of our series will be examining the internal, seeing what’s under the surface, figuring out our why’s. If they’re not strong whys we’ll eventually find a reason to not do something.
Confession time. I hate working out. I’ve had seasons of working out and being in shape. But I’ve never had a good enough why to keep it going indefinitely.
Why do I want to work out?
Because I want abs? Yeah,that ends like 2 days into it.
Because I want to have a healthier body? Well that’s a little better, but the benefit hasn’t shown itself to outweigh the cost yet in my life.
How does anyone get to a point that the why has enough power to keep them committed and to keep them choosing?
Hebrews is all about clinging to Jesus when there could be other things to cling to instead. It is a writing full of whys that encourages readers back to the point of choosing Jesus over and over, remaining committed in light of persecution.
Maybe it’s not persecution or an outside force that feels greater than God. Maybe you have internal struggles and realities that feel greater. For me, my past and my own sin can feel crippling and overwhelming, and much more powerful than God. I see some amazing truths in scripture though.
1 John 3:19-20
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
It’s pretty amazing that almost any issue I face in life will find some answer of sort in scripture. But we can have all the knowledge in the world and still put our trust in the wrong things. Just knowing these things doesn’t really do much for me. Internal realization and experience is where it is at.
The things that we think are the “greatest” or have the most power are the things that we are going to be putting our trust in. Especially if we feel pressure for those things.
In my own church experience, I can see Moses-esque things, things that make up part of faith, that in themselves are not bad but are not something I should see as greater than Jesus.
Many of the experiences I had in pentecostal church growing up were okay. The way they were explained or presented was often wrong. For me, it’s these kinds of things that I can revert back to when things get hard, instead of continuing on in Jesus.
Things like gifts of the spirit, worship culture, conversations on sin. Good things.
Yet, if I take those and make them my foundation for faith I’ll have missed out on Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Jesus is right in the middle of gifts of the spirit, worship, talks about sin and holiness. But I can run after those things without any pursuit of Jesus and miss him completely. Miss how he’s greater than all of those things, that they’re all meant to point to him in the first place.
I could get all of the external things right and miss the internal reality of the greatness of Jesus.
Matthew 7:21-23 (MSG)
“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
So it’s really good to process if I’m living in a way that puts things above Jesus in terms of greatness. But how do I get from seeing something as greater than Jesus to correctly seeing and valuing Jesus as greatest?
How do I actually believe/know that Jesus is real and that He’s greater than anything else? I need to experience his greatness and understand it for myself, not just hear about it from someone else.
How does someone move from generalized knowledge of Jesus’ greatness to internal belief in his greatness?
We’ve mentioned Bloom’s taxonomy a few times. Google it if you like, it’s fascinating. It deals with levels of learning. Some of the lowest levels are remembering (being able to repeat things back) and understanding (really getting basic principles.) Higher levels of learning involve analysis and even creation.
In this series we will repeatedly invite you to move past just remembering and understanding, and to dive into the work of analysis, evaluation and creation. Processing Jesus’ greatness can’t just be something to remember or to understand. There has to be a deeper engagement than that.
If someone says to you You are the best/I love you/I care/I will help/I support you/I believe in you/etc, no matter how true or compelling or heartfelt it is, we all have the capacity to not receive it. To not hear or internalize or believe. We can easily build impermeable walls in this process. We hope this series will be a journey together in starting to crack those walls so they can come down.
What has the power to crack a wall?
In John 3 we see a crack forming in Nicodemus’ “wall.”
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I love how Hebrews 12 draws a picture of the wall and the opening of the cracks.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
Sin is not just bad stuff, it’s anything that separates us from God. My walls entangle me. Paul puts it this way. Nothing can separate us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us. Except for our own perceptions or choices to believe it’s not true.
What things entangle or block the reality of who Jesus is from hitting you?
Take It Deeper Questions
Read John 3:1-21
Who are the most important or famous people you know?
What do you think Nicodemus had to overcome in order to come to Jesus?
Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus? (vs. 1-2)
How did Jesus respond?
What does it mean to be born of water and Spirit?
Why is Nicodemous an important perspective to bring to the famous verses of John 3:16-18?
Bible Reading Plan
1 Thessalonians 3
1 Thessalonians 4
1 Thessalonians 5