Jesus, greater than all

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:24
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The preacher of Hebrews begs his church to place their faith in Christ before it is too late. His first argument is that Jesus is greater than any other authority or power, so he deserves our trust and obedience. Who are the authorities the we, the church in modern Australia, bow down to? How can we place Jesus on the throne of our lives? What is it that we must see as less than Jesus, so that we can dedicate our lives wholly to him?

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Introduction

We’re looking again today at the New Testament book of Hebrews. Before we get into today’s specific topic, I wanted you to reflect on your own life.
Think about what you spend the most amount of your energy on. What’s on your mind as you go to sleep, and prods you as you wake up? What do you stress about? What fills your life? For most of us there will be a number of things, but think about the one thing that most dominates your thoughts and activities. This is your top priority.
So, you got that?
Now keep that in mind as we read from the book of Hebrews.

Bible

Hebrews 1:2–4 NLT
2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.
Hebrews 3:3–6 NLT
3 But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. 4 For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. 5 Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. 6 But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14–16 NLT
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Jesus is the greatest

I hope you remember that in the introduction to Hebrews two weeks ago, I talked about how one of the two arguments the preacher used was that Jesus was greater than anything else. In his sermon, he insisted that the church should place their faith in Jesus because nothing else was as worthy as him. Remember that?
Today we’re going to dig into that.
The preacher of Hebrews uses three comparisons to illustrate Jesus’ supremacy: the angels, Moses, and the priests. Let’s start with the angels.

Jesus is the greatest messenger

Why would the preacher compare Jesus to the angels? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward: Jesus came as a Rabbi, a teacher, bearing a message of Good News, the Gospel.
Now, when you encounter some news, one of the first things you do, often subconsciously, is look at who is bearing it; who is the messenger? For example, if your doctor tells you that you have six months to live, most of you will be much more concerned than if your horoscope in the New Idea magazine told you the same thing.
Messengers are important, because they are a link to the origin of the message—they legitimate the content of the message in a way. Why do you think TV ads use scientists or celebrities to carry their message? Because advertising agencies know that the messenger matters.
Who are the messengers you trust most?
Is it doctors and dentists, scientists and scholars? These were certainly the main authorities in Australia in the mid twentieth century. They are the messengers of the worldview called “modernism,” or “the enlightenment,” which holds that human beings can, through science, perfect themselves.
Or perhaps it is your friends, or your social group, your facebook feed, or powerful storytellers? This peer-driven view is a part of post-modernism, where our tribe or social group defines truth for us. This view drives the anti-vaxxer and other conspiracy theory movements. By the way, don’t think this is a right-wing or left-wing thing. It is not a political movement. It’s just another way for human beings to escape their responsibility to face up to God.
Is it theologians or preachers or gurus or priests? These are the messengers of organised religion.
Whoever’s authority you accept, Jesus is greater than them. Jesus is the greatest messenger of all time. He stamps the message he bears with the utmost authority, the utmost trustworthiness. Why? Because he is the maker of everything—he knows the purpose, the heart, of all things. How could he bear an inaccurate or false message?
Whatever the message Jesus bears, it is authenticated to the max.

Jesus is the greatest culture maker

But Jesus isn’t just the greatest messenger. He is also the greatest culture maker!
The preacher compares Jesus to Moses. Israel was committed to working out the Law of Moses. Through the Law, Moses built the culture of Israel. But, of course, Moses wasn’t the source of the law, God was. And, as God, Jesus brought a new Law which fulfilled the Law of Moses, what James calls the “royal Law.” The law of love and grace. Jesus builds not a merely human culture, like ancient Israel, but the perfect, ideal culture than humanity was created to live out. As the church, we strive to express that culture in this fallen world. Tragically, we so often fail, because we become captured by other cultures.
The preacher of Hebrews is warning his church not to be captured by the old culture of Israel. But what culture captures us?
Is it the culture of scientism, which claims that science can redeem humanity and make us gods? Do you think that our government can save us through clever economics and medicine? Or perhaps the climate scientists’ plans for a green revolution are what will save us? The truth is, the culture of Jesus is greater than these.
Are you deeply invested in the insight of artists, the power of novelists, the culture-defining work of cinema. Or perhaps the memes your friends share online drive you to be a better person? Jesus’ way is better than this, too! (Oh, so much better!)
Jesus’ way is better than this sermon! Better than the best book of theology or philosophy or self-help or positive thinking!
Jesus’ way—his culture, the content of his teaching—is greater than any other culture, any other worldview. There is nothing we can do, no way we can live, that is better than to simply listen to Jesus’ word and obey it. Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life.

Jesus is the greatest mediator

Finally, Jesus is not just the greatest messenger and the greatest culture maker. He is also the greatest mediator.
The preacher of Hebrews compares Jesus to the Aaronic priesthood. The priests were the special group who stood between God and the people. They made it possible for the ordinary Hebrew to approach God, through their ministry.
But, again, Jesus is so much greater!
Hebrews 10:19–23 NLT
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Doctors, nurses and pharmacists can give us a vaccine, which might protect us from death for a little while. Our friends and storytellers can gather around and engage with us, comforting us and distracting us from the great purposelessness of a meaningless life for a time. Priests and religious leaders can engage in endless rituals to keep drawing us back to God each day.
But only Jesus can open a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place—the very presence of God. Only Jesus can give eternal significance and meaning to our lives. Only Jesus can rescue us from our endless, vicious circle of selfishness.

How to put Jesus first

So how, then, do we put Jesus first? After all, don’t we already have priorities, like the need to eat, earn money for our families, etc. etc.?
Yes, of course we do. But if we place Jesus first, we can do these things for Jesus, and in his strength and spirit.
But how?
I’d like to read a wonderful passage from A. W. Tozer’s famous book, The Pursuit of God. In this passage, Tozer is explaining our part in removing the veil, the curtain, between us and God, who dwells in the Most Holy Place.
Tozer points to our selfishness, our relentless, self-centred focus as the substance of that veil. He says,
Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
Let us remember that when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant, but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.
—A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
You see, our focus on what is right for us, what is important to us, what works for us, what matters to us, what is true for us, what is good for us, what is real to us… This self-centred focus is what keeps us from God. When we care for our children because they are ours, and not someone else’s, our self-centred care separates us from God. When we work at a job to earn money for ourselves, and not in order to further God’s kingdom, we separate ourselves from God. When we preach a sermon to impress others, we separate ourselves from God. When we serve the poor to win our way into heaven, we separate ourselves from God.
But when we turn to face Jesus with our whole beings, when we learn to love him as the greatest of all messengers, the greatest Word ever spoken, and the supreme mediator between us and God, then we can do all these things as acts of worship and love. Not love for ourselves, but love for our Lord Jesus.
Is this too mystical for you?
Think about the difference between a husband who brings home flowers to ingratiate himself with his wife because he wants her to allow something, versus the husband who brings home flowers because it is an expression of how much he loves and values his wife and he wants her to know that. These husbands know the same things about their wives. They take the same actions. But would you say the difference between these two men is too mystical? Of course not! You know what the difference is!
What is it? [wait for responses]
That’s right! It’s love.
And that’s the difference for us, too. We do everything out of our love for our Lord Jesus.
The preacher of Hebrews concludes his sermon with these words:
Hebrews 13:15–16 NLT
15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
Let’s go and live like that!
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