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Reducing Our Redeemer (Hebrews 1:1-3)

December 5, 2021 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)

Topic: One Lord: No One Like You, Jesus Christ Passage: Hebrews 1:1–1:3

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I. Smaller Than a Human Cell

Listen to the following excerpt, from an article published just a few years ago:

There's an elaborate nativity scene in Cathedral Square in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It depicts everything from the baby Jesus to the three wise men and a collection of animals, including sheep and a camel. Researchers at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University have now rendered that scene in nanoscale proportions and nicknamed the project “NanoJesus”. The team behind the nano-nativity says it's the world's smallest, and they've submitted it to Guinness World Records for certification. The scene is 10,000 times smaller than the real-world nativity it's based on. The entire nativity could sit on a human eyelash, and the baby Jesus is smaller than a human cell.” (Amanda Kooser, cnet.com/news)

Now when it comes to microscopic molding, reducing our Redeemer to “smaller than a human cell” is pretty incredible. But when it comes to spiritual perspective, that same project is more common than you might think.

Turn if you haven't already to Hebrews 1. As most of you know, Our Daily Reading Plan brought us to the book of Hebrews just a couple days ago. This morning, we're going to explore the opening three verses of chapter 1. It's an amazing intro to an amazing book!

 

II. The Passage: “He Has Spoken to Us by His Son” (1:1-3)

Now before we look at those verses, it's important we understand the author's intention in this book. Shocker! Hebrews was written for Hebrews. The book was written for Jews who had confessed Jesus as both Lord and Savior, but subsequent trials had tested the genuineness of their faith. Some were beginning to drift back to a Christ-less Judaism. Others were leaning that way, listening to Jewish arguments that stressed traditional things like the need for sacrifice and the priesthood, but also touched on popular ideas like invoking the help of angelic beings.

And so some were magnifying these other paths, while at the same time, minimizing Jesus. Like the nano-sculptors in Lithuania, they were reducing the Redeemer. Now most of this book is built around Jesus' incomparable role as our perfect and perfectly unique High Priest. So, there's a lot coming up that focuses on the humanity of Jesus. But keeping that in mind, look with me at how the author decides to begin his treatise. He writes in 1:1...

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. [3] He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...

Without a doubt, the author wants his readers to understand, right from the outset, that nothing can compare with Jesus. He is far bigger than even their biggest thoughts. He is far greater than even the best things of this world. He is far more powerful than any other supposed alternative when it comes to peace with God. In these opening verses of the book, I see three key ways in which the author is magnifying Christ. Look back at verse 1, there we see that...

 

1. Jesus is God's Final Word (vs. 1-2a)

Look at how the writer makes this point. The Old Testament tells us that when God wanted to instruct or correct or comfort his people, he would send a prophet. Some of those prophets are simply described in the pages of Scripture. Others are responsible for books which now bear their names. But the pattern was the same: different prophets, in different places, at different times, to speak to different needs.

But that pattern has come to an end. Why? Because God (v. 2) “has spoken to us by his Son”. In Matthew 21, Jesus told a parable that made this same point. It's traditionally called “The Parable of the Tenants”. A landowner sends many servants to collect rent from his tenants, but in the end, his sends his son. But please don't miss how the plural emphasis in verse 1 (e.g., “many times”, “many ways”, “fathers”, “prophets”) is followed by a singular emphasis in verse 2: in these “last days”, here at the closing of the age, God has only one message: Jesus.

Now, these Jewish readers would not have missed how this finality also pointed to the fulfillment of God's earlier messages. And the author here will go on in this book to prove that very thing: that Jesus is the fullness of everything the prophets declared.

But look at how the writer continues in verse 2. He goes on to argue that...

 

2. To Jesus All Things Belong (vs. 2b-3a)

I want you to notice how the writer here is emphasizing this idea of “all things”, both in the final part of verse 2, and the opening line of verse 3. The Son is “the heir of all things”. Through the Son, God “created the world”. By “the word of his power”, the Son “upholds the universe”. Do you see the parallel arrangement of those phrases? “All things”, “the world”, and “the universe”.

Also notice how those different statements speak about the past, present, and future. The past: through the Son, God “created the world”. The present: “by the word of his power” Jesus “upholds the universe”. The future: Jesus is “the heir [i.e., he will inherit] of all things”. I would say that when it comes to pretty much... everything, Jesus is unrivaled.

But one of his readers (or one of his detractors) might say, “Well, isn't that kind of talk taking the focus off of God?” Anticipating that point, listen again to what the author tells us at the beginning of verse 3: He [the Son] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Please don't miss what this writer is telling his readers, what God is telling us: when you look at Jesus, you see God. Is the language in verses 1-3 too exalted? Absolutely not. Why? Because like nothing else, like no one else, Jesus reflects God: he is the “radiance of [God's] glory”; he is the “exact imprint” of God's own nature.

To diminish the greatness of Jesus is to diminish the greatness of God. That's an idea the author wants to stress right from the start. But continuing with this exalted language, we also read that..

 

3. Jesus Has Dealt with Sin, Once and for All (v. 3b)

This is the author's first mention of what will be his dominant theme: the priestly work of Jesus. Now if one of these Jewish recipients were to simply read that first phrase in the final line of verse 3, they might not be phased: “After making purification for sins, he sat down...” That could describe any Levitical priest. But look again at how that statement ends: After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high... Not only is there no priest that could be described with those words, but there's no human being, ever, about which that could said... except for Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, friends, soak in the language: “he sat down”. That means His priestly work was finished. “At the right hand of the Majesty on high”. That means His priestly work was accepted by God. And don't forget about the language already used: Jesus is God's final word; to Jesus all things belong. If this priest is in fact this incomparable Son, then the purification he made must also be incomparable. The writer will spell this out explicitly later in 10:14...

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

So again, think about the magnitude of this introduction. Jesus, God's final word. Jesus, Lord of all things. Jesus, the One who has dealt with sin, once and for all. Though some had, though some were being tempted, minimizing Jesus was nothing more than a foolish denial of reality.

 

III. In Light of His Greatness

But what about us? What about you? If you were charged to write to the first readers of this book, would you begin your message the same way? If you knew how these people were struggling, would you lift their eyes in this same way? What about when you're struggling? Is this the message you preach to yourself?

As we begin the Christmas season, the perennial temptation for many outside the church is to cherish the baby Jesus, but neglect the man. But though the Word became flesh... and probably weighed about 6 pounds, the Son was never reduced; he never shrunk; he wasn't lessened or diminished in any way. But that doesn't mean our perspective can't shrink. Isn't that the pitfall toward which these believers were being tempted?

Brothers, sisters, friends, God wants us to understand the greatness of Jesus Christ. But he doesn't simply want us to confess these truths. He wants us to also walk in these truths. When it comes to holidays that mark historic moments in the life of Christ, you know that we have Christmas to honor his birth, Good Friday to honor his death, and Easter to celebrate his resurrection. But what we also need is a “Transfiguration Day”, a day to honor that moment in the life of Christ when handful of his disciples beheld his unrivaled glory. As one of those men, Peter, would later confess, “...but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (II Peter 1:16)

What is the author of Hebrews doing by starting his message this way? He wants his reader to taste something of what Peter and the others experienced. In the same way God wants us to be “eyewitnesses of [Christ's] majesty”. Think with me for a few minutes about how these amazing descriptions might speak directly to your life, to my life... especially when we are tempted to reduce our Redeemer; to minimize the sufficiency of Christ as we maximize the supposed greatness of this or that thing; this or that technique, or approach, or experience.

For example, though Jesus is God's final word, does he have the final word in your life? On paper, most of us would answer yes. But we know there are so many voices all around us, every single day. There are so many voices inside us, every single day. We have loyalties, some spoken, some unspoken. Often we want to please others, to an unhealthy degree. In the same way, we often want to please ourselves, to an unhealthy degree. You may wrestle with words spoken long ago, or you may feel paralyzed about what might be said.

But who has the final word? The final word about your life... about your value... about what is right and wrong... about your past, present, and future... about what matters most... about love... about hope... about your safety... about your destiny? Brothers and sisters, friends, it has to be Jesus. It has to. ... but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. There is no fuller and truer word.

I'd also like to ask, though to Jesus belong all things, does he have all of you? Is that just another way of asking the first question? Sure. But I think it also gets us thinking about our lives in a different way. Think about all of those areas of your life: your relationships and responsibilities, your schedule and your finances, your hopes and dreams, your sins, your sorrows, your secrets. Have you given, and are you giving, all of those things over to Jesus? Or are you afraid of what he might think? Of what he might do? Are you afraid of giving up that 'idol' or opening up that box of hurts, believing that you will wither or be crushed or sink?

Please hear what God has for you this morning: if Jesus Christ can uphold the universe by the word of his power, he can certainly uphold you, regardless of what you believe might crush or sink you. Amen?

Finally, think about this: though Jesus has dealt with sin, once and for all, are you still focused on what he forgave? For those who, by the grace of God, have trusted in Jesus as their only hope, for this life and the next, all your sin has been purified. As they writer will express it in chapter 9, verse 26, ...he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. He has sat down. The debt has been paid. The corruption cleansed. The verdict rendered.

But nevertheless, we are tempted to go back, aren't we? We are often tempted, in a variety of ways, to pretend like nothing happened. As if there is no new life. As if our guilt remains. As if we are the same person, defined by the same desires, destined for the same judgment. But we aren't. And God's forgiveness is his permission to let go. He has.

Do you see... do you see how when we lose sight of the greatness of Jesus Christ, when he's simply that baby in the manger, or that glorified life coach, or the content of beloved creed, other things begin to look so much bigger. Christmas is precious because the divine Word became flesh. But Word and flesh have to be kept together, that is, we have to celebrate his human-ness without ever letting go of his God-ness. And we do that with our lips and our lives.

Would you pray this morning in light of what God has revealed to us about Jesus? In light of how he has spoken that word to your heart? We praise God that the overwhelming, the staggering greatness of Jesus also means an overwhelming, staggering amount of grace for all who come; no matter where you've been; no matter what you've done. Let Him speak his final word into your life. Let him uphold you, as he does all things. Let him cleanse you, or remind you of his perfect cleansing. There is abundant grace, even for 'reducers' like us.