Jesus: Change-Defier (Hebrews 13:8)
I. A Change-less Christmas
Think about how common it is to hear someone express a desire for a change-less Christmas. “I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like... [what?]... just like the ones I used to know.” Kids don't want to grow out of those magical feelings at Christmas. And when those children do grow up, parents still want everyone together at Christmas. People jealously and/or zealously guard holiday traditions. They listen to that same holiday playlist and watch their favorite Christmas movies, over and over again. I think it's fair to say that if a person's experience of Christmas has been and remains a blessing (which, of course, is not true for everyone... but if it), it seems to be the norm to long for, to work for, to even sing about a change-less Christmas.
II. The Passage: “Jesus Christ is the Same” (13:8)
But this morning, it's extremely important that we remind one another that a change-less Christ-mas ultimately means nothing without a change-less Christ. Look with me at Hebrews 13:8. Though it's an extremely short verse, it is incredibly big; we might say mind-blowingly big:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (2x)
Okay. The main point of this verse is clear, right? Jesus never changes. He does not change, no matter how much time has passed. But wait. Isn't one of our most common Christmas correctives reminding others that the promised baby laid in that Christmas manger grew up... that he grew up to be a perfect man who went to the cross to rescue us? So Jesus did change. Thinkl about it: He went from saying things like “ga-ga, goo-goo” to things like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” (Matthew 5). Even this same book teaches us that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (5:8). Jesus did change. So what does this verse mean? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As we study God's word together this morning, let's use the context here in Hebrews to consider three ways it helps us understand this statement in 13:8 about the 'sameness' of Christ.
First, this sameness points us to the glorious consistency of his nature. What do I mean by the “consistency of his nature”? Well, the best example of this is found in the very first chapter of the book. In that opening chapter, the writer is making a clear case from the Old Testament Scriptures for the superiority of Jesus over angels. While verse 10 of chapter 1 only begins with the conjunction “and”, the subject there is clear from 1:8, “But of the Son he [God] says...”. So what do we learn about the Son in verse 10-12 (which is quotation from Psalm 102)? We read...
And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;  they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment,  like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
Clearly, what the writer is talking about here is the unchanging deity of God the Son. You may remember that in 1:2, we learned that it was through the Son that God “created the world”. If Jesus is God the Son in human flesh, then his human nature may have grown in all of the appropriate/healthy ways humans grow, but his divine nature absolutely did/does not change.
But there's another way to think about this. The immediate context of our main verse is helpful in bringing that out. So second, this sameness regarding Jesus Christ points to the glorious consistency of his message.
Listen to 13:8 again. But this time, let me read the verses before and after verse 8. So this is Hebrews 13, verses 7-9. The author here encourages his readers to...
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
Did you notice what verses 7 and 9 have in common? They are both focused on teachings; that is, what these believers were taught, and what these believer might be taught. According to verse 7, these readers had been taught “the word of God” by leaders who practiced what they preached; by those who really walked the talk. But we sense that a shadow has been cast according to verse 9. In spite of what they heard and saw in terms of the truth, the author here is warning them about being led away by “diverse and strange teachings”. But the corrective actually begins in verse 8, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
So in it's immediate context, 13:8 is similar to another passage from Our Bible Reading Plan last week. In Galatians 1:6-8, the Apostle Paul writes,
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
There is not another gospel. There is not another Jesus. It remains the same... for He remains the same. It seems the “diverse and strange teachings” in verse 9 had something to do with “foods”. Maybe it was a new kind of religious diet that offered a heart reassured by ritual rather than a heart “strengthened by grace”. Whatever the specifics, the writer here wants to make it absolutely clear that the gospel, the saving truth about Jesus, has not changed. It “is the same”.
But as we just heard, the reason the message has not changed is because Christ has not changed. But I think we can be even more specific than that. So third, I think we can say that the sameness of 13:8 points us to the glorious consistency of his salvation.
Think about “yesterday and today and forever” in light of what this book has revealed to us about that central theme of Jesus Christ as the greatest high priest, and accordingly, the greatness of his priestly work.
The “yesterday” of our salvation was 2000 years ago. But for these readers it was just decades earlier. This “yesterday” was the sacrifice of Jesus through his death on the cross. As we read in 9:14, “through the eternal Spirit [Christ] offered himself without blemish to God, [to] purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” And unlike previous animal sacrifices, according to 9:28, Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many”. Christ's death in our place was and remains a finished work. Regarding this crucial “yesterday” of our salvation, we're told again in 12:2 that He “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” It's that final note that sets us up for what comes next in light of 13:8.
In this book, the “today” of our salvation emphasizes the ongoing intercession of Jesus as our High Priest, in light of his perfect and perfecting sacrifice. As we read in 9:24, “Christ has entered... into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” In fact, you may remember that the word “today” is a key word in chapters 3 and 4. 3:13 is a great example:
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ...” So the Savior who “yesterday” offered that perfect sacrifice, is the same Savior who “today” still intercedes “on our behalf” in light of that same sacrifice.
But what about the “forever” of Hebrews 13:8? Well, building on the the verses we just looked at about the “yesterday” and “today” of our salvation, think with me about a phrase we find several times in chapters 7-10. 7:27 tells us this about our priest offering the perfect sacrifice, “he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” 9:12 describes how Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places... by means of his own blood”. Similarly, 10:10 is clear that, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. Friends, that doesn't mean “once for all [people]”. It means “once for all [time]”. That tells us there will never not be a time that the sacrifice of Jesus isn't powerfully effective for us, his people. It is the eternal foundation of our redemption and reconciliation and righteousness and eternal glory.
One last note about this “forever”. In chapter 7 we find both the death and resurrection of Jesus brought into view. There we read in 7:24-25, “...he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
III. “Sure and Steadfast”
Having drawn out of the context all of these amazing truths about the glorious consistency of his nature, his message, and his salvation, let's go back and re-read 13:8. The writer reminds and reassures his readers, and God reminds and reassures us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Brothers and sisters, what does that mean for us? Friend, what does that mean for you? It means what was true for them is true for us; specifically, as this writer put it in chapter 6... “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (6:19a). We have a Savior who is “sure and steadfast”. He does not drift in the tide. He cannot be dragged by the storms. He is the same. What He was, he is. And what He is, he always will be. The work of our salvation that He completed “yesterday”, is the work He applies “today”, is the work that stands “forever”... and ever and ever.
In a world where everything changes (or is at least, susceptible to change), it is mind-blowing to think that nothing ever has, nothing can even now, and nothing ever will be able to alter the faithfulness of our High Priest or the finished work he accomplished, for God's glory and our good. Nothing. Nothing you've done. Nothing you presently feel. Not one thing the future holds can change our Savior or his redeeming grace in your life.
As I said at the outset, a change-less Christmas ultimately means nothing without a change-less Christ. But when you think about, there really is no such thing as a change-less Christmas. But our many attempts to ensure that things stay the same, they do point us back to our longing for that Anchor; for one who truly cannot change. Friends, be encouraged that the Jesus you read about in sacred Scripture really is the Jesus who knocks today on the door of your heart. And that same Savior really will be there for us in the end. As the Apostle Paul acknowledged, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” (1 Cor. 13:12) Let's trust Him for that!
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