Jesus – lifted high
by Jack Wald | September 17th, 2000

Hebrews 1:1-3

There have been many wonderful religious leaders in the history of the world: Confucius, Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Moses — and a good person has respect for them all.

The book of Hebrews, upon which we will be focusing for the next few weeks, makes it very clear that this opening statement is, for a Christian, heretical.

We enter this morning into a study of Hebrews which makes it very clear that Jesus stands alone in the history of the world. Jesus is not one of many religious leaders from whom one might choose. Jesus is as far superior to the other religious leaders in the opening list as we are to a rock. It is not a question of Jesus and then these others. It is Jesus. Jesus alone. Jesus without equal.

Christianity is unique in that what Jesus taught is not the center of Christian faith. Christian faith is not based on putting the teachings of Jesus into practice.

The thief being crucified next to Jesus may never have read the Scriptures in his life. He certainly had no opportunity to put anything he read into practice and yet Jesus told him he would that day be in paradise.

Christian faith is not based on our Holy Scripture, the Bible. The Bible is important to us, we learn from it, but the Bible alone does nothing to save us. If we were to put into practice the teachings of Jesus about which we read in the Bible, we might be a better person, but Christianity is not about making people better people.

Christian faith is based on the saving actions of Jesus. Christian faith is based not on what we do or read, but on what Jesus has done for us. He gave up his divinity and was born a man. He died on the cross in our place so we would not have to die an eternal death and defeated death by raising from the dead.

Jesus is the center of our faith, not anything else. And Jesus is the focus of the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews was written by a Christian whose parents were Christians. There has been much speculation but from the earliest years of the church, no one has been able to identify the author of this book. This letter was written between 49AD and 70 AD, most probably in the late 50s or early 60s. It was written to Jewish Christians living in Rome who were beginning to think they would revert to their Judaism because being a Christian was just too difficult.

They had experienced the persecution of Christians under Claudius in 49AD and were likely beginning to experience the heat Nero was putting on them. They had left their beautiful synagogues with ritual and ceremony, to meet in simple homes where there was no similar ritual in place, no altar, no sacrifices. They were tired of being persecuted, harassed and discriminated against.

So they were beginning to think it would be OK to revert to Judaism. After all, the Hebrew Bible spoke of the coming of Jesus, the roots of Christianity were in Judaism. Why not move to where they would be more comfortable? They could worship as Jews and privately believe Jesus was the Messiah.

The message to these struggling Christians was that only Christ brings salvation. Only Christ brings forgiveness. Only Christ satisfies. Christ alone deserves our adoration, worship and praise.

Christ stands alone. There is no other.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  3 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.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

God spoke to Isaiah in visions (Isaiah 1:6 )
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

God spoke to Jacob in a dream (Genesis 28)
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.

God spoke to Abraham and Moses in person    (Genesis 18)(Exodus 31)
The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

God taught Jeremiah through object lessons (Jeremiah 13)
This is what the LORD said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.”  2 So I bought a belt, as the LORD directed, and put it around my waist.

God taught people through a prophet’s marriage (Hosea)
When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

God revealed directions to his people with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40)
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out;  37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted.  38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels.

God spoke in all these ways but now, finally and completely, God has spoken through his son. The Law given to Moses and the words of the Prophets all pointed to this event in history, the coming of the Messiah who would fulfill the promises and prophecies that had been made.

Jesus completed and fulfilled the message originally brought by the prophets and forefathers. Jesus perfectly completed and fulfilled the message originally brought by the prophets and forefathers.

When we know Christ, we have all we need to be saved from our sin and to have a perfect relationship with God. We will never need another messenger. There has been no need for another messenger since Jesus and there will never be a need for another messenger.

When we know Christ, we have all we need to be saved from sin and to have a perfect relationship with God. There is nothing another messenger can do because Christ has done it all. Nothing remains to be done.

Jesus was not just another prophet in a noble string of prophets, Jesus was and is the perfect expression of God.

There have been others since Jesus who have sought to add and improve on what Jesus did and these are the ones about whom Jesus warned us.

Matthew 7
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.  25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

How can you know that one of these self-proclaimed prophets did not bring truth and deserve to be followed? We know this because Jesus perfectly fulfilled all that needed to be done. You cannot improve on perfection.

Jesus perfectly fulfilled the prophecies and promise in Scripture. Those who have come after Jesus have only brought lies and distortions and led people away from God, away from Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I have to interject here that it is because of what I have just said that many accuse Christians of being intolerant. I have heard this many times from my Unitarian parents. “You should be more tolerant,” they say when I speak of my faith. To them and to many today, tolerance is among the highest virtues. “The world would be a better place if people were more tolerant.”

What is tolerance, this high virtue of the modern world? The dictionary says it is, “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.”

This definition of tolerance reveals why it is that tolerance is not a concept valued in the Bible. In fact, with this definition, it could safely be said that the Bible promotes intolerance. Over and over again, God warns Israel about the danger of allowing false religions to influence them. The history of revival in the period of the Judges, Prophets and Kings is that when the Judge, Prophet or King did well and pleased God, they drove out the false religions, cut down the Asherah poles, destroyed the altars of the false gods. And as I mentioned, Jesus warned against false prophets who would attempt to mislead God’s people. As did Paul and the other New Testament writers.

The Bible calls us to be intolerant of false religion and false prophets. But does this justify the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition who slaughtered those who did not believe in Christ?

Let me very briefly say three things.
1. We must respect the right of each person to believe what they choose – so long as their belief is not destructive to others. If a belief system includes making human sacrifice, those believers need to be prevented from practicing their religion.

2. We must not discriminate against those who have different beliefs. There is absolutely no reason why Muslims and Hindus and Christians ought not to be able to live together in the same communities. In daily commerce, we can buy from a Hindu tailor, a Christian butcher and a Muslim merchant.

3. People who do not believe Jesus is the Son of God are not bad people. They are not evil people. They can be among your best friends. They are not inferior in any way to Christians. They are fellow human beings and those Christ commanded us to love in his name.

We respect the right of people to choose to believe what they want to believe and we are called to love our fellow human beings, but none of this means we are to respect what is false religion. To be loving and caring toward others and intolerant of their false religion is not an inconsistency.

God has revealed himself in history and provided through Jesus all that we will ever need.

It is not a matter of one religion against another. Christians do not defend a system they created. Our faith is not based on any man’s attempt to figure it all out. What we believe is based on God’s acts in history. God has acted and we are privileged and grateful to have received his revelation to us.

Verses 2 and 3 teach us seven things about Jesus and Hebrews will go into more detail about some of these things as we go along. Follow in you Bibles as we go through these seven statements about Jesus.

1. Christ is heir of all things
Jesus will be the ruler of the new kingdom. This puts Jesus in the highest position of honor. Jesus will rule in the world to come. Jesus will not be a participant, he will not be standing on the side observing. Jesus will be on the throne, receiving the praise that will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

2. Christ is creator of the world
Christ existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit from before the beginning of time and it was through Christ that this world came into being. Christ who lived and died in our place was himself the creator of this world in which he lived and died.

3. Christ is the radiance of God’s glory
As light in a room at night comes from a light bulb, so Christ, a man who lived and died in Palestine, was nonetheless the eternal Son and supreme revelation of God. Just as the radiance of the sun reaches the earth, so in Christ the glorious light of God shines into the hearts of men.

4. Christ is  the exact representation of God’s being.
If you visit a mint where coins are made, there is a stamp that presses on the metal and puts an image on the coins. In the same way, Christ is the very image of the substance of God. To see Christ is to see what the Father is like.

5. Christ is sustainer of the world
Col 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The nucleus of an atom contains, in a very compact space, protons. These are particles that all have a positive charge. Now if you remember your science classes when you explored the power of magnets, opposite charges attract and like charges repel. So you can push one magnet with another if the two positive sides of the magnets face each other.
I remember when I studied chemistry thinking about this. If like charges repel each other, how do these positively charged protons pack together so densely in the nucleus of an atom?
This is one of the strongest forces that exists in nature and although much is being learned about this force that holds the protons together, it is still, to this day, a mystery.
If this force ceased to exist, everything would explode, decompose and hold no recognizable form whatsoever. The world would instantly cease to exist.

In this same way, Christ holds the world together with his word.
There will come a time when Christ will call an end to time and this world will cease to exist, but until then, our universe holds together with his word.

6. Christ is the purifier of people’s sins
In making purification for sins, the Son of God has accomplished something no one else could possibly do. Christ paid the price for our sin so we could live for eternity.

7. Christ is King over all
In the highest terms possible, the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that we are to view Christ as without equal. The exaltation and supremacy of Christ is made clear in no uncertain terms.

Seven times in these two verses, the greatness of the Son of God is made clear. And without expressly saying it, it is made equally clear that Jesus possesses in himself all the qualifications to be the mediator between God and men and women.

He is the Prophet through whom God has spoken his final word to humans.

He is the Priest who has accomplished a perfect work of cleansing for his people’s sins.

He is the King who sits enthroned in the place of chief honor alongside the Majesty on high.

Who is Jesus to you?

Do not make Jesus less than he is. Do not take Jesus for granted. Do not play with Jesus. Do not use Jesus for your own advantage.

If you are not a Christian, realize who it is that is offering you eternal life and make today the day you begin to follow Christ. You are not dealing with a religious philosophy. You are not dealing with a man whose followers made him greater than he was after he died. Jesus, the perfect Prophet, perfect High Priest, Creator and King died in your place so you could live eternally with him in his kingdom. Today, get on your knee and offer yourself to him.

If you have at one point in your life chosen to follow Christ but have allowed yourself to get distracted by sin and the things of this world, turn around and move again to the one who is King. You have taken Christ for granted and it is time to lift Jesus high, once again, in your life.

If you are living in this multi-religious world and confused about truth, turn today to the one is the source of all truth.
Do not be embarrassed about what you believe and who you follow. Do not be trapped into this modern day push for tolerance that denies absolute truth.
Do not be trapped into thinking that what I believe is good for me and what someone else believes is good for them.
Do not get suckered into the thinking that says that there are multiple truths.

Do you see why it is that I said at the beginning of the sermon that to put Jesus in a list of religious leaders is heresy?

Did Confucius, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu, or Moses ever die for their disciples so they could live? Did any of these leaders exist with the Father before the creation of the world? Did any of these leaders defeat death by raising from the dead?

The answer to the deepest needs in mankind is found in Jesus and in no one else. It is Jesus alone and there is no other.

Who is it that will sit on the throne and rule in the new kingdom?
Who is it that created the world in which we live?
Who is it that is the radiance of God’s glory?
If we want to know what God is like, who do we look at?
Who holds the world together with his word and who will call an end to time and let this world dissolve into nothing?
Who died on the cross to purify us from our sins?
Who is it that will sit on the throne and hear all people from all time confess that he is Lord?
It is Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Jesus alone. Jesus above all others. Jesus without equal.