A book written for the people

Consider Jesus—this is what the author of Hebrews tells us to do. No one knows for sure who wrote this letter and no one knows for sure who the letter was intended to be written to.

The message, however, is clear. The book is written to a people, a people who have been called by Jesus Christ to follow Him. It is a call to remain faithful—faithful to Jesus and faithful to His teachings. To remain faithful not just because we have been promised eternal life if we do so—it’s a call to remain faithful because of who Jesus is.

The letter to the Hebrews is a call to consider Jesus.

To consider just how far superior Jesus is to Moses or the sacrificial system or the tabernacle priesthood or even angels.

For more than a thousand years, Moses has been the most important figure in Jewish faith and thought. God gave His Law to Moses. God met Moses on the mountain. God talked to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

But the author of Hebrews isn’t trying to diminish the importance of Moses—he or she is rather trying to make the reader understand that while Moses is indeed great, Jesus is greater.

Consider Jesus. In the OT, we find that “the house of God” refers to both the Israelite people and also to the tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem. So God’s house is both a people and a building. And while Moses led the people out of captivity in Egypt, he didn’t create the people. And while Moses received the Law from the Lord God, he didn’t create the Law.

The One who builds the house is greater than the house that He builds. Moses is a part of God’s house—a very important part, but still just a part.

While Jesus is the builder, the creator, of the house. John 1:3 “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus is the agent of God in the building not just of a people, but of all things existing in the universe. We live on a planet that is somehow suspended in space and continues to rotate around the sun; we know that there are other planets that also rotate around this sun. We know that there are stars and distant galaxies—and we know that there is much that we don’t know about this universe.

We also know that no earthly building has ever just appeared without having someone create a design, a plan, for that building. We know that buildings don’t just suddenly appear—we know that even if we gathered all the necessary building materials to build a house and put them all together on a piece of ground that they would never—even if we waited a million years—somehow manage to put themselves together to create a building.

So if every earthly building points to the design and skill of a builder, how much more does this universe in which we live, in all its complexity, point to the Mind and Hand that put it all together? And John 1:3 tells us that the Mind and Hand belong to Jesus. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

And after Jesus created the universe, He created a people, a house.

This is what the author of Hebrews wants us to understand. Hebrews 3:4 says “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” And 3:6 “Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

Jesus was sent not just to die for us, not just to proclaim truth to us, but He was also sent to form or establish a house, a household, a redeemed community. He didn’t come to save fallen individuals, but to gather a vast company of His followers—to gather them together into a people. Just as with the exodus from Egypt, God’s saving work has always been about community.

The letter to the Hebrews has no time at all for the spiritual individualist, the one who thinks that he or she can worship God just fine by themselves, the one who wants a builder but who doesn’t want to live in the house created by that builder.

Consider Jesus. Luke, in his gospel, is also calling us to consider Jesus. Prior to this morning’s gospel passage, Luke has shown us Jesus teaching; he’s shown us Jesus healing both Jews and Gentiles, Jesus calming a storm at sea. He’s shown us Jesus send out the twelve, showing that He could impart His power to do the miraculous to others. He’s shown us Jesus feeding 5000 people with “no more than five loaves and two fish” (Luke 9:13).

Jesus has done all these things and then, in 9:18-20, He asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Consider Jesus: who do you say that He is? The crowds—and the disciples—are focused on the things that Jesus is doing in the world, on His miracles.

Then Jesus told them that He was going to suffer and die—and that He’ll rise form the grave.  He wants them to understand that these events will be far greater than any other miracle He has performed. Because healing us or feeding us or protecting us from storms are all only temporary.  The cross and resurrection are eternal—Jesus’ death on the cross brings us the promise of eternal life.

Then He tells His disciples that they, too, will suffer and die “if they wish to come after Him.”

They didn’t understand what He was talking about—and He knew it.  Mark tells us in his gospel that when Jesus told them that he was going to suffer and die, Peter “took him aside and began to rebuke him” (Mark 8:32).

He was telling them things that were totally radical, totally revolutionary, to the Jewish mind. Jesus understood this. Perhaps they’re still revolutionary to many of us.

Consider Jesus. So eight days later, He takes Peter, James and John up the mountain “to pray” (9:28). Jesus prays—they fall asleep. Just like they’ll do later at Gethsemane. What’s He praying for? Surely He’s praying for these men to gain some understanding as to who He really is, some understanding of what’s really important.

And as He prays, Jesus is transfigured: “As He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah” (9:29-30).  And Peter, James and John wake up. Now there can be no doubt at all in their minds that Jesus is not Moses or Elijah. And only Jesus is transfigured. They don’t know what to think. Peter starts to babble—“not knowing what he said.”

But what was just as stunning to them as the appearance of Moses and Elijah was the subject of their conversation. They’re not speaking with awe and wonder about about all the miracles Jesus has been performing. All they want to talk about is “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (9:31). Moses and Elijah and all heaven are waiting for the cross, for the resurrection. Because they understand that what Jesus will accomplish when He is nailed to that cross and then rises victorious from the grave will change everything. They understand that what Jesus is about to do will reverse the curse of death that has existed since Adam.

And then, as they’re talking about all this, the Father shows up, too: “A cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (9:34-35).

God the Father doesn’t say, “Watch what He does.” He doesn’t say, “pay attention to all the miraculous things He’s doing.” But: “Listen to Him.” Don’t just pay attention to what Jesus is doing—listen to what He says.

Peter, James and John come down the mountain with Jesus, back to a world that’s still broken. Immediately they’re greeted by a great crowd who want Jesus to heal a boy, to cast out the demon that’s tormenting him. And Jesus does. “Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astonished at the majesty of God” (9:42).

“But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand” (9:43-45).

Consider Jesus: how many of us get so caught up in what we want Jesus to do for us right now that we forget about the most important thing He’s done for us? How many of us are praying for Jesus to fix our physical or emotional health or our relationships or our finances? How many of us are praying for Him to bless us: to make us part of a winning team, to give us a winning lottery ticket?

How often do we praise and thank God for what He has already done for us, for bringing us into His house?

We’ve seen, through Jesus’ life here on earth, that He cares about the problems of this world. We’ve seen that He’s at work in them—we’ve also seen that His plan for solving those problems involves us. You and me—every single person who is a part of His house.

How often do we consider that we share this heavenly calling? Have we considered this enough to even know that we have a heavenly calling? To know that, as a part of His house, we have a heavenly calling just as much as Moses did, just as much as Peter, James and John did?

Your leadership is going to spend time today focusing on these things—pray for them as they do so. They’re going to be considering Jesus: Jesus, in whom the human and divine intersect. Heaven has come to earth in the form of Jesus—the kingdom of God is at hand. And anyone who wants to be a part of it can. When we invite Jesus into our lives, heaven begins to invade earth through us.

We are God’s house—and we’re called to show Him to the world. When we reach out to a child in need of love, when we take the time to listen to and pray for a person in spiritual turmoil, when we seek to forgive someone who has hurt us instead of deciding to carry a grudge; when we take the time to actually look someone in the eye and love them; when we defend the rights of a vulnerable woman; when we treat an overlooked nobody as God’s beloved child; when we reach out to help someone in need …. In all these ways and so many others, we’re making a difference, we’re show Jesus to people.

The women have just finished a study based on a book by John Ortberg called Who Is This Man? At the end of the book, he writes, “We all learn how to live from somebody … try learning how to live from Jesus. Come and see. Whatever your ideas about religion might be, you can try being a student of Jesus. … Try living as if there is a heavenly Father who cares for you and listens to you. Try living without worry one day at a time. You have to go through tomorrow anyway. Try it with Jesus.”

The sun is 93 million miles away. It’s so bright that you and I, despite the fact that we are 93 million miles away, cannot stare directly at it.

We are attached to the One who shines brighter than the sun. Isaiah 6:2 tells us that angels cover themselves with their wings in His presence. And you and I are members of His body. When was the last time that you were simply awestruck by the fact that you are part of the body of Christ? That you have the enormous privilege of gathering together on a regular basis with others in the body—with the rest of your family—to worship our great God who chooses to care for each one of us as He would His own arm?

Consider Jesus. And do it today.

Let us pray.