It’s like meeting Jesus. Again.
The first four chapters of the New Testament book of Hebrews moved me greatly yesterday. I read them, and re-read them, and re-read them, perhaps, a dozen times. Though I’ve read this New Testament book many times in my life, yesterday was just a time when the Word of God was speaking to me.
Today is no different. These next three chapters of Hebrews, though not as poetic as the opening of the book, are powerful. Staunch. Solid.
I need solid. I need stable. I’m so tired of modern religion making church about everything else but Jesus. The first few chapters of Hebrews are powerful enough to be read every Sunday from pulpits and altars across the church landscape.
Jesus is exalted in this book. He is …
one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. (Hebrews 7:16; NIV84)
This story of Jesus is not the same story we read in the gospels. Those four writers had an agenda. They needed to tell the story of Jesus in quick ways, that emphasized his most powerful moments. Very little of those accounts offered Jesus’ suffering, or his humanity.
Yet Hebrews exposes the humanity of Jesus for us. It’s his story, from another angle. We know the powerful Jesus, the miracle-worker, the resurrection-worker. From the gospels, though, we know little (and maybe don’t want to know?) of how Jesus hurt. Of the times he cried. Of the times he questioned.
Maybe we are afraid of a God that looked like us, and talked like us, and hurt like us. Maybe we are afraid of a frail God.
I think we are much more comfortable with Jesus being the conduit for the creation of our entire universe (1:2). This Jesus has power that can’t be explained. We can worship that with ease, because we worship easily all that is a mystery to us.
Consider this image — part of the universe of his creation and power:
In the middle of this image, in brownish-band on the right, is a small blue dot.
That small blue dot is Earth.
This is a famous image of our planet, taken in 1990, from almost 4 billion miles away.
All of human life, and all of human history, was lived and written on this pale blue dot. All of it. And from this vantage point, it is nothing more than a speck to be crushed.
We love the power of a God that can make this, and prove to us, in an image like this, that we are incredibly special to him. We are not crushed, nor are we in despair, in spite of our obvious weakness on display in this image.
And on this tiny blue dot, God became a man, a fully realized human, who, himself, was indestructible.
But this indestructible man spent much of life, like we spend much of ours, with fear. With doubt.
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-10)
This passage is not about his suffering at his death. This passage is about the suffering as he lived. It is the ultimate revelation of Jesus’ humanity.
But even more startling is that we learn, here, that this suffering enabled Jesus to be fully aware that he was, in fact, God’s son. He was “made perfect,” and his suffering was the avenue of this process. To go a little farther, his suffering was essential to his full realization. And this process was only completed upon his death, or, at the end of his life.
That should blow your mind.
His entire experience as a human was a process for him to achieve perfection. While he taught others, in the gospels, he also learned. He was both the teacher and the student. He was both hopeful and fearful. He was both brave and afraid. He was both powerful and weak.
Every moment he healed, he faced trials of doubt. This story of Jesus is the flip side of Jesus, his vulnerable side. And how I am thankful for this testimony.
We have all spent dark times speaking to God, petitioning God, with cries and tears. Oh my, have I spent time like this.
Jesus, though, lived an indestructible life. His perfection was achieved through this suffering. He had the ear of God because of his reverent submission — not necessarily because he was the son of God.
His reverent and humble submission is what gives us access to the very same presence of God. We, too, can approach the throne of God with boldness (4:16).
His indestructibility is our hope. It is our peace. It is evidence of a God, who visits this pale blue dot of our planet, to live the dirty and disappointing experience of human life, and to do so without one spot of sin and rebellion.
Is this hard stuff? Absolutely. Even this book says it’s another level of learning (5:11). But I’m thankful for it. And I’m thankful God has enough faith in us to expose his own vulnerability.
Wow. What a word today.