(Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2: 5-12)


There’s an ancient proverb of unknown origin that states: “A son’s character or behavior can be expected to resemble that of his father.”  Don’t fret ladies, there’s also one in Ezekiel 16: 44 that says: Like mother, like daughter, although the backstory is not so affirming.  I guess the modern translation would be: “a chip off the old block.”  In essence, what this proverb means is that if you want to have any idea what to expect out of someone’s son or daughter all you have to do is take a look at their father or mother and place your bet.  If, for example, you are hoping for the son or daughter to do the right thing in a particular situation and you know the character of their father or mother, you can more safely assume what they will or won’t do.  And depending upon the character of the father or mother this outcome may or may not be a good thing.  I think what the proverb means is that if you were raised right you will do the right thing.  And, of course, the converse is also true.  Fortunately, for many people, the proverb is not a hard and fast rule.


But for the writer of Hebrews the proverb is a hard and fast rule when it comes to Jesus Christ and his relationship with God the Father.  If you know Christ, you know God.  Hebrews is considered more of a sermon than a letter like the ones written by Paul for example, that had an address and a greeting that identified the Author.  But Hebrews is written by an unknown author to the Jewish converts who were now experiencing shame, suffering, and abuse because of their faith which also included imprisonment for some.  These believers, these new Followers of the Way of Jesus Christ, were catching it on all sides.  First, they had the Pharisees and experts in the law who were intent on putting an end to the belief that this Jesus guy from Nazareth, who was not one of them, was the long-awaited Messiah.  And second, you had the Roman government that, at first, just saw this new movement as a “Jewish” problem but were now growing concerned over their loyalty to some dead prophet, and not to Caesar or whoever the emperor might be.  In all of this, they have remained loyal but now many are tempted to renounce their life of suffering and dishonor and return to their former life which seems more honorable and secure than their lives as followers of Jesus who has yet to return as he promised.  The path of least resistance is looking pretty good to them right now.


The writer or the preacher, as the case may be, starts out by stating: In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways.  In the final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son.  God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him.  The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being. He maintains everything with his powerful message.  Here, God’s Son is described as one who will inherit everything, who participated with the Father in creation, who reflects the brilliance, fame, and honor of God, who is the imprint, the likeness of the Father, and who holds everything together with his powerful word.  What the preacher is saying is that if people want to know God, they should look to the Son.  This would have resonated with the hearers who were still Hebrews, as in Jewish families the first-born son held the place of highest privilege and responsibility.  And the Jewish Christians reading this message would understand that as God’s firstborn, Jesus was superior to any other created being.

The preacher continues by saying: After he carried out the cleansing of people from their sins, he sat down at the right side of the highest majesty.  And the Son became so much greater than the other messengers, such as angels, that he received a more important title than theirs.  The preacher is demonstrating that God is speaking through a Son and that the Son is greater than all others including angels who were thought to have delivered the Torah to the Jews and Moses the first great leader of Israel.  The writer is saying that the messages brought forth by the Old Testament prophets were all well and good, but now you are hearing God’s word, God’s new covenant, from his beloved Son, the Son who now holds the position of greatest honor.  So not only is Jesus the exact representation of God himself, the very God who also spoke in Old Testament times, He is eternal; he was there in the beginning and worked with the Father in creating the world.  He is the full revelation of God.  You can have no clearer view of God than by looking at Christ.  Jesus Christ is the complete expression of God in a human body.  The Son is God’s speech to humanity and the gift the Son brings is a message of salvation that God affirms with miraculous deliverance, redemption, and transformation accompanied by empowerment in the Holy Spirit.


The preacher states that God didn’t put the world that is coming under the angels’ control and refers back to what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 8: 4-6 which says: What is humanity that you think about them?  Or what are human beings that you care about them?  For a while you made them lower than angels.  You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.  You put everything under their control.  He’s telling his readers that through Christ’s cleansing of them from their sins that they have been elevated above the angels who previously served as God’s trusted messengers.  Through Christ they have been redeemed.


This next part is where I believe the preacher begins to explain to them that everything will be alright if they just keep the faith.  He says: When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control.  But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet.  I think what he’s saying is that it may look to them like their world is being turned upside down and that they are walking around with targets on their backs, but that God is in control, just have faith.  He says: However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while; it’s Jesus!  He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death.  He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.  God put Jesus in charge of everything, and Jesus revealed himself to us.  Now we do not yet see Jesus reigning on earth but we can picture him in his heavenly glory as the plan for the coming kingdom develops.  The preacher is reassuring us that when we get confused by present events and anxious about the future, we need to remind ourselves of Jesus’ true position and authority and trust in him.


The writer continues by telling us that it was appropriate for God, for whom and through whom everything exists, to use the experiences of suffering to make perfect the pioneer of salvation.  Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation and his suffering made him a perfect leader for God’s imperfect children.  Through his suffering, Jesus completed the work necessary for our own salvation.  The preacher says: This salvation belongs to many sons and daughters whom he’s leading to glory.  He tells us that this is because the one who makes people holy and the people who are being made holy all come from one source.  And that source is God who created us in his image and is why Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters when he says: I will publicly announce your name to my brothers and sisters.  I will praise you in the middle of the assembly.  No matter how flawed and broken we are, Jesus is proud to intercede on our behalf and refer to us as a brother or sister in his conversations with the Father and will also not hesitate to tell all of his brothers and sisters about a God that loves them with an unconditional love if they just call upon the name of Jesus and confess their sins seeking his forgiveness.


We who have been set apart for God’s service, cleansed and made holy by Jesus, now have the same Father he has, making us brothers and sisters by and through his suffering.  Our sufferings, like Christ’s sufferings on our behalf, can make us more sensitive servants of God as we work to do His will in an imperfect and broken world.  People like us, who have known pain are able to reach out with compassion to others who hurt, the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters.  We can use our experiences of pain and suffering to empathize with others and to be that bridge to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  As Jesus the Son is like God the Father, we now as an adopted brother or sister of Christ, can reflect God’s love and compassion as we go out into the world to be the somebodies that do something, the Followers of the Way who work to be a part of the solution, God’s solution for His holy creation and the coming kingdom.


Let us pray.


Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, O thou of God and man the Son, thee will I cherish, thee will I honor, thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.  Gracious and loving Father, how grateful we are for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died for our sins to make us whole with you.  We praise you for sending your Son to live amongst us so that we could learn from him what a magnificent God we serve.  We thank you for our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is an imprint of you, the Father, the giver of all life.  With his blood he has saved me; with his power he has raised me; to God be the glory for the things he has done.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.