What emotions would you be feeling today if your church leaders refused to allow you to worship or attend any events on church property? Add to that how it would feel if it was public knowledge. Then your friends might be wondering what you did or said that was deserving of this kind of treatment. You would be left out in the cold, wouldn’t you?
This is what had happened to Christian Jews in the first century. It actually started during Jesus’s lifetime. Remember the blind man whom Jesus healed on a Sabbath? His parents were afraid to defend him. He was later cast out of the synagogue (John 8:34). Remember how Saul rounded up believing Jews, even traveling to Syria to arrest any caught believing the gospel? James, the Apostle, the brother of John, was killed before 50 A.D. resulting in a flight from Jerusalem. All through the sixties, Paul went first to the synagogues with his good news and was cast out, beaten, imprisoned, forced to flee for his life. So his main ministry had to be with the non-Jews. He certainly experienced the emotions of rejection and abuse.
Could you open your Bible to “Hebrews” 1-2?
“Hebrews” was written as a comfort and encouragement to all Christian Jews wherever they were living. It is really a sermon. (All the letters of Paul had already been written except for, perhaps, 2 Timothy. The gospels of Mark and Luke were probably in circulation as well.) The author encourages the Jews to hold fast to their scriptures and shows how the Old Testament points to the Lord Jesus Christ. He shows the conection between the Old and New Testaments. One error of many Christians is to read only the Psalms and Proverbs, paying little attention to the rest of the Old Testament. Hebrews refutes that right from the start:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son…(Hebrews 1:1-2 KJV; italics mine).
But, imagine how comforting it was to those who could not enter the synagogue to read Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, etc., to be told that they remained the unchangeable word of God. They might have been denied access to them, but many had hidden them in their hearts and it was wonderful to hear Christian leaders affirm their truth. It was like having your cultural roots given approval in spite of the changes in social customs all around you. Wouldn’t you keep reading?
WHO IS JESUS?
Now he goes directly into the doctrine of Christ. Are you sure of these points about Jesus (Hebrews 2:2-3)?
- Jesus is the Son of God.
- The Father has given Jesus everything.
- Jesus was the Father’s instrument in creating everything.
- Jesus is the exact image of the Father and reflects His glory.
- Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power.
- Jesus purged all our sins. He makes us clean.
- He sat down beside the Father in the most favored position.
- Jesus is not just a messenger or a spirit like the angels, but is so much better (1:4,14).
Now, imagine how wonderful it was for these persecuted Jewish Christians to hear again some of their favorite scriptures as proof of the exalted position of the Lord Jesus Christ. He quotes from Isaiah and several Psalms to prove that Jesus was far above any angel or any person (1:4-2:5). And then, he uses a well-known Psalm to prove that Jesus, who by being a man, was actually briefly positioned lower than angels since He had to suffer and die and angels do not. But by suffering, Jesus could relate to us and call us brothers. Doesn’t it encourage you when you are feeling down or rejected or “cast aside” to know that Jesus knows exactly what that feels like? The author quoted Psalm 18 and 22 to show them that this was all predicted by the scriptures they grew up hearing read in the synagogue.
What an encouragement to hold on to these basic truths in times of trouble and rejection! Jesus knows all about the troubles of this world, but He has been crowned with glory and honor because He destroyed Satan’s power and delivered us from the fear of death hanging over us.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage….Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (2:14-17 KJV).
How wonderful to be reminded, in the midst of our suffering, that Jesus is worthy of more honor than any angel. He conquered death and Satan and reconciled us to the Father.
Hold tightly to this teaching about Jesus… even if you have to lose friends or your good name because of it. And comfort yourself that you have a brother who will always be there for you. One way to do this in the midst of pain is to sing with melodies that speak to your heart:.
Behold your God, seated on the throne, Come let us adore Him!