Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Amos 5:6-15; Psalm 90:1-12; Hebrews 3:1-6; Mark 10:17-31

The Epistle to the Hebrews is perhaps the most fascinating, creative, sophisticated piece of theology in the New Testament. It is a letter that argues that Jesus the Christ is our Great High Priest, appointed by God the Father, who has secured our salvation definitively for all time. On that basis, Hebrews argues, we must hold tight to our belief, having faith in what Jesus has accomplished despite sufferings and hardships.

Foundational to the entire argument of this book is that the things recorded in the Old Testament have one primary purpose: They were given to point forward to Jesus Christ, that the story of God’s people the Hebrews were types that had meaning only when seen in the light of Jesus who is the spiritual fulfillment of them all. In the Old Testament, God’s people had priests, animal sacrifices, and a temple. Priests had to offer sacrifices for the people over and over again. Priests had to be replaced when they died. And the temple was the only place where these things could be done. This was all done because God required it. But it all was representative, signs pointing to the immoveable, incredible center of all human history: The person of Jesus Christ who is the true sacrifice, the true high priest, the true temple. Put another way, the Old Testament is like the shadow, but the real thing is Jesus.

The first two chapters of Hebrews were thus building up to this one, by first declaring that Jesus was superior to the angels (ironic given last week’s subject!). He does this because the angels brought the word of God to humanity, but Jesus is THE Word of God, the greatest revelation, God himself revealed in humanity. The main point of all that is found here, in our reading today: Jesus is superior to Moses. 

That may seem like a strange point, but let’s stop and consider the importance and centrality of Moses to the people of God hearing this, the Hebrews. Moses narrowly escaped the slaughter of Hebrew children when the Pharaoh sought to control their population. He was ultimately raised in the royal household. He had to escape to the wilderness when he defended a Hebrew slave, but then was called by God to return to Egypt to lead the exodus of his people. Moses followed God and performed plagues to defeat the Egyptian power, and eventually lead the people out of Egypt. In the wilderness, Moses received God’s revelation of the Law, and when the people rebelled, Moses interceded to ask God not to destroy them. He led them for 40 years in the wilderness, receiving the word of God and conveying it to the people, judging their disputes, leading them against enemies, and speaking to God on their behalf. He was the greatest saint of the Jewish faith, one who faithfully spoke to them for God, and to God for them. He is so pivotal in the self-understanding of the people of God, that Gregory of Nyssa, a Christian theologian of the 4th century, wrote a book called “The Life of Moses” where he used Moses’ life as the model for our own, individual growth towards God.

Moses, the great prophet of God. And Jesus is better. Jesus, verse 1 says, is the “apostle and high priest of our confession.” An apostle is a messenger. Jesus gives to us the word and will of God, revealing who God is in himself. When you look to Jesus, you look to God; when people who met him in time looked in his human face, they looked upon the person of God. 

Not only an apostle, but a High Priest. If an apostle brings God’s word to us, a High Priest brings our burdens to God, and makes sacrifice for us. Jesus Christ represents God to us, and us to God.

He, The author tells us, was faithful to God just like Moses was. Yet he is deserving of more honor. Why? Well, the builder of a house is more deserving of honor than the house. We might say the same of an artist; you give more honor to Michelangelo than you do the Sistine Chapel, because without his enormous gifts and skills it would not be; you praise your favorite singer because the music they make moves you, more than you praise the songs they write and perform. My boss gets more jobs because people can see the work his crew has done, and so honor them, not the house we worked on. Jesus is not just the servant of the house, we are being told; he is the builder, God himself, building a place for the glory of God to dwell.

And we are that house. It once was the Temple, in Jerusalem, where God chose to make his presence dwell. Now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being built up as the Temple, we are the ones in whom the Divine Spirit comes to indwell, through our faith and our baptisms.

And Jesus is the greatest of God’s representatives, because he is God the Son himself, acting as apostle sent by the Father, and high priest returning to God the Father. He does not just offer a sacrifice, but IS the sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice offered perfectly up, a priest who identifies with our weakness but also remains sinless, the one to whom Moses could only point to.

So, Jesus the Son has built the house, which we are a part of IF we “hold firm” our confidence. We are prone to worry. We are prone to doubt. We have many fears. We may think we are failures, losers. We may think other people are the problem, harming us and keeping us from being healthy, or successful. We may be overly confident, thinking that we can do just fine in life without help. We can be arrogant. 

None of these things are true. Lose your confidence. Forget your self-abuse and self-pity and anxiety. Stop thinking yourself great, and stop thinking yourself failures. Jesus Christ is greater than Moses, and the apostle and high priest of our faith. It is his revelation of what God is like, his sacrifice for us, and his constant and perpetual care for us that matters. He shows you what God is like so you can continue in confidence to grow into Christlikeness, and he is your high priest who offers himself to the Father so that you might have the power to do so. All that you are, all that you have been, and all that you will be is found in Jesus Christ, the author and perfected of your faith.

And so let go of what you think of yourself, and hold fast to Jesus, who is making you into the house of God, and in whom rests all of human hope.

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