Superior Priest, Superior Sacrifice

Text: Hebrews 7:11-28

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?  For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.  Hebrews 7:11-14

In the last section, we got into the whole Melchizedek issue, and here, the author is applying it to our present situation in Christ.  A careful reading of this text will begin to reveal an amazing aspect of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants, and we quickly discover why the Old Covenant is no more.  To begin, verse 11 brings us a rhetorical question: If perfection could have been attained through the old priesthood, why do we need another?  Simple enough… Let’s understand “perfection” for a minute here, since I think it might refer to something that many might not be thinking about right off.  By “perfection” the author isn’t asking whether or not the Law could make a man perfect through His obedience to it; I’m sure you can recall Paul asking those kinds of questions.  In this case, perfection is linked to the priesthood itself, and the priesthood represents the entire Old Covenant system of atonement for sins.  Since that system cannot take sin away, it cannot bring about perfection. Jesus not only provided for forgiveness of sins, He took them away entirely.

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Knowing Jesus Christ

Are you fascinated by Jesus?  Do you want to learn more about him? Do you want to know him? If so then I have just the sermon here for you to watch.

I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. —Isaiah 52:6, message

Who do you follow? You do have a master. You get to choose. If it’s not Jesus then it’s another one. People sometimes claim that they are their own boss. “Nobody can tell me what to do!” But in truth if you say that then you are deceived and it is actually the devil who is leading you.

Who rules over you? Have you chosen the Lord Jesus to be over you?  We can’t have Jesus as our saviour but not our lord. Some people read the bible and say “I like that bit but not that” but we must instead humbly accept Jesus  and follow him. One reason we have all the problems we do is that we still don’t see who Jesus really is.

The above paragraph is a paraphrase from part of my pastors Tope’s sermon that he preached this past Sunday.  The whole sermon is an exceptionally clear look at the demands Jesus places on us, and how compelling and worth of adoration Jesus really is. Wherever you are on your journey with Jesus this is well worth the investment of a few minutes.

Tope quoted some words of Jesus which quite rightly should make us sit up and take notice. Jesus said  many people will meet him on the Final day and claim how close they were to him and what they did for him, but instead he will say  “away from me I never knew you!

Knowing Jesus is not an optional extra. It is really the core of what Jesus demands of us, and different aspects of how we relate to Him have been the subject of my long running series on the Commands of Jesus.

I encourage you to watch the sermon here, and perhaps download the Jubilee App to make it easier to follow this whole series Tope has now began. Below the video I will share more about the name Jesus Christ and end with Tope’s sermon outline.


“Christ Is a God of Joy”

We talked about this Daily Luther Quote in our Bible class last Sunday:

[When someone is worried or sad,] he ought to think about Christ. You should say to him, “Christ lives. You have been baptized. God is not a God of sadness, death, and so forth, but the devil is. Christ is a God of joy, and so the Scriptures often say that we should rejoice, be glad, and so forth. This is Christ. Because you have a gracious God, he won’t take you by the throat.” (AE 54:96) [“Table Talk,” Luther’s Works Vol. 54, p. 96]

I had never heard this one before, but it’s a wonderful and helpful saying with a host of applications, especially when we get mired down in our various miseries.

Luther is NOT saying that we shouldn’t get depressed, that unhappiness is a sign that we aren’t saved, that Christians should always be happy-happy, that negative experiences are not part of the Christian life.

Luther makes that clear throughout his writings.  He is the great theologian of the Cross, which refers not only to his theological understanding of Christ’s atonement for our sins in His crucifixion but also to his exploration of the crosses that Christians themselves must bear as they live out their faith in a world of sin and suffering.  Luther himself struggled with deep depression, with what the poet calls “titanic glooms.”

The point, though, is that even as we undergo these bleak feelings, we can remember that just as Christ on the Cross had a joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), so do we (John 16:16-22).  We can have a foretaste of that joy here, even in the midst of our struggles (2 Cor 8:2) and also in the ordinary pleasures of our lives (Eccles 8:15).

So “Christ is a God of joy.”I was also struck by what Luther says about the devil:  “God is not a God of sadness, death, and so forth, but the devil is.”  The devil IS a god of sadness and death.


Can We Know Anything about the Historical Jesus?

Source: Can We Know Anything about the Historical Jesus? Yes, and It’s Much More than You Think!

By: Brian G. Chilton | June 18, 2019

In 2000, I made the difficult decision to step away from my faith. I entered into what I call theistic-leaning agnosticism, one step removed from pantheism. I believed that some kind of God could possibly exist. However, I didn’t know that a person could know if that God really did exist and most certainly could not know anything about the historical Jesus of Nazareth. These doubts were brought on the claims of the Jesus Seminar who held that less than 14% of the sayings attributed to Jesus were actually his own. The Seminar claimed that the rest of the sayings were inventions from the apostles. Couple the Seminar with PBS’s show From Jesus to Christ which claimed that the Christ of faith evolved over time from the Jesus of historythen one could see why I needed some serious answers. When I asked Christian leaders about how I could know if Jesus was accurately portrayed in the Gospels, I was met with scorn and hostility. Add to that the nepotistic hypocrisy I often saw, then stepping away from the faith was pretty easy.

However, everything changed in 2005. I was introduced to the writings of Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Lane Craig, and Gary Habermas. This past week, my journey came full circle. I had the honor to have one of my apologetic heroes, Gary Habermas, once again as a professor. The class investigated the New Testament creeds which is the material in the New Testament that predates the New Testament writings. It is thought even by skeptical scholars that many of these creeds date to no later than 35 AD when Paul met Peter and James in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-20). The NT creeds tell us much about the historical Jesus because this information is located at ground zero. The creeds tell us about the message of the earliest church which in turn came from the historical Jesus of Nazareth. So, what can we know about the historical Jesus of Nazareth from these creeds?

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Did Jesus, St. Paul, & the Prophets Use Sarcasm? Yes

The Jewish Jesus of the NT Gospels

~ Larry Hurtado

Among the comments responding to my posting about the depiction of the infant Jesus in Christian art, a couple of them prompt me to respond in another post.

One comment points to the way that visual representations of Jesus in art (and the movies too) in the West often give a blue-eyed, blond/light-haired, fair-skinned figure.  This compares with the visual depictions that one finds in the East, giving a rather oriental-looking figure, or in Africa, where Jesus may be depicted as black African.  Another comment inquires whether this re-culturalization of Jesus also might have characterized the earliest literary depictions of Jesus, in the four NT Gospels.

These comments prompt me to reiterate an observation laid out briefly in my book, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003, esp. pp. 265-70).  One of the major characteristics shared by all four Gospels is

“how fully they site their accounts of Jesus in a specific historical, cultural, and geographical setting.  Each writer locates Jesus in early-first-century Roman Judea (Palestine), and each rendition of Jesus’ activities is rich in ‘local color’.” (265)

The accounts are rife with geographical references to Lake Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethsaida, Caesarea Philippi, the Decapolis area, Samaria, Jericho, Bethlehem, the Jordan River, Tyre and Sidon, and Jerusalem, for example.  Incidents set in Jerusalem refer to the temple, precincts of the Roman governor, and nearby villages such as Bethany.

References to the religious and cultural setting abound.  We learn of Jewish groups such as Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, temple priests and hierarchy, and Jewish scribes. The issues dealt with have to do with Jewish law and scruples, such as Sabbath observance, food laws, divorce and remarriage, skin diseases, swearing oaths, tithing, and taxation.  Whatever the differences between Jesus and his interlocutors, the issues are thoroughly Jewish.  There are references to Jewish festivals such as Passover, and issues of religious controversy such as resurrection of the dead.  We hear about governing authorities and structures such as Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, the high priest Caiaphas, and the Roman governor Pilate.

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Fully Human

Text: Hebrews 4:14-18

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18

Following the last section, in which we saw that we are God’s children, Jesus’ brothers and sisters, our author continues with his theme in verse 14. Since these “children” have flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood too, and then we clearly see why.  Jesus was incarnated so that He could die, to break the power of the devil, by setting us free from the fear of death. Interesting concept isn’t it?  Being set free from slavery to the fear of death, and from the one who holds power over us by our fear of death…

So, how does the author move from the fear of death to Satan holding power over us because of our fear of death?  Here’s a thought: If you are a follower of Jesus who lives in a place where following Jesus is not permitted by law, will you follow Jesus or will you follow the law of that land? If the authorities in power there are seeking to enforce their laws, then they will seek to coerce you into following their laws, right?  What is the ultimate means of coercion on this earth? Death.  If you fear death, you are likely to follow the law.  If you have been set free from the fear of death, you are free to follow Jesus.  Consider who this letter was written to: Jewish Christians in Rome during the persecution of Nero.  The whole book of Hebrews is a persuasive argument to them to hold onto their faith, even to the point of death, a death they have no reason to fear. We also have no reason to fear death, since we know that because of Jesus, we have eternal life. You can destroy my body, but I live on anyway. Yes, dear reader, this is much more than empty talk or an academic doctrine, it is very real.

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