How is Christianity relevant to us today? How is Jesus relevant to this nation that we live in? How do we handle people who believe that “all religions lead to God”. A nation where spirituality is equated with “Doing Good” where any religious organisation is automatically termed a “Charitable Institution” there by equating charity with religion and faith.
I do not presume to know more about evangelization than any of you sitting here. However I guess, that when we present the gospel to any one we usually depend on one the Gospel books of the bible. Have we considered sharing the gospel through the book of Hebrews?
The book of Hebrews was written to an audience who were struggling with faith, people who were Judaic Christians struggling with doubts about the relevance of Christianity, struggling to see if Christianity was in any way “better” than the Judaism that they were following. After all, Jews were a nation chosen by God. The most hunted and the most hurt people on earth (A well known Jewish writer went to extent of asking “God, I know we are the chosen people, but why did you not choose some one else?” ) So what is different about Christianity that they should follow this Jesus of Nazareth? What is different about him that they should take that plunge?
Does the book of Hebrews have any relevance to us today? Does the Christ portrayed in Hebrews make any difference in the way we live and present the Gospel to this country, that we have been called to save?
One commentator draws an analogy to the mountaineer’s dilemma when faced with a steep wall in front of him. When you are climbing a mountain and reach a place where these is a steep wall in front of you, with no footholds or anything else to hold , the mountaineer is forced to take a decision. One decision that he can take is to abandon the journey and return back to base camp. The other decision is to use the pendulum method to get across and continue the journey. The pendulum method is exactly what is sounds like, You attach a strong hook to the highest point that you can reach and then pass a rope that is attached to your body through the loop, go down a little bit, hang into empty space, with your foot placed against the wall, and then swing like a pendulum to the other side of the steep wall, where you could get a foot hold, once you , and your team, get your foot on the other side you pull out the rope from the loop and then you have lost all connection with the previous place you were in. The hook that you used is firmly out of reach for you, and there is only one way to go; up!! There is no going back, the only thing you can do is to keep going ahead. This is risky and requires a lot of courage. For many people , who are good, who are well off, who are successful, a decision to follow Jesus, is like this. At some point in time of their faith walk , they reach this position where they have to take a call, to return to the old faith or to take that plunge and keep going in the new faith, with no return. I am sure all of us are familiar with the song “ I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning Back, No turning Back”.
So how does the book of Hebrews help us in this context?
The book goes in depth in establishing how Jesus is greater than all other creations, prophets, angels etc… 1:1-4 (angels), 3: 3-6 (Moses), 7:15-25 (Aaron and all other priests) , In line of Melchizedek (Priest and King in one, priest forever) 7:1-10. The author of Hebrews clearly establishes the superiority of Jesus, as He is God himself. Now this might make sense to the Jews. How do we make this relevant to our times, and our country? Ravi Zacharia in his book, “Jesus among other gods” says “Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true, Morally, you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim it to be a ‘better’ way. Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it. How does one, to a mood such as this, communicate the message of Jesus Christ, in which Truth and absoluteness are not only assumed, but sustained?” The Indian challenge seems to be even harder. There are numerous studies , books and articles comparing Krishna with Jesus, going to as incredulous claims that the Jesus “story” is inspired by Krishna’s mythology. How do we proclaim the superiority of Jesus in these circumstances?
The Book of Hebrews gives us a number of reasons to tell us why Jesus Christ is superior. Let me dwell on just three of them this morning.
1. Why Jesus had to come down to earth as fully man?
Three reasons are stressed here in Hebrews,
a) 2:14-17, so that in dying he could free us from the power of death
b) 5:7-10, in becoming the final sacrifice for sin, he could reconcile us to God. Satan faced rejection and alienation from God, due to the fall, and hence he is bent upon making every effort to prevent us from having that intimate fellowship with God , that God desires. He did the very same thing with Adam and Eve, he encouraged and manipulated an series of events that spoilt the perfect fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God. He continues to do that even to day and only Jesus has won the battle permanently to give that fellowship back to us.
c) 2:18, So that in experiencing temptation, he can better help us with our own temptation
Contrast this with the likes of Krishna, or Buddha or Mohammad, and we begin the see the superiority of Jesus. Krishna won the “war of good over evil” through divine powers, Buddha through wisdom, and Mohammad through prophesy. None of them, through self sacrifice.
2. Jesus completed the task of purification and salvation for us, some thing which no one else could ever do. We know that Jesus finished the work because he sat down after the task, Vs 10: 11-12, an act that no priest was ever allowed to do.
For the Jews it was the old testament priest who did the purification through repeated sprinkling of blood Vs 9:18-22, without blood there was no forgiveness. However Jesus did this by his own blood Vs 9: 12-14, and tore down the curtain that separated man from accessing God.
What is the relevance of this in non Judaic society ? You take any other faith, access to god is still controlled affair, Take the Hindu temples for example, take the mosques for example, take the Tabernacle for example, there is always a separation between common people like you and me and God, and that exactly is what Jesus shattered through his blood. Krishna or Buddha or Mohammed did not come to do this, and they could not make the access to God freely available as it is through Jesus Christ.
3. But why was it necessary for Jesus to die as a man?
There is this beautiful explanation in Hebrews 9:16-17. If I have a rich uncle and he writes all his wealth to me through a will, the will is of no use until my uncle dies, and till the time he dies , he has the power and authority to change the name in the will and give it away to any one else. A will comes into effect only when the author of the will dies, and the death is established. Now consider this, what did God will us? The abundant Grace, and how could we inherit that except through the death of the author? The death on the cross freed up the inheritance for all of us who were sinners. Isn’t that a beautiful thought?
Judaic or otherwise, which other faith, which other “god” offers this freedom through the death of one self?
So there are enough evidences for us to know that Christ is superior to other “gods”. But is that the reason why we should do what we do? Is that the reason why organisations like your should exist. Not necessarily, most of us do this because of our faith. Thinking of faith, there is this story told by none other than Narayan Murthy, the Chief mentor of Infosys. An airline company decided to do an experiment with the CEOs of software companies. They invited the CEOs to what they called as a “flight of technology”. The CEOs came in , and were seated inside the plane one by one. After all of them seated, it was announced that the flight is a “crew less flight” and the entire flight will be done without any pilots in the cockpit. Parellaly, each CEO was privately also told that the software that drives the plane was developed by his own company. Slowly, one by one, each of the CEOs started finding one excuse or another to get off the plane. After a little while , only one CEO was left and the organizers of the event were very impressed with him and they went to congratulate him on the faith that he has on his employees. He smiled and said to them. “ Yes, I have nothing to worry. I am confident that if my engineers designed the software, the plane will never even take off”
Faith is defined as “Being sure that we will get what we hope for. And certain of what we do not see”
The book of Hebrews promises us that we can have faith for being made perfect through Jesus Christ, some thing which all the other faithfuls described in Chapter 11 of the book could not get, though they were all commended for their faith. Vs 9: 39-40. This is the faith that we have been asked to share, this is the faith that organisations like yours strive to spread. This is the faith that all of us have in serving Him. Let our faith, fuelled by the knowledge that Jesus is the perfect saviour drive us to do greater things for His Kingdom.
Let us pray
This message is also available in audio / pod cast version. Click here to listen to this message.