In a series on resilience, there couldn’t be a better guide than the book of Hebrews. So much of the book is about perseverance. To use our working definition of Resilience, Hebrews talks about persevering through something hard, in order to become (and because you are becoming) someone new. It’s a book that can seem irrelevant or confusing to us, because it dives deep into a culture, a context and a religion we are not familiar with: Judaism. But if we can stay with it, and understand the significance of the symbols, the references, the titles, we will find an incredible amount of wisdom and hope for us, as we persevere through our hard times. The primary reason it’s a source of wisdom and hope for us is because the author continually encourages his first-century readers to look at and better understand Jesus; the centre of our faith.
Jesus > Everyone
Jesus > Everything
The lens for our reading this week will be all about relationships; what it means to be resilient in the relationships in our lives, and it will continue to point us to the resilience of Jesus; that He is the one who is making us new, because of who he is, what he has done, and what he is doing.
Day 1: Read Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10
When we go through something hard, one of the things we need the most are other people; friends to accompany us on a hard journey. And yet one of the hardest things to find in hard times are good friends. It’s not that we don’t have people who love us and care for us, but to have people who understand, who know when to speak and when to just be present; who are wise and sympathetic; who know when we need comfort and when we need a kick in the rear. A good friend in hard times is someone who can get down in the pit with us, but who also has strength to pull us out when its time. It helps even more if this friend has been through what we’ve been through; we don’t have to explain everything to them, and they understand at the level of personal experience.
This passage tells us that Jesus is that kind of friend.
He does this for us, through his role as High Priest. For quick reference, a priest was someone who was a go-between for the people of Israel; he was a bridge between God and God’s people. The priest had the task of representing God to the people, bringing God near, and also representing the people before God; being their advocate and ambassador. And the High Priest was the greatest of all the priests, performing some of the most sacred duties of the priesthood, exclusively.
The writer of Hebrews tells his readers/listeners: Jesus is the only High Priest you need; and He gives many reasons why.
Here’s a short but profound list of what the implications are of this amazing truth:
- You don’t need any other go-between – no pastor, priest or a friend who seems really “good” – to get into the presence of, and have the ear and attention of God; you have Jesus. You can go directly to Jesus, because He is God in the flesh; to pray to Him is to pray to God; to receive his help and forgiveness is to receive the help and forgiveness of God.
- He is not just a “Great” high priest, is our “great” friend; he KNOWS what we are going through, and has experienced all of the things that we have experienced as frail human beings – specifically he was “tempted in every way, just as we are”, he was “subject to weakness” and he “learned obedience”. Our priest, our Lord, is also our empathetic friend.
- He is gentle, wise and compassionate
- He offers up prayers and cries for us, continually
- We can confidently run into God’s presence, through Christ, to receive grace and help in our time of need.
- which of these statements above do you find most difficult to believe? Why?
- Which of these truths do you most need right now?
Offer a prayer of response – requests, gratitude, praise, cries for help – to your “Great” High Priest & Friend, knowing He hears and will respond.
Day 2: Read Hebrews 5:11 – 6:12
There’s no going back.
The context of this letter, and this section of the letter you just read, is important. This was written to a community of Jewish believers. They had become followers of Christ, realizing and affirming that He was now all they needed. He was their new and perfect leader (better than Moses). He was their new and perfect High Priest. He was their new and perfect sacrifice (no more killing fluffy the lamb in order to pay for your sins!). He was their new and perfect temple. You don’t need a building; Jesus is the new place of overlap between heaven and earth; wherever He (and his community) is, God is there.
The problem was that their faith in Jesus was making life more difficult for them; they were facing persecution because of their allegiance to Him. Some of them, in response, were losing heart, and in particular deciding to let go of some of those convictions, and were wanting to go back to their old Jewish customs and practices – of sacrifices, priesthoods and temples.
They were going back to religion, as it were, instead of staying in relationship. They were abandoning a rich and complete relationship with Christ AND the rest of Christ’s community, separating themselves from others and, ultimately, from Christ.
So the writer of Hebrews comes out swinging – you’re being babies!
(Oh yes he did!)
He uses the analogy of babies who can’t eat solid food because they are too young, to give them a pretty cutting rebuke. Essentially, he was saying that their desire to go back to their religious ways was like them being babies, and not moving on to better things. Instead, they were abandoning the basic foundation of Jesus as EVERYTHING; it was a regression.
So let’s make this real for us right now.
- In what ways are you allowing disagreements about theology, differences in practical daily Christian living, difficulties in your faith or relationships, or arguments about how to see and interact with our present circumstances, divide you from others, or take you away from the most important truths about who Jesus is and what He has done for us?
- Who are you tempted to pull back or distance yourself from in the body of Christ because of things that are not CORE to our faith in Jesus?
- Is there any anger, frustration, disunity or bitterness that has come between you and another believer that you need to repent of?
Ask Jesus to keep you grounded and connected to Him and His church; to what is MOST important in your faith.
Day 3: Read Hebrews 6:13-20
It’s easy to doubt in the dark what you knew to be true in the light.
Hard times are dark times; we can’t see what’s in front of us, we can’t see how things will get better, we can’t see what God is doing, and we can’t see God.
Often, dark times lead to doubt, fear and bitterness (if we’re honest, towards God).
Even if we don’t doubt God’s existence, we can doubt his promises, his faithfulness. Things we were certain of before – His love for us, His good purposes, His presence, His trustworthiness – seem less true & less certain in hard/dark times.
The writer of Hebrews was reminding people in the dark (and therefore who were doubting and fearful) that God’s promises are always sure and certain. They don’t depend on the right circumstances, what other people do or even what we do; they depend on Him. And He is unchangingly (not a word) faithful.
Take a few moments and slow your breathing down.
Close your eyes, but in your imagination, or your mind’s eye,picture Christ with you right now, sitting next to you.
Ask Him to remind you of a promise He made to you in the past, or a time/experience when you were really sure of his love, his presence and his good plans for your life.
How did it feel to receive that promise, to be convinced of his character, goodness, love and purposes?
Ask Him to remind your heart (what you feel) and your mind (what you think) of just how trustworthy He is.
Close with this song that reminds us of His faithfulness, and calls us to faithfully trust Him in all times.
Day 4: Read Hebrews 6:19 – 7:10
What the what? Who is this guy Melchi….melki…whatever?
Passages like this threaten to make us glaze over, skip over or just disconnect from what God would or could be speaking to us about.
Suffice it to say, the writer of Hebrews is (still) arguing that Jesus is better than everyone in Israel’s history. Remember, this group of people, because faith in Jesus had made life difficult for them, wanted to ditch. They started “hankering” for the past.
You know – old people do it.
Okay, I do it.
Okay, I’m old.
I say things like:
“kids nowadays don’t know good music” or
“how come everyone is on their screens all the time” or
“why are there no re-runs of the A-team?”
The people that the writer of Hebrews was speaking to were hankering. They were looking back in their past thinking that it was better, easier, simpler and more pure.
But the letter’s author was telling them that their past was valuable only because it was pointing them to a better future – Jesus!
The things in their past didn’t last – their leaders died, their priests screwed up, the sacrifices didn’t get rid of their sin, their land was taken from them and their temple was destroyed. They needed something better, stronger; something no time or flaws or enemies could take away. They needed Jesus.
Think about your past for a few moments. Which people, conversations, events or circumstances (even difficult ones) ultimately lead you to Jesus?
Maybe one or two in particular come to mind.
- Thank God for his work in using these people and circumstances to bring you to Jesus.
- Thank Jesus for all of the things you now have in your life because of Him.
- Ask Him to use the relationships and circumstances of today to prepare you for the future.
Day 5: Read Hebrews 7:11-28
Last Sunday, and a few times throughout this week, we’ve reflected on the relationships in our lives. And we have done so through the same lens that the writer of Hebrews is using:
Jesus > everything & everyone.
Let’s be honest – people suck sometimes.
We hurt each other, let each other down, say cutting or insensitive or foolish things to each other.
It’s hard to be in close relationships without doing harm or getting hurt.
These are not reasons to pack it in, to give up, to put up a wall or get revenge…but we need help.
Help comes from the only one whose love for us is perfect
Whose friendship is never-failing.
Whose forgiveness is full and free.
Who is ALWAYS bringing our needs before God and bringing God near to us.
Think about someone in your life with whom you are having friction, conflict or are at odds.
Ask Jesus to be their perfect High Priest – to forgive them, to show them grace, to bring their needs before God, and to help them experience God’s presence, in their life, even right at this moment.
Imagine yourself bringing them to Jesus’ front door and saying “here, can you help my friend/sibling/spouse/child/parent/boss”.
Even as you “release” that relationship into Christ’s perfect leadership and care, you are now free to receive it for yourself.
Now just take a few minutes to listen to this song, taking in Christ’s love for you and expressing yours in return.