Wednesday, December 19

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Candle Lighter:For this world is not our permanent home...”
Response: “…we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Scripture: Hebrews 13:8-16

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.

10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Reader: The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
As we mentioned the other day, the people receiving this epistle were undergoing stress both within the believing community and from the outside world as well. The writer is encouraging truth in the midst of strange new ideas. This passage is remarkably current in today’s culture as gender identity, marriage, human sexuality, justice issues, truth, and reality are all undergoing “reinterpretation.” Then we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” How does this relate to the above discussions. The gospel does not change. Jesus is (not was) the same yesterday. The “yesterday” speaks of Jesus as the Father’s agent of creation. He is the one who created male and female, only two species. Today Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand interceding on behalf of his followers. His work is concerned with all the present day issues. In the time yet to be, he will rule the universe. He does not change. His truth is absolute and does not change regardless of human interpretation. As Creator, Jesus interprets humanity. Humanity does not interpret Jesus. Human beings come and go, he is forever. His word is authoritative. It is God’s grace that sustains us. In contrast, at the time of the writing of Hebrews, one of the “new ideas” from Jewish leaders was that certain kinds of fellowship meals were understood as providing God’s grace. Participants were encouraged to focus again on the altar in Jerusalem, going back to the Old Covenant. So the author reminds his readers that just as sacrifices under the old system were burned outside the camp, so Jesus was crucified outside the city gates. Further, people were made holy by the shedding of Jesus’ own blood. It was the one final complete sacrifice, the supreme Day of Atonement. The challenge to the people then and to us,  comes in withstanding ridicule and bearing the suffering for Jesus’ sake, remembering that this world is not our permanent home. In C.S. Lewis’ wonderful words, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” This pericope is concluded with the phrase “sacrifice of praise.” He goes on to describe this “sacrifice” as one of offering praise to God in our worship and living a life of obedience and of sharing with those in need. Note there is both the vertical relationship to God always stated first and then the horizontal relationships to those around us, reminding us of the two great commandments given by Jesus: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. All of the above is the ramification of the newborn baby boy wrapped up in the arms of his mother, Mary, as she placed him in a manger.

Music: “Jesus, What a Wonderful Child”   Pacific Youth Choir

O Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is truth and life, let Thy presence abide in us, that seeking Thy truth we may find Thee, and sharing Thy life, may dwell together in perfect fellowship, and may be found faithful servants of Thee, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory and praise, now and forever. Amen.

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