We’re all thinking about the best way(s) to start off the New Year, and it occurs to me that for Christians, who are forever in Christ (Ro 8.1, 12.5; 1Co 1.30), it’s only sensible to begin the year with a meditation on him.
There are many biblical passages on which we could choose to meditate. One of my favorites is the opening paragraph of Hebrews. I’ve used it before as an indicator of the way God speaks, but it will serve well for this purpose too.
The point of Hebrews, as you probably know, is to demonstrate that the Hebrew Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus, who is the climax of all that they anticipate. In just the opening sentence, the author tells us much about the greatness of Christ:
- He is the heir to all of the Father’s authority (He 1.2).
- He is the creator of all things (He 1.2).
- He is the perfect expression of the nature of God (He 1.3).
- Like the Father, He holds omnipotence in His very words (He 1.3).
- He has cleansed us of all our sin debt (He 1.3).
- He has finished His saving work and is now exalted in a position of honor in the heavenly throne room (He 1.3).
In the rest of the book, the author is going to demonstrate that Jesus is superior
- in his person—
- greater than the angels (He 1-2)
- or even than Moses (He 3-4)
- as well as in his work—
- in the priesthood (He 5-7)
- in the New Covenant (He 8-9)
- and in the offering of himself as the perfect sacrifice (He 10)
The author spends the first chapter listing passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that demonstrate that Jesus is far superior to the angels—
- Citing Psalm 2 and the Davidic Covenant in 2Samuel 7, he notes that Jesus is the Son (He 1.5), whereas the angels are commanded to worship him in Deuteronomy 32.43 (He 1.6).*
- Angels are referred to as “servants” in Psalm 104.4 (He 1.7, 14), but the Son is described in much more elevated language in Psalm 45.6-7, Psalm 102.25-27, and Psalm 110.1 (He 1.8-13).
- He holds lordship over the universe (He 1.8)—indeed, he holds lordship over the world yet to come (He 2.5-9)
- He is unchanging (He 1.11-12).
In this connection it’s worth noting that while angels often announced God’s redemptive work –
- Gabriel announced John the Baptist’s birth to Zacharias (Luke 1:13ff)
- Gabriel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary (Luke 1:26ff)
- An angel announced Jesus’ birth to Joseph (Matt. 1:20)
- An angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:9ff)
- An angel warned Joseph of the danger from Herod (Matt. 2:13)
… they never actually accomplished any of that work. That was all Christ’s—
- Perfect obedience to the Law (Ro 5.19; He 4.15)
- A perfectly atoning death as the Lamb of God (Ro 8.3)
- His own resurrection and the consequent defeat of death (Jn 2.19, 21)**
- His intercession for us in the heavenly throne room (He 9.24; Ro 8.34)
The Son, the Messiah, the uniquely Anointed One has proved himself not only sufficient, but superior in all the ways that matter. As we start into a new year, many of us with dread or at least apprehension, we can proceed confidently, knowing that our Forerunner has planned and prepared the way and determined the perfect outcome for his people.
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men (Ps 11.4).
* A textual variant has resulted in the cited material in He 1.6 not appearing in most English translations of Dt 32.43, but it’s there. That’s a really interesting story; maybe a post on it would be worthwhile.
** Of course, because of the unity of the Trinity, the Father (Ac 5.30, 10.40) and the Spirit (Ro 1.4, 8.11) are said to participate in Christ’s resurrection as well.