Relevant Verses: Hebrews 1, 3
Leading Question: What makes Jesus, the promised Son, better than Moses?
Comment: Since the whole quarter’s study focuses on Jesus the “better” revelation, it is no surprise that this lesson emphasizes the “Promised Son.”
Question: How does Hebrews 1:1-4 sharpen the focus on the “Son” more sharply than any other passage in the book? Why should this particularly label loom so large for the author of Hebrews?
Some specific comparisons in chapter 3 that are worth noting:
Hebrews 3:2-6: This passage compares Moses and Jesus. At first glance, the passage almost suggests “no contest” since Jesus was God’s Son and Moses was God’s servant. It would be well for us to note the common ground between the two, not just the contrasts. And in that respect, just one point stands out: Both were “faithful” (3:2). But that is where the similarity ends, for Moses was a servant “in all of God’s house” (3:5) and Jesus was the builder of the house (3:3). Jesus was also “over God’s house as a Son” (3:6) and we are his “house” “if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope” (3:6).
Question: To what extent is the comparison between Jesus and Moses potentially encouraging and to what extent potentially discouraging?
Comment: Jesus is off the chart, so to speak, when we compare ourselves to him. Moses may be more manageable. After all Moses was a human like us. Could that comparison tempt us to water down the ideal?
Faith and Belief: a tantalizing comparison. Johnsson (pp. 80-81) notes an intriguing and potentially misleading comparison between the English word “belief” and the Greek equivalent which means both “faith” and “belief” without distinction.
Question: When Hebrews 3:18 states that Israel could not enter the promised land because of “unbelief” (NRSV), is there a significant difference in nuance if we translate the word as “lack of faith” or “lack of faithfulness?” In English, what does the choice of “faith” vs. “belief” mean when we talk about such things as “the life of faith” or the “life of belief.” Is “belief” more cognitive whereas “faith” is more holistic? Is one word more experiential, one more theological?
Apostle: a unique application to Jesus. In 3:1, Jesus is described as “the apostle and high priest of our confession.” As Johnsson notes (p. 92), this is the only passage in the entire New Testament that describes Jesus as apostle. Why should that be surprising?
Comment: Johnsson (p. 82) states that “apostle” sums up what has gone before, and “high priest” gathers together the exciting theological plan that is to come.” An “apostle” simply means someone who has been sent. One can see how that could apply to Jesus. The title “high priest” is unusual since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. Does that distinction make sense?
Question: open rejection or neglect? Johnsson (p. 85) summarizes chapter 3 with this paragraph:
“Even while we are members of the people of God, a slow insidious change may be taking place. Others may not know it, we may not know it, but God sees it. Our attitude to the Lord, our responsiveness to the Spirit, may be changing, not so much by open rejection as by neglect. Without wish or design, we may eventually find ourselves far from God’s people – apostates and rebels.”
Is this an appropriate application to our age today?
Question: a good start or a good finish? Johnsson (p. 87) draws a comparison between ancient Israel and the church today. When Israel left Egypt they made a wonderful start under a faithful leader. But they did not arrive in the promised land. Here is Johnsson’s summary:
“Starting well and having a great leader cannot in themselves assure spiritual success. Everyone who confesses Christ starts well, regardless of the era, and every Christian has the finest Leader in the universe. But we each have a part to play. Like the Israelites of old, we may gradually turn our hearts from God and become rebels, and thus we may forfeit our place in the “Promised Land” that we have been seeking. In the Christian life, it is not better to travel hopefully than to arrive; attainment of eternal rest is our goal.”