Relevant Verses: Hebrews 1-2
Leading Question: Is it more difficult for modern people to believe that Jesus was fully God, or that he was fully human?
Comment: In our largely secular world, any discussion of a God/Man is likely to be foreign territory. Which would be the “easier” goal to reach: to teach that Jesus was God or that Jesus was Human?
For this week’s lesson , I want to look more closely at Hebrews 2. The Adult SS study guide actually sketches out a very broad scope for the lesson: “The Message of Hebrews.” And if you scan the list of topics for the quarter, it is becomes clear that the message of Hebrews is simple: Jesus! Through the quarter, our plan is to keep an eye open to the emphasis in the study guide, but also to focus more closely on one or more of the 13 chapters of Hebrews each week. So this week we look at five select passages in Hebrews 2:
Hebrews 2:1: “Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.”
Question: Just what was it that the believers were to “pay greater attention to”?
Comment: If Hebrews 1 emphasizes Jesus’ divinity, and Hebrews 2 his humanity, what is the logical focus of the author’s concern: his divinity, his humanity, or both? In 2:2-4 the author compares the judgment on those who rejected the earlier covenant that was mediated by angels, with the judgment that could be expected if one rejects the salvation which God himself gave in Jesus Christ.
In 2:1 the word translated in the NRSV as “drift away from” not only has been used of ships, but also or a ring that slips off the finger and is thus lost. This is serious business. “Pay attention,” Hebrews says. Don’t let the truth drift away from you.
Question: Are believers today more inclined to simply “drift away” or do they suddenly depart the faith?
Hebrews 2:9: “. . . so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” – or, that “apart from God he might taste death for everyone.”
Question on a textual variant: The best attested reading is “by the grace of God” but a earlier (less-well-attested reading) is “apart from God he might taste death.” Either way can be a powerful reading, but Johnsson (p. 69) expresses a preference for “apart from God” as being more powerful. What Christ did for us on the cross was done in the absence of God (cf. Psalm 22). What is your preference?
Hebrews 2:10: “That God. . . should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
Question: How is it that the perfect Son of God should be made “perfect through sufferings?”
Comment: As chapter 2 will go on to explain, it was necessary for Jesus to share the experience of those whom he came to save. Thus he became “like his brothers and sisters,” and thus became qualified to serve as a high priest for them.
Hebrews 2:11: “. . . Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
Question: How is it that the Creator of the Universe was/is willing to be on an equal footing with the plodding and often wayward creatures which now inhabit the planet?
Comment: Perhaps there is an echo here of that amazing egalitarian statement of Jesus when James and John asked for the highest places in Jesus’ Kingdom:
Matthew 20:25 You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones [exercise authority (NIV)] over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to [become (NIV)] great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:25-28, NRSV/NIV
In short, Jesus came to serve, not to be served. And this one who came to serve is the Master of the universe.
Hebrews 2:14-15: “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”
Comment: Death looms large in these verses. Hebrews not only announces the end of death but
also the fear of death. Does the story of Jesus accomplish that for us?
Question: The official study guide uses several headings under which he orders the thoughts of the author of Hebrews. Which of these are most likely to be helpful today? King, Mediator, Champion, High Priest?