Monday, February 11, 2013

Sermon on Hebrews 3:1-6 & Luke 9:28-36, for Transfiguration Sunday, "The Supremacy and Sonship of Jesus"

            Today we stand with the disciples at the high mountaintop of the Transfiguration, watching Jesus gloriously transformed to dazzling white, before we descend with Him on the journey to the cross. His departure, His exodus, the path He leads down through suffering and the grave, and up and out to the promised land of eternal life. Today we leave the high mountaintop of Transfiguration to descend into the valley of Lent—our annual springtime journey beside the footsteps of Jesus, leading toward His cross. The journey where we become acutely aware of our sins and the sufferings that they cost Jesus, and His incredible love that bore all our sins willingly.
            From this mountaintop we can see why the writer to the Hebrews wrote about the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, and His unique and superior role in God’s plan of salvation. Hebrews 3 argues that Jesus is greater than Moses. It’s in the context of a larger sermon: greater than angels, high priests, priesthood, sacrifices, place of worship. Greater in every way. Jesus is supreme over all. What Moses did in his faithfulness as God’s servant, as revealer of the Law, Jesus is still greater, as He is “faithful over God’s house as a Son.” But what does Jesus’ Supremacy and Sonship mean for us?
            The Letter to the Hebrews begins: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hb 1:1-3).
            In ancient times: God revealed through the prophets—but now has sent the all-surpassing revelation directly through His Son. The prophets were faithful, trustworthy spokesmen for God. God spoke true through His prophets. Moses, Elijah, most prominent among the OT prophets, both having had mountaintop encounters with God before—now appear on the mount of transfiguration with the Greatest Prophet—the singular and divine spokesman for God, Jesus, His own Son. He radiated with God’s glory on the mountaintop, and in Him we see the exact imprint of God’s nature. This means that Jesus is completely God, and that God is completely known through Him. For the world to know God, it must know Him through Jesus. No higher, clearer, or more direct knowledge of God available, than through Jesus—the exact imprint of God’s being. His glory shone out in blinding radiance on the mount of Transfiguration, before it was again hidden, and Jesus was once again approachable, a man they could face. But not before they heard the Father’s own affirmation: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!” It was unmistakable that God has sent Jesus, with His own divine seal of approval, to teach us; and that we should pay attention!
            This is the same message the author of Hebrews had in mind as he convinced his hearers of the Supremacy and Sonship of Jesus Christ. What are we to think of it? That we should pay careful attention; how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? God has made it clear He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on this gift! We should bear this in mind when we’re tempted to follow our culture today. There’s much talk of being “spiritual, but not religious”—usually meaning “I’ll seek God or whatever higher power(s) there may be on my own terms or by my own method of exploration.” Implied is also a rejection of any authority like the Bible, to direct us to the Way.
            The ways people say they are seeking for God or a god, are more numerous than the religions of the world. They might involve a passionate and driven pursuit of knowledge, seeking some great learning or point of illumination. They might be a casual, bored indifference to or rejection of knowledge—saying that there is no truth to really know, or no way of knowing it. They might be a rigorous attempt to earn God’s approval through the most excellent life and moral striving, or the attempt to lose oneself in a deep, mindless sea of meditation. Or it might be through some journey of self-discovery, trying to taste all of life’s experiences. But for whatever the attraction or appeal of those various false spiritualities, Jesus promises there is One Way to the Father, and that’s through Him. One Way to know God. So we can bank on His Word that there’s no higher or greater revelation that is going to surpass what is revealed to us in Christ Jesus. There’s no “better offer” on the market. It’s not car sales, but salvation that is at stake. God has sought us out in Jesus Christ, and He has extended this salvation to us. We’d be fools to refuse it, in search of a better alternative.
            But why is Jesus supreme over all? First of all, by His exclusive right as Son. He is God’s only begotten Son, the One who upholds the universe by the word of His power. No one else has a rightful claim to His throne. No one else in all creation has a rightful claim to our worship as true God. But Jesus is also supreme over all by His unmatchable merit. Moses had an impressive track record. Sure it had its faults, but at the end of his life, we read in our OT reading that there was no other prophet like Moses in Israel (until Christ of course). No one who knew God face to face, who had done such miraculous signs and wonders by God’s hand, and his mighty power and great deeds of terror. Moses was described as though he were the most merit-worthy, the most deserving figure of the OT. Our reading from Hebrews 3 says that he was faithful in all God’s house as a servant.
            But Jesus surpasses all in merit and honor. Why is His supremacy over all things most-deserved? Hebrews 2 tells us: He was “crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” and He is the founder of our salvation, made perfect through suffering. His glory and honor was made perfect through the cross. Jesus endured the most terrible sufferings, yet did it obediently—submitting to His Father’s will. He bore our pains at the cross, that He might be made perfect through suffering, and achieve our salvation. But His perfectly obedient life began long before His death. From His conception to His death and resurrection, all of Jesus’ life gave the resounding testimony that He was a righteous, innocent, and God-fearing man. His record alone is blameless, faultless. But His suffering of death was His crowning honor and glory—it was the pinnacle event where God was most glorified. The greatest love, sacrificial love—His life laid down for us, to give us life. In that moment, salvation was sealed. God’s victory over sin, death, and evil was sealed.
            When Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus and the three disciples on the mountain, this was the very topic of their conversation. Jesus’ coming suffering, death, and resurrection, through which He and the Father would be glorified. With spiritual vision, they saw and anticipated His departure (exodus in greek). They saw forward to His accomplishment of that divine mission that would bring us salvation, and seal His supremacy as the Son of God, our Savior, the author and perfecter of our faith. So with eyes trained by spiritual sight, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, and journey on this path we follow through the valley of life, ever repenting of our sins and ever turning to Jesus God’s Chosen one, and listening to Him for those blessed words of forgiveness, life, and salvation. In His name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Transfiguration Sunday is the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday when the somber season of Lent begins. How is Lent an annual spiritual journey to the cross?

  1. Read Hebrews 3:1-6. Look over the first 10 chapters of Hebrews. They argue for Christ’s supremacy over a variety of Old Testament figures and systems. What implications does Jesus’ supremacy and Sonship hold for us and our salvation?

  1. Read Hebrews 1:1-4. What is different about the way that God revealed Himself in ancient times, to the way He has now revealed Himself to us? Which is superior? John 1:18; Colossians 1:15-20

  1. Why is it dangerous/foolish to neglect the message of Christ? Hebrews 2:1-4; 4:1-13.

  1. What kind of false spiritualities do people often create to “seek God?” Why are they bound to failure? Acts 4:12; Romans 3:10-12

  1. Read Hebrews 11. Although the ancients are commended here, note that they are not commended particularly for their works, but rather for what? Hebrews 11:2, 39; 12:2.

  1. What else, in addition to His Sonship, made Jesus distinctly worthy of all glory and honor, above all else? Hebrews 2:9-10; 12:2. Why did He do it all for us?

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