Monday, October 05, 2015

Sermon on Hebrews 2:1-13, for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, "Christ is All-Sufficient"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. During this month of October, as we remember the Reformation, the sermons will come from the book of Hebrews. Today we’re warned of the importance of paying attention to the message that we’ve heard, and not falling away from it. The writer to the Hebrews is reminding us of our precious gift and salvation in Jesus Christ. Some messages and some news can go in one ear and out the other, and nothing is really lost. You can forget the latest scores, or the reports about the state building project that got held up, or some other current news item, and you are no worse off for it. But pay attention (!!) the author of Hebrews says. You can’t afford to forget, ignore, or let the message of salvation, or the good news about Jesus leak out of your ears. Our very life depends on it!
God knows so well that we are forgetful, we are prone to ignore, and have leaky ears. Therefore we need to hear that message again and again, to sink deeply into our hearts and lives. God is faithful, with mercies new every morning, forgiving and restoring us from our forgetfulness. By His grace we are preserved, because we simply cannot afford to neglect such a great salvation. To neglect is to be careless or to disregard something. We cannot afford to neglect such a great salvation, because it is our eternal rescue. If those who disobeyed the old covenant, given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the covenant our reading describes as “the message declared by angels”—if those who disobeyed were justly punished, the writer asks us, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? What excuse would we give, for turning down God’s free grace in Christ Jesus? There would be none.
But what’s that new message, and new salvation? The whole story of Jesus, sent by God to be our Savior. Let’s explore that message and salvation through today’s reading. Verses 3-4 says, “It was declared at first to us by those who heard”…so the readers of this letter learned about Jesus through the apostles, the eyewitness of Jesus, and disciples who had followed Him—those who heard. “While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.” Side by side with Jesus’ message and teaching, were Jesus’ miracles and wonders. God’s confirmation that Jesus was truly sent from Him. And gifts of the Holy Spirit, like speaking in tongues, were poured out on the disciples of Jesus as well.
Next the writer to the Hebrews marvels at how Jesus came for our salvation, quoting Psalm 8: “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” At first, the Psalm seems to be marveling on how God made human beings, and gave us rule and dominion over the earth. What is man that you are mindful of him? In other words, who are we, a tiny speck, that God should pay attention to us and think of us? Who are we in the universe, that God should pay such care and attention to us? And that is an amazing truth. But as we read Hebrews 2:9, we see that even more significant, this is a reflection about how Jesus came as Savior into the world. “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death”. Jesus is the one who was made for a little while, lower than the angels, and crowned with glory and honor. The Psalmist was singing about Jesus, prophetically, some 1,000 years before Jesus was born!
Jesus is God of God, Light of Light…being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. As the Son of God, Jesus is eternal, coequal with God the Father, He created all things together with the Father and the Spirit. Nothing can compare to or equal God. God has no counterpart or being that is like Him. But God made His Son Jesus, for a little while, lower than the angels. Our creed says it this way: “who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.” That word “incarnate” or “incarnation”—means to take on flesh. To become human. God, an eternal Spirit, took on human flesh—became incarnate. Jesus walked on earth as a human being, in the flesh. For a little while lower than the angels.  
Not only is that a divine mystery, that God became man—but also the reason Jesus was crowned by God with glory and honor is amazing. Because of the suffering of death. God became human so that by the grace of God, He could “taste death for everyone.” And from that moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, God not only knew what death was, but He had experienced it Himself. Jesus tasted death, to conquer it. He tasted death, so that in the words of the prophet Isaiah (25:8), God will “swallow up death forever.” Jesus tasted and consumed the bitterness of death, to make a way for us to be set free. This incredible self-sacrifice and love is why God crowned Jesus with glory and honor, because of the suffering and death.
And our passage from Hebrews says God made the “founder of [our] salvation perfect through suffering.” Jesus, the author or founder of our faith perfected or completed His work of salvation at the cross. This has incredible significance for our understanding of salvation—particularly that Jesus’ death on the cross is all-sufficient for us. All-sufficient means that there is nothing we can do or add to Jesus’ salvation, to make it complete. As Lutherans, we take great comfort, as all Christians should, in knowing that Jesus’ death on the cross is the total, final, and complete payment for sin, and entrance into eternal life. It’s not a big boost after which we have to push ourselves over the top; it’s not a job 99% done, and we just have to finish the last 1%; and neither is it that Jesus did all the hard work, and we just have to complete the easy stuff. Jesus has done the whole work of salvation, completely. As Lutherans, we confess this truth by saying we are saved by grace alone—nothing we earned or deserved. We are saved by faith alone—trusting in Jesus, and not our works—and we are saved by Christ alone, in Jesus and no other. That Jesus Christ is all-sufficient is the cornerstone of our faith.
Through Jesus’ perfect salvation, He brings many sons to glory. He sanctifies us. That means that Jesus brings us into His victory and life, and He sanctifies or makes us holy. He washes us clean of sin, and presents us pure, holy, and acceptable to God. He leads us in a new way of living, away from the old habits of sin. Our reading continues by saying that “He is not ashamed to call [us] brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Whatever your sins, laid down on the cross of Jesus, they are forgiven. Jesus is not ashamed of you. You have put your trust in Him, and He gladly, unashamedly, proudly calls you brothers and sisters. We are the children God has given Him. And what do we hear Jesus say? “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Jesus lovingly teaches His children, His brothers and sisters, about the name and glory of God. We know God through Jesus. He is all-sufficient.
The reading from Hebrews gives us one additional thought—that this Jesus whom God has honored, who was made lower than the angels, and who suffered death for everyone—God has also placed all things in subjection under His feet. It says, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” There is nothing outside of Jesus’ control. God has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth. But notice, it says we don’t see it yet. It still appears as though much of the world and much in the world does not submit to Him. The peoples and the nations rage against Jesus. Many people hate His name. Evil often seems to take the day, when events like the mass shooting in Oregon take place last week. Death seems to surround us everywhere. We don’t yet see everything in subjection to Him.
But trust in Him. Believe the promise that God has crowned Jesus with glory and honor, and all things are in subjection to Him. The time awaits, and is coming soon, when we will see all things in full submission to Him. We will see the last enemy, death, thrown under His feet. We will see Jesus triumph gloriously over all evil, and deliver His people safely into God’s arms. That reality and promise is already ours. We have been sealed as God’s children in our baptism, and nothing can take us away from the love of Jesus. But we also confidently trust in the final victory that belongs to Him. The return of Jesus to bring all things fully into submission and obedience to Him, so that death is truly swallowed up forever. For that day we wait in eager expectation. Amen, Come Lord Jesus!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      In Hebrews 2:2, it refers to the “message declared by angels”. What “message” is this referring to? Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:17-19; Deuteronomy 33:1-3. How did that covenant have “just retribution” or punishments for every sin and disobedience? Galatians 3:10
2.      A new message has been declared to us, not by angels, but by the Lord. What is this message? Hebrews 2:3-4; 1:1-2. What are the signs and miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit that confirmed this new message?
3.      Hebrews 2:6-8 quotes Psalm 8. Read the Psalm. How do the quoted verses describe Jesus? How did He humble Himself? What did God do to crown and exalt Him? Hebrews 2:9-10.
4.      How does Jesus’ “tasting of death” express God’s grace to us? What does grace mean? Why did Jesus endure death for our sake?  John 10:9-11, 14-18.
5.      How does Scripture make it clear that Jesus’ death on the cross was all-sufficient for our salvation, and that nothing needed to be added to it to complete the forgiveness of our sins and life eternal? John 19:30; Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:10-14.
6.      How are we sanctified or made holy through Jesus? Hebrews 10:10, 14. According to God’s will, what does our sanctification look like?  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 5:12-24. Who will accomplish this sanctification in us? 1 Thess. 5:24
7.      Being sanctified in Christ Jesus, what relationship are we given to have with Him and with God? Hebrews 2:11-13.

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