Christ is Greater: Hebrews 1:1-4
by Pastor Trent Boedicker 12/6/15
I have an early Christmas gift here for someone. It sure looks like a nice present, doesn’t it? I wonder what it could be…
(box is empty)
Pretty nice, huh? Did you like it? No? What you mean? It had beautiful wrapping paper. It had a bow on top. It was a nice big box. Isn’t that everything you need for a great Christmas present?
–oh, there was nothing inside? Is that a problem? I guess it does seem sort of empty.
Try to imagine Christmas without Christ. That would be pretty empty too, wouldn’t it?
- Without the message of the Savior, there wouldn’t be any joy in this world.
- Without the light of the gospel, we would be surrounded by darkness.
- Without the incarnation (God becoming flesh, dwelling among us) we wouldn’t have a lot of hope for the future.
I love the Christmas season: the songs, the decorations, the lights, the family get-togethers and celebration… but none of that means anything without Jesus.
Without Jesus, life would be empty. Maybe there was a time, before you met the Lord, when it felt as if something was missing. You couldn’t quite put your finger on it, but there was void deep within, a yearning for something more. You didn’t know where to find it, but you knew that you needed something to make you whole. You needed Jesus, and when you found Him, He filled your heart.
I want to spend the next couple of weeks talking about the significance of Christ. That’s once of themes of the book of Hebrews. We’ve spent some time towards the end of the book, (in chapter 11) and we’ll go back to finish that study, but this week and next we’re going to look at the first two chapters of the letter and what they tell us about the person of Jesus Christ. We’ll be in chapter 1 today, and chapter 2 next week. Just who was the baby born in the stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago? He was no ordinary child, that’s for sure. He was no ordinary man.
He is greater than anyone you’ve ever met before, and your life will be incomplete until you open our heart to Him.
These first four verses are one sentence in the original language. It is the introduction to the letter, and paves the way for all of the themes that will follow. One of those themes, woven all throughout the book, is the preeminence of Christ. He is greater than the prophets, greater than the angels, and He is greater than all, because He is God.
That was the one thing (more than any other) the author of the letter wanted his readers to take away. If they didn’t learn anything else, he wanted them to see this. The original audience was mostly Hebrews, as the title suggests, and as such they had a special heritage as the people of God. They were a religious people. They had the Law and the sacrifices and the temple worship. But what they needed to realize is that all of those things pointed to Christ, and now Christ has come, and so without Him their religious activity was empty.
First of all, the passage shows us that Christ is greater than the prophets.
That’s saying something, because the prophets were pretty important people. Throughout the OT, and all throughout Israel’s history, God raised up individuals who would be His spokesmen. They were preachers, but they were more than that, because they spoke the very words of God. He placed His message on their lips. He put His utterances in their mouth. We think of people like Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and many others. They were ordinary people, but God worked through them in extraordinary ways.
He revealed Himself to them in a variety of ways.
- He spoke to Moses in the burning bush (Exod 3:2),
- He spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12)
- He spoke to Isaiah in a vision in the temple (Isa 6:1),
- He spoke to Daniel through dreams (Dan. 2:19)
- As amazing as those experiences must have been, it doesn’t compare with what God would do.
We don’t have prophets today, at least not in that sense. We have something better.
Look at verse 1: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…”
Notice the comparison: then and now.
- In the past God spoke to our forefathers, today He is speaking to us.
- In the past He spoke through mediators, but now He has spoken directly through His Son.
- In the past He gave various pieces of the puzzle, a little at a time (none of the prophets were able to see the whole picture of how God would accomplish His plan of salvation), but now we see the fulfillment of His plan in Christ.
Trust me, we’re not missing out on anything, living on this side of the cross. We’ve been given access to things that even the prophets did not understand.
In the gospels, Jesus told his disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)
- Jesus is greater than the prophets because they were speaking about Him. Everything in the OT points towards His life and ministry and what He would accomplish for us at the cross, and what He will accomplish one day when He returns. He is the fulfillment of prophecy.
- Jesus is greater than the prophets because through His Son, God the Father has revealed Himself to man. There are no longer middlemen, or go-betweens, He has come to this earth in person
Have you ever answered the phone for someone, and ended up becoming the middle man in the conversation. A husband answers the phone for his wife, because her hands are full, cooking or doing dishes. “It’s your sister” “Oh, tell her I said hi.” “Charity said hi.” “Hey, could you ask a question for me?” “Your sister wants to ask you a question.” …….it goes back and forth like this, you’re doing your best to relay the message. Finally, you’re able to hand the phone over and let them talk to each other directly.
That’s what God has done, in Christ. He has spoken to humanity directly. He came to us in person to deliver good news.
That tells us how much God thinks of us, that He would be willing to do that. To leave the glory of heaven to enter this world, to step into the realm of men, just to speak to us. He wouldn’t have done that if He didn’t care about us.
And it impresses upon us how important this message must be. If Christ is greater than the prophets, we should to listen to Him, and the message of salvation that He gives. Christ continues to speak to us through His Word. We need to open the pages, and hear what He has to say.
The passage also shows us that Christ is greater than the angels.
That’s also impressive. We read about the ministry of angels throughout the Bible. They are heavenly creatures, who are described as being magnificent in appearance, and they are powerful.
The word “angel” literally means “messenger,” and that is role that we often see them engaged in in Scripture.
- It was an angel who brought news to Mary that, though she was still a virgin, she was going to give birth to a son. It would be a miracle. He would be Son of God. (Lk. 1:26)
- It was an angel who appeared to Joseph, and told him he didn’t need to afraid to take Mary as His wife. The child she was carrying was divine. (Mt.1:20)
- It was an angel who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, outside of Bethlehem. Scripture says, And then a myriad of angels appeared to light up the night sky with praise singing: “Glory to God in the highest.” (Lk. 2:14)
But as magnificent as the heavenly host might be, the author of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is superior in every way.
Verse 4 tells us, “…having become as much better than the angels, …He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”
There’s not even any comparison: Angels are heavenly creatures, but Christ is Creator of all. Angels are servants of the Almighty, but Christ is the Son of the living God. He will always rule over them. His position will always be infinitely higher. They bow at His feet. They obey the command of His voice. They worship His holy name.
When the passage says in verse 4 he became superior to the angels, it doesn’t mean that Christ was ever inferior to them. But later on, next week, we will see that Christ humbled himself, for a little while, when He entered this world. He glory was obscured, for a short time, when He took on flesh and blood. And then in His resurrection and ascension, He was exalted to His rightful place, once again, at the His Heavenly Father’s side in heaven.
The verses that follow look back at the OT to prove that Christ is greater, quoting from several different places in the psalms. Skip down to verses 13 and 14:
But to which of the angels has He ever said,“Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies A footstool for Your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
Christ is Lord, seated on the throne. The angels do His bidding. They go where He sends them, and exist to carry out His will.
Comparing Christ to the angels is almost like comparing the CEO of billion-dollar corporation to guy to who brings him his coffee.
If Christ is greater than the angels, we should worship Him, just as those heavenly messengers erupted in song when they announced the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. We ought to be humbled to think that the king of the universe has come near, and has invited us into a relationship.
Finally, our passage shows us that Christ is greater than all, because He is God.
The child born in a stable, and laid in the manger, was not merely the son of a Jewish carpenter. Verse 3 gives a summary of who Jesus really is:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
If you want to know what God is like, all we have to do is look at Jesus, because Jesus is God. All of the attributes which belong to the Father are equally present in the Son (glory and power, holiness and mercy, righteousness and truth). Everything else that the Father is, so also can be said of Jesus, His Son.
- Through Christ, God created the world. He was there before there was time, calling the universe into existence.
- Through Christ, God brought redemption to the world. Only the perfect Son of God could offer Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Even when Christ came to earth, and took on human form, He never stopped being God. His majesty was veiled, but it was still there.
We are not surprised to see physical similarities between parents and their children. You hear people say things all the time like: “he looks just like his dad…” or she looks just like her mom looked when she was that age…” Patterns of speech might also be similar. “You sound just like your dad.” “I heard your voice and thought you were your mom.”
But there is more than a similarity between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus is the imprint, or the exact representation, of the Father’s essential nature.
- John 1:18 tells us: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” – You and I are not able to get on a bus, or an airplane, or an elevator and take a quick trip to heaven to meet God. But God came to us. God the Father sent His Son to make Himself known.
- John 14:7-9 says,
7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
- Philip, one of the Lord’s disciples, was asking to meet the Father. Jesus told him, “you already have. You’ve met Him through Me.”
If Jesus is God, then we need to receive Him as our Savior and Lord. Our lives will not be complete without Him. We need His gift of salvation. We need His presence in our lives. We need the hope that only He is able to offer us.
You can spend your whole life looking for peace, and joy. But the only place where you will find a peace that endures is in God. The only where you will find real joy is in the Savior. You can ignore Him. You can push Him away. You can resist Him. But your life will never be complete until you open your heart to Him.
We started out with an empty present. But the gift of God is not empty. He is the only one who can fill us, and make us whole.
If we leave Jesus out of our holiday celebration, it is empty. If we leave Jesus out of our worship, it is hollow. If we leave Jesus out of our life, we are missing the most important thing
(1) Christ is greater than the prophets, so listen to Him. Hear the message of good news. And then share it with those around you. The Love of God has come. The salvation of God is here.
(2) Christ is greater than the angels, so worship Him. He deserves our praise. Lift your voice to join the chorus of God’s people.
(3) Christ is greater than all, so give Him the highest place in your life. He is already seated on the throne in the heavenly places, so let Him occupy the throne in your heart.