…he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:2-3)
Could there be any greater, clearer introduction to the awesome supremacy of Jesus? Just think of who he is, based on those words alone.
The Maker of the universe: our Creator.
The Heir of all things: Everything begins and ends with him.
The Radiance of God’s glory: Perfect light, love, and reflection of God the Father.
The Exact Representation of God’s Being: He, and he alone, shows us exactly who God is.
Our Sustainer: The universe—and our puny little lives—hang on his power and will. When you breathe through the night, when you wake up each morning, thinking about your first cup of coffee, when you get home after work, wondering who to call or what to watch on Netflix, he’s the one who’s letting you BE.
At this early stage of our hike, just as our legs are warming up, we might prostrate ourselves on the trail while we consider these concepts—this truth. Jesus is so much more than what most people think.
He’s not a mini-god.
Not merely a “great teacher”.
Not one in a succession of seers, prophets, avatars, or ‘enlightened ones’, passing through time.
Not an outspoken rabbi whose followers made him into supernatural celebrity.
He is God, the eternal Son of God in a triune Godhead, a truth that confounds our small, human thinking.
The ONLY Son, the ONLY holy, incarnate, eternal being to walk the earth and return to heaven.
And a simple blog like mine isn’t the space to mine these profound truths with the depth they deserve.
But we can say a few words.
Hebrews opens with a power chord, followed by a Hallelujah chorus, a bold, in-your-face introduction to the Protagonist of All Stories. The 18-word warm-up, with a polite nod to the prophets who came before Jesus, barely gives us time to blink before we meet our Hero. And the rest of the book, all 13 chapters and 303 verses, illuminate him, and what our relationship with him ought to be.
It’s a work of art, and the writer of Hebrews, brilliant in his exposition of Old Testament prophecies and pictures of Christ, and flawless in logic and flow, keeps himself anonymously backstage, letting Jesus fill our senses from beginning to end.
All he really had to do was clarify who Jesus is, and every argument is settled.
Because all authority on heaven and earth is his, based on who he is.
The Hebrew Christians, struggling with sentimental ties to their former religion, would remember who to follow, and what to surrender. Who has first, and final, word.
Instead, the writer graces us with a beautiful exploration of Christ’s fullness and supremacy, demonstrated through the foreshadowing of the Old Testament. Which is where we get to hike, going forward, circling back as often as we please to catch a better view.
But for today, let’s meditate on the absolute supremacy of Jesus, the Son of God. It’s as if our hike started with a few warm-up steps, then suddenly sprung to a view of Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on earth—16 times the height of Niagara Falls! (Far mightier than the view I get on my little mountain, for which I hike a brisk, sweaty hour before reaching my Okanagan panorama.) With Hebrews, we start with the wide view, and then, perhaps like a hike into the Grand Canyon, we descend into the past to illuminate the present.
For me, the opening words of Hebrews always bring to mind the first chapter of the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh, and lived for a while among us…
Those words, found in the first 18 verses of John, were all it took to convert me, many decades ago, when I read them on the side of a mountain in Montana. I was hiking then, too, hiking and meditating on my unlikely introduction to Jesus. (It’s a long story, related in my upcoming memoir, Paradise Road.) The words blew me away. They blasted my hard heart. They thrilled and alarmed me. This Jesus, whom I’d spent my life ignoring and dismissing, was far, far more than I thought he was.
And who he actually is, the truth of his eternal nature, changed my perceptions, my priorities, and my purpose, forever. I realized if this were true (and I knew it was), my quasi-spiritual leanings had to begin and end with him. No more dabbling in the airy-fairy world of the New Age palette. No more pinning my hopes on an endless round of re-incarnations to get it right. No more setting my own moral boundaries (ever widening) and living for myself.
My life changed, as our lives should when we come face-to-face with our Creator and Saviour. It could never be the same, once I knew who formed me and redeemed me.
Like a mighty compass, Jesus dispels our wanderings and points us to truth. His truth, the whole truth of who he is: Creator, Sustainer, and the Exact Representation of God*. He’s all those things, and more. The True North, strong and free.
Let’s just lie here on the path a while longer, gazing at Angel Falls, marveling that we stumbled on it a mere twenty steps into our hike, and letting our praise reach its radiant heights.
*Just a footnote on that phrase, ‘the exact representation of his being’. I think some believers have an erroneous perception of God: that Jesus is somehow “God Improved” or even “God Reformed”. Their take on the God of the Old Testament is skewed, as they picture an inferior, jealous, demanding God, short on grace and mercy, who sent a kinder, gentler Son into the world on second thought, preaching a softer message. Nothing could be further from the truth: the gracious Jesus we see, touching the leper and forgiving the adulterous woman, is exactly like God the Father. And the God of the Old Testament, punishing sin and judging nations, is exactly like Jesus. They are utterly alike in nature, temperament, holiness, perfection, love, and righteousness. God hasn’t changed.
And Mary, God’s humble vessel and earthly mother of Jesus, is not, as many Catholics believe, an even kinder dispenser of grace than her Son, ready to intercede on our behalf when Jesus—and the Father—might say no. (Much is made of Jesus’ changing the water into wine at her request, inferring that prayers sent through her are a sure-fire way to get what we pray for.) Mary is simply another human, albeit a very blessed one, with no more power to answer anyone’s prayers than you or I.