- Deuteronomy 4:1-14
- Hebrews 2:1-4
A group of children are on the playgrounds during recess. Out of the blue one starts screaming at another.
“What you are saying about me is not true!” The other said. “Someone else is telling lies about me.”
“No, I believe them. You are a little gossip, and need to be taught a lesson.”
Without warning this student stepped forward and gave the other a good sleep in the face. The other students moved closer, too eager to see the fight.
The one who got the slap, reeled back, trying to protect his face from the next blow. “Stop doing this! You are hurting me.”
“You deserve it, and I will show you to respect me as leader on this playground.”
Suddenly the onlookers stepped back. Why? The teacher on duty appeared on the scene.
“What is going on here? Who started this?”, the teacher demanded.
“She did. Not only is she a gossip, she is also mean, always looking for a fight!”
With a stern face the teacher looked at the student who got the slap. “So, you’re a troublemaker. I want to see you in the principal’s office. Go!”
There was a dead silence for a moment, but as soon as the teacher disappeared around the corner, student No 1 yelled out, “That will teach her who’s got the say around here!”
With a bouncing heart the other student entered the principal’s office.
“So, I was told you started a brawl on the playground. What do you have to say for yourself?”, the principal demanded.
“I did not start it. I did not even do a thing. It was the other girl—she accused me and slapped my face.” She replied with a shivering voice.
“Well it’s your word against her’s. Who shall I believe?”, the principal asked.
There was a knock on the door. “Yes come in!”, the principal shouted, clearly not impressed with what is happening.
Three other students entered the office. They walked up to the principals desk, clearly uneasy, staring down.
“I’m actually busy at the moment, trying to teach this girl something about respect for others. Why are you here?”
“Sir, we were right there when all of this happened. We are witnesses for the truth, because we saw it all. This student did not do a thing, it was the other student who just wanted to start it all. We don’t make up this story, we are here because we want you to know the truth.”
There was silence again. The accused student looked up to the others. She did not really know them. Why would they do it?
“Sir, believe us. Not only do we want to show respect for our school, its rules, your discipline and the wellbeing of all students, we also know the truth.”
“Well”, the principal said looking at the accused student, “you can count yourself fortunate that you have witnesses. They were there, they know the truth, and I accept their word for it. You are free to go. Please ask the duty teacher to send the other student in. I don’t delight having liars and bully on my playgrounds.”
Between sure trouble and walking away free, stood witnesses who told the truth. In the same way can we go free form God’s judgement: the witnesses about Jesus Christ are telling the truth. We’ll hear more about those witnesses today.
What is the Gospel about Jesus Christ?
We heard the Word last week from the first chapter of Hebrews. It proclaims the greatness of the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God being. Through Him God created everything which was created. Everything God created holds together in Jesus Christ. Christ is God’s way of speaking to us.
What God has to say—and once again we have to think of God’s creating, or rebirth of sinners, and the calling of a new nation, a new people over which He will reign as overhang King—God says through and by Jesus Christ who is the Beginner, the foundation of the new house of God, the Perfecter of the act of the salvation of lost sinners.
Christ is above the angels who worship Him. His throne will last forever, and He will make his enemies his footstool.
Chapter 2 introduces us in more things Christ did. When God saw the helplessness of sinful mankind, who fell from its glorious role of caretaker of God’s creation after the fall, He did not turn his back on them; rather, He was mindful of them. What did He do? You know this by heart.
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
Jesus, who was reigning with the Father in absolute glory and majesty, had everything subject to Him. He willingly became lower than the angels, came into this world to suffer death. (2:9)
In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what He suffered. (Hebrews 2:10, NIV)
Holy and perfect Jesus, God from all eternity, by taking mankind’s sin upon Him calls us “brothers”, and He is not ashamed to say so (2:11-12). He trusted that God’s plan of salvation in Him will stand (2:13). He therefore stands before the throne of God and says, “Here am I, and the children God has given Me.” (2:13)
He shared in our humanity be taking on flesh and blood. When He died, He died like us will die: his heart stoped beating, he entered death and they buried Him. But He rose again, destroying death. Listen:
… by his death He broke the power of Him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NIV)
He did so, because He was the faithful, merciful High Priest who made atonement of the people. Further:
Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18, NIV)
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s Son left his throne of glory, sided with sinners, died from them, rose for them, and now calls them his brothers. Do you want to hear God’s good news: listen to Jesus!
Is the Gospel about Jesus Christ the truth?
You do not need to believe my word regarding the Gospel. In the end, like the student before the principal, who can vouch for the truth?
2:2 takes us to the angels as God’s messengers. Although God wrote the Ten Commandments, the Bible teaches that they mediated the commandments to the people of God. God set up his Covenant with his people by giving the angels to confirm the verity of it. If was binding, and as we read in Deuteronomy 4 this morning, not believing it and not living by it, invoked God’s wrath and led to death.
Concerning Jesus the angels were once again God’s messenger in announcing his birth, as well as the night He was born. What they said was the truth.
More than that. The Lord God Himself announced the Lordship of Christ. “This is my Son, listen to Him?” The voice of God directly from heaven is recoded in the Gospels: at his birth (Lk 2:9), at the beginning of his earthly ministry (Mk 1:11, Mt 3:16-17), and and the end of his public ministry (John 12:28).
More than that. The disciples heard the voice of God from heaven, they heard to Lord Jesus talking to them and teaching them, they saw Him, they witnessed his works of salvation, they saw Him being crucified, they saw the open grave, they once again sat at his feet for forty days before He ascended into heaven. What they heard and saw, they recorded. This is what we have as the New Testament. About this Peter writes:
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-18, 20–21, NIV)
Add to this then the testimony of the Holy Spirit. God gave signs and wonders and miracles which was confirmed by the Holy Spirit. The men who were made apostles to be the witnesses of Jesus Christ for the truth about his Gospel, could only do so because they were driven by the Holy Sprit. The Bible is given by the Holy Spirit, and it testifies about Jesus Christ.
The angels, God speaking from heaven, apostles been gifted and driven by the Holy Spirit, the apostles who performed signs and miracles in the name of Christ—they are the true witnesses about Christ. The Gospel is the truth. That why Peter writes:
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19, NIV)
If it is the truth, can we ignore it?
The writer go Hebrews asks this rhetorical question:
How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3, NIV)
One can escape out of something dangerous, or once can escape into safety. This text refers to the first: escaping from danger. What is the danger? Verse 2 gives the answer: disobedience calls for punishment. What punishment and who is the one who brings punishment? The writer of Hebrews answers later in his book:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-29, 31, NIV)
Do you remember the parable of the Lord, inviting people to the banquet? Some ignored it, they treated it with indifference. They Greek word describes the opposite of a word meaning taking care or showing concern. To ignore is the opposite: it is to show no concern. It is to say, “Who cares?”
The Gospel of Christ is God’s way of speaking to us, telling us that He cared for us and loved us by seeing his son to pay the penalty for our sins, to taste death on our behalf, to destroy the power of Satan, and to stand at God’s throne calling us his brothers.
This Gospel is the truth. God the Father announced it, the angels proclaimed it, the apostles saw and heard it, the Holy Spirit had it written down in the Bible.
Will you neglect it? If so, how will you escape God’s wrath for trampling underfoot the blood of Christ?
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 5 March 2018