Last night I was crafting an upcoming Sunday service for the Duncan church. They are saying goodbye to their pastor and are in the midst of transition. In the call to confession I was quoting Hebrews, and now Hebrews comes up as one of our readings today.
I was quoting in our time of confession “how our guilty hearts are sprinkled clean, our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb.10:22). I love the imagery, especially in worship, tying into our own baptism liturgy.
Today’s reading reminded me that is not all! One of the essential claims of Christianity, and part of its uniqueness, is touched upon in Hebrews today. Christianity is not only about a Savior who comes and wipes the slate clean, and restores our relationship with God, but one who completes the promise that was made in Abraham.
This is not meant to say baptism isn’t important. But it isn’t the essential piece of the puzzle. That would be Christ Jesus and his relationship with the world!
This is also not meant to be something that makes us superior to Jews, but something that is distinctive about Jesus. Remember, Jesus was a Jew. And part of the story is that he was rejected by his own people. It is a difficult part of the story, but part of the story nonetheless. What makes him distinctive is that he does not turn on his people, but becomes the “champion” if you will.
Today’s passage in Hebrews explores the certainty of God’s promise to the people – a promise that was not lost with the fall of Jerusalem, but that was restored through a Great High Priest, named Jesus.
And what is that promise? “I will surely bless you and multiply you.” Of course Abraham waited for this promise to be realized, all the way to old age, with Sarah laughing all the way. Eventually a blessing of multiplication came.
With Jesus we see much multiplication. It wasn’t just the loaves and fishes that found great number, but the souls of followers, that grows exponentially in Acts. God’s promise is being fulfilled, just not in the way that people were expecting.
Another interesting feature of this passage is the use of the image of the anchor. Not seen elsewhere in scripture, here we encounter this great symbol of hope as it ties us to the past and to the past blessings of God. It is no wonder it became an early Christian symbol, and has been seen carved into some of the most ancient Christian gathering places. “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Christ roots us in our own past, and keeps us steady on the turbulent sea of present life. In him, we find ourselves rooted to the Abrahamic faith and people, and also anchored for the future, holding us fast to our true identity.