Epiphany 4 + January 25 & 28, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin
Text: Hebrews 3:1-6
Hymn: Seek Where You May to Find a Way (CW, 395)
“They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” You say that when a new product fails to work. In many cases, that is true. But there are exceptions. Take cars, for example. Forty years ago, cars were not very reliable. It was rare for a car to reach one hundred thousand miles. Cars rusted out after a few years. But now cars are more reliable. Many cars last two hundred thousand miles with no rust. New cars are more fuel efficient and safer to drive. So, over the last forty years, cars have improved in safety, quality, durability, and value.
Our text doesn’t talk about cars. It talks about a house, specifically God’s house. In the Old Testament God’s house was the nation of Israel, that is, the Jews. In the New Testament God’s house is the Holy Christian Church, that is, those who have faith in Jesus.
The book of Hebrews addressed Jews in the first century who had faith in Jesus. However, these Jewish Christians were facing persecution from non-Christian Jews. These non-Christian Jews were saying, “Why are you abandoning Moses and Abraham and the temple sacrifices? Why are you dabbling in this new-fangled religion. Come back to the true religion on your ancestors!”
To the charge that the Old Testament was better than Christianity, the book of Hebrews basically says, “Jesus is better than anything in the Old Testament. Jesus is better than the angels because he is the Son of God. Jesus is better than Moses because he enacts a better covenant. Jesus is better than the temple priests because he offers a better sacrifice. That is, he offered himself once for all as the perfect sacrifice.”
Our text specifically compares Moses and Jesus. Jesus is like Moses but better than Moses. See our text again: "Therefore, holy brothers… fix your thoughts on Jesus… He has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. … Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house... But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house."
Our text does not say that Moses was bad—just the opposite. Moses was God’s faithful servant. When God established the house of Israel as his specially chosen nation, Moses was their first leader. Moses led Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, to Mount Sinai, for forty years in the desert, and then to the edge of the Holy Land. Moses was a great and faithful leader.
Moses was also a prophet. Our text says, "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future." (v. 5) In our Old Testament Lesson, Moses testifies about how Christ would be an even better prophet. Moses said, The "LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." (Deut. 18:15) So, Moses says it himself. Moses was good. Jesus is better. That’s why the book of Hebrews encourages those Jewish Christians to remain true to Jesus.
Of course, you and I aren’t facing the same persecution as the Hebrew Christians of the first century. Our friends and relatives are not telling us, “Come back to the synagogue. Why are you eating bacon and working on Sabbath day? Quit following Jesus. Come back to the law of Moses.”
No, we don’t face that pressure. But Satan still wants us to stop believing in Jesus. Satan still tempts us to think, “Some things are better than being a Christian. Some things are better than Jesus.” So, even though we are not Hebrew Christians living two thousand years ago, the book of Hebrews still speaks to us. And it says, Fix your faith on faithful Jesus.
Now, I don’t think you would ever be so bold as to actually say, “I think there are a few things better than Jesus.” But yet, like the Jews were tempted to think Moses was better than Jesus, we can put great religious leaders over and above Jesus. For example, we think, I belong to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Our synod teaches God’s Word in its truth and purity. So, anything our synod publishes has to be the true and correct way to understand the Bible.
Now, I’m not trying to show disrespect to our synod. However, if we blindly follow whatever any synod or any church body publishes, then we are “putting Moses over Jesus”, we are putting humans over the one, true God.
We can do the same thing with other religious leaders. We can say, “The pastor who taught me catechism class was the best. This pastor has great sermons, so he’s the best. My favorite teacher in college really knew how to explain the Bible. So, he’s the best.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Thank God for faithful pastors and teachers. Like Moses, they are blessings. But like Moses, they are only servants in God’s house. Our text says, "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house." (v. 5)
So, yes, listen to faithful pastors and teachers but only when they speak the truth. And you can tell when a preacher or teacher tells the truth because he will be like Moses and point you to Jesus and only Jesus. Again, our text says, "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house… But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house." (v. 5-6) That is, Jesus is God’s one and only Son, true God himself. So, Jesus is the owner and builder of God’s house. God’s house is the Christian Church. To use another image from the Bible, Jesus is the head and we are his body. So, since Jesus is better than Moses or any other preacher or teacher, fix your faith on faithful Jesus.
Now, our text says Jesus is faithful. That means you can rely on him. You can always trust him to do what he is supposed to do. We know that is true because Jesus was always faithful to his heavenly Father. Jesus did everything his heavenly Father asked him to do, without fail.
Now, can you imagine if everything worked as faithfully as Jesus did? What if your car never broke down? What if your furnace never conked out? What if your appliances ran perfectly without even one glitch? What if your smart phone never got a cracked screen, never slowed down, and always had complete coverage? Well, all of those things would be great.
But Jesus is better. Not only did Jesus do everything that his heavenly Father asked him to do, Jesus also does everything that we need him to do for us and for our salvation. Do you need a prayer brought to your heavenly Father? Jesus brings that prayer to God, the Father, and Jesus has the power to make your prayer heard. Do you need power to fight Satan’s temptation? Jesus gives you his own power by sending the Holy Spirit to strengthen you when you are weak. Do you need encouragement when you are sad, lonely, depressed, or anxious? Jesus promises that he is always by your side, sending his angels to guard you, and using his almighty power to make everything work out for your good. Do you need the filth of your sin removed? Jesus faithfully washes away all your guilt by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Do you need to overcome your fear of death? Jesus assures you that because he rose from his grave, you will also join him in victory over death and join him in eternal life. And do you need Jesus to strengthen your faith in all these comforting, beautiful promises? Jesus does that by giving you himself through his Word and through his Sacrament.
So fix you faith on faithful Jesus. Jesus is better than anything or anyone else. Jesus is simply the best, now and forever.