Over the next seven Sundays, the Epistle reading will be taken from the book of Hebrews, with the exception of Reformation Sunday on October 31st. Many scholars suggest Hebrews was written to early Jewish Christians who were considering abandoning the faith and returning to Judaism. The latter was a state-sanctioned religion which one could participate in with fewer negative legal ramifications. Christianity, however, brought persecution. The anonymous author of this marvelous epistle is thus writing to encourage these Jewish believers not to abandon the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises, namely Jesus. The Old Covenant was filled with laws, ceremonies, institutions, and people who were all mere shadows of the reality of Christ. To abandon Christ is to abandon the truth which these shadows pointed to. The book is summarized well in 8:5: “But, as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”
The various texts the lectionary provides offer up several opportunities for the preacher to show how Christ Jesus offers a better “covenant” based on better “promises” for the baptized than the Law ever could, let alone any other system of belief this world has to offer. You might consider doing a series over these next two months on the Epistle lessons entitled, “Jesus is Greater Than...,” to show how Hebrews gives us a Jesus who fulfills the Old Testament Law and promises, how He surpasses the Old Testament “heroes” (if we can call them that), and how the priesthood and sacrificial system are both fulfilled and surpassed by Christ’s dying and rising.
The series would look something like this:
- Week 1 (Oct. 3rd)-Jesus Is Greater than Angels- Hebrews 2:1-13 (14-18)
- Week 2 (Oct. 10th)-Jesus Is Greater than Moses-Hebrews 3:12-19
- Week 3 (Oct. 17th)-Jesus Is Greater than Joshua (or …the Great Sabbath Rest)-Hebrews 4:1-13 (14-16)
- Week 4 (Oct. 24th)-Jesus Is Greater than the Priesthood-Hebrews 7:23-28
- Week 5 (Oct. 31st)-Reformation Sunday
- Week 6 (Nov. 7th)-Jesus Is Greater than the Sacrifices-Hebrews 9:24-28
- Week 7 (Nov. 14th)-Jesus Is Greater than the Law-Hebrews 10:11-25
This week, you can kick off the series by showing how Jesus is superior to the angels.
The author of Hebrews spends the first two chapters demonstrating Jesus is greater than the angels. This is a powerful reminder to those who are tempted to leave the faith. They would be abandoning the one who is superior to and Lord over the hosts of Heaven! In the first chapter, the author has demonstrated Jesus’ superiority over the angels by weaving together a tapestry of selections from the Psalms. The emphasis seems to be that Jesus, who is the Son of God, has a greater title and position than the angels. The second chapter then demonstrates Jesus is superior to the angels, but also in a very different way. Jesus is superior to them precisely because He became lower than them!
Jesus is superior to the angels precisely because He became lower than them!
Since, the author offers up a variety of arguments to demonstrate that Jesus is greater than the angels, this might be a good Sunday to do a three- or four-point sermon, highlighting the different arguments the author makes. Here is a potential outline:
Title: Jesus Is Greater than the Angels
- Reason 1: The Angels Point to Jesus.
The message declared by the angels proved to be reliable (2:2). What message was that? The message of Jesus coming to be our Savior. Think of the angels coming to Mary, the mother of our Lord, or to the shepherds or even to the witnesses of the empty tomb. Here the angels came and preached, not themselves, but Christ!
- Reason 2: God Did Not Subject the World to Angels
In creation, God gave the first Adam, a human being, authority over creation. Christ, the second Adam and God in human flesh, has authority over all things. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus remained faithful to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). There He died to make propitiation for our sins (2:17). Jesus is “crowned with glory and honor” by the Father “because of His suffering and death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (2:9). So, God has made Jesus, not angels, our Lord.
- Reason 3: Angels Never Put On Our Flesh to Save Us
This one is utterly astounding. Jesus is greater than the angels precisely because He became lower than the angles (2:6-7). That is to say, angels minister to us (1:14), but Jesus becomes one of us and calls us His brothers and sisters (2:11), sharing in our flesh and blood (2:14). As our brother in the flesh, Jesus, “...partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the Devil and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (2:14-15). Angels help us, but Jesus becomes one with us to save us. The incarnation of God in Christ is pure gospel for those born in the flesh!
There are more reasons in this chapter, but I only have space to highlight a few. The point is to demonstrate how Jesus, by virtue of His incarnation and sacrifice, is superior to the angels. He is not superior only in His state of exaltation or because of His divinity, but also, in the state of humiliation. In fact, He is superior because of His humiliation!
Christ In the Text
It would be extremely hard to make these verses (or the whole book for that matter) about something other than the person and work of Christ. Jesus is preached as superior to the angels, the Lord of creation, the crucified Lord, the founder of salvation, the sanctifier of the Church, the brother of the saints, the liberator from death and the Devil, the helper of Abraham’s offspring, the merciful and faithful high priest, the propitiator for sins, and our true helper in temptation. Whew! We are not even to the third chapter yet! I do not think you have the time to proclaim all of this in one sermon. As I tried to do with the outline above, maybe try and find some major themes and demonstrate how in those areas, Jesus does that which no angel can do for you. This passage is a masterpiece of Christology and will serve as a wonderful gift to your church this Sunday!
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Hebrew 2:1-13 (14-18).
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Hebrew 2:1-13 (14-18).