HEBREWS: Holding Fast to Jesus in the Wilderness
The hearers of Hebrews were at a crossroads. Years ago, they left everything to follow Jesus and suffered great losses with joy. The fruit of their transformation had been evident. Now? Decades have passed. They continued bearing the shame of following Jesus. And they were like the Israelites who left Egypt — struggling to endure in the desert on the way to the promised land. Hope and energy began to fade and they became sluggish, distracted, and dull of hearing. The promised rest across the Jordan was hard to see. Was it really worth it? The pleasures of Egypt behind them held real sway. The danger of their apathy accelerating into bitterness and unbelief was serious. Would they persevere and inherit the promises with their fathers in faith, or fall in the wilderness like those who left Egypt?
The writer of Hebrews urges these tired and at risk Christians to look to Jesus. He demonstrates the power of Jesus to deliver them through the wilderness by comparing what Jesus provides to what the tabernacle system provided. Jesus has already blazed the trail and trial they are walking in — his suffering and exaltation has given them access to all they need to stay the course.
Hebrews is often read as a letter to exclusively Jewish Christians who were contemplating a return to Judaism due to suffering and a lack of theological understanding, but some have argued that this reading is at best incomplete and at worst incorrect (to be discussed in class). Thus, we will explore the possibility of a simpler, broader explanation: for various reasons these Christians were sluggish and in danger of falling away altogether (not necessarily in danger of returning to the old sacrificial system). Regardless, our aim is clear: gain a deeper appreciation of the superior Jesus so we too might hold fast to Jesus and our hope while we journey through the desert of sorrow and sin to the heavenly land of Sabbath rest.