“Christ first, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence – Motto for 1902.”
So reads a small framed panel we have in our entry hall, rescued years ago from an antiques store. Someone – who lives on only in memories and faded photographs and in this inscription – wanted a daily reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
The author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament writes with a similar thought in mind. So Mike reminded us yesterday as he began a new series looking at this important letter.
Hebrews was written to encourage Christians in a time of trial – a time when the pressure and temptation to abandon their faith seemed almost overwhelming.
That may just make it the perfect medicine for Christians today in the face of the global Coronavirus pandemic and the associated fallout.
So, the author begins the letter by establishing the supremacy – the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ – for his audience.
But why not start with encouraging words like “God loves you and has a plan for your life” or something similar? Why talk about such ethereal things as the nature of Jesus Christ, and His power in creating and sustaining the universe?
I suspect it is because platitudes like “God loves you” are meaningless if God is powerless to keep you safe. If Jesus Christ is not God, we can have no assurance of our safety and protection. But if He can both create and sustain all things, He is also able to keep us safe.
Of course, what we mean by ‘safe’ may not be what many would imagine. Hebrews makes clear that being kept safe by God doesn’t necessarily mean protection from sickness, nor persecution, nor death. You only have to read Hebrews chapter 11 – the famous “Hall of Faith” chapter – to realise that.
Still, the promise and prospect of safety – eternal safety – remains for those in His care.
And I suspect another reason for opening this letter focused on the supremacy of Christ is that we Christians can be so easily overwhelmed by our circumstances. When we allow that to happen, we begin to lose our focus, and begin to drift away from our moorings in the Source of our help and our protection.
We need to be reminded – daily – that Jesus Christ is supreme; He is pre-eminent. We need to fix our eyes on Him who is above all. We need to look to the One who is superior to the prophets, superior to the angels, superior even to Moses and the priesthood and the Temple.
Jesus Christ is better than all. And in His face and in His words, we see the face and the heart of God.
Just as we feel the warmth of the sun by the rays of light that emanate from it, we see the God’s glory in the radiance of Jesus Christ.
When we look to the Son, when we look to Jesus Christ Himself, all else fades into the background. The importance of all the problems, all the sickness, all the persecution, all the daily hassles of life that loom large in our view, begin to diminish in the light of His glory and grace.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Heb 12:1-3]. Friends, fix your eyes on Jesus.