In a local park, there are two signs. One sign was put up a few years ago. It is made of wood and points out the public footpaths. This sign tells you where you can go legally.
This year though a new sign has been put up next to the old sign. This new sign points in the same directions as the first sign. However, the new sign is made of metal, presumably a more weather-resistant material. The writing is easier to read, with bright white writing on the green background. And the new sign tells you where the legal footpaths actually lead to.
The new sign doesn’t contradict the first sign, but it is longer lasting and gives clearer directions.
For me, that’s kind of what the writer of Hebrews is saying. Hebrews was probably written before the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but may have been written after. It was most likely written for Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah but maybe were starting to doubt. The writer of Hebrews spends a lot of time trying to convince the readers that following Jesus is worth the persecution they are facing. In Hebrews 7:23-28, the writer is saying – Jesus is the perfect High priest. He doesn’t sin. He doesn’t die (in his resurrected state). He is always there, meeting with God, talking with God for us. Unlike earthly leaders, like me and other ministers, elders, and deacons, Jesus is always reliable, always there with God – on our behalf.
As my tutor and I considered all of Sunday’s lectionary readings, we kept considering the difference between restoration and resurrection. Most of the readings are about restoration.
Jeremiah 31:7-9 – Jeremiah wants Israel restored by the remnant, the ones left over.
Psalm 126 – The Psalmist seeks the “restored fortunes of Zion” as those who wept come home with “shouts of joy”.
Mark 10.46-52 – Bartimaeus has his sight restored.
All of these passages are about restoring something or someone back to the way they once were.
But Hebrews is different. This passage in particular calls us to a new understanding of the way things once were. Jesus hasn’t restored the High Priest system forever. Like the new sign I spoke about before, Jesus is pointing in the same direction as the previous High priests had done – to God and God’s kingdom – but the writer of Hebrews would argue that Jesus is a clearer sign and much more permanent.
This isn’t restoration. It’s a new thing. It’s taking the bare bones of what was and building something new. This is a form of resurrection.
This is Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones coming to life. This is Lazarus walking out of the tomb. This is Jesus, crucified, dead and buried, yet resurrected, alive again and with God.
“See I am doing a new thing.” Isaiah 43:19
There is a security being offered by the writer of Hebrews – this understanding that Jesus is permanently there with God. This security is to encourage us, to step out with God in faith in God’s mission in the lives of those in the Church and the surrounding community.
Some view the Church as a sign that is to point to God and God’s kingdom. If we are a sign, which one would we be? The vague wooden one? The clearer, more permanent one? Or somewhere in the middle? Are we pointing in the right direction? Maybe we need to do a bit of fine tuning and try to be as clear a sign as we can be. And it may be as simple as talking to God. Remember how Jesus is there interceding? Well, let me ask you the same question Jesus asks Bartimaeus – what would you like Jesus to do for you? For your family? For your community? For your nation? What direction do you want yourself and others to travel in?