Meditations in Hebrews 3: 20. Two Sent Ones
Heb 3:1,2 Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.
The idea of Jesus being our high priest has already arisen in the previous chapter. Now the writer adds another concept or role that Jesus fulfilled, but it comes within a very simple exhortation: “fix your thoughts on Jesus”. You might wonder why the writer says this because everything in this letter-book that we have been considering has been about Jesus. Perhaps the intent of what he is saying is, ‘Think some more, think a bit more in-depth about Jesus.’ He is going to take us down a new path to enlarge our understanding of just who Jesus is and what he has achieved.
But before we follow that thread, notice the ‘Therefore’ that starts off this new passage. ‘Therefore’ is a link word that takes us from one passage into the next; it challenges us to think about where we have just been. In the second half of chapter two, the writer was making us think about how Jesus is superior to angels because of the relationship he has formed with us, a relationship that has come about as he has fulfilled his Father’s will, come to earth, revealed the Father, died for our sins, and rose again and ascended back to heaven to rule beside his Father. Because of all that we have been able to enter a relationship with God whereby we are part of His family, His children and brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Because of all that, it is worth thinking more about Jesus and indeed, the writer is going to use this to lead us into a second even more serious pastoral warning shortly. He is going to challenge our obedience but to do that he prepares the way and calls us “holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling.” We are not just people, not just human beings, we are those related to God through the work of His Son, and we have a heavenly calling on our lives. We have been called to God so that one day that calling will be translated into a calling into heaven. In the meantime we have a relationship with heaven and all our resources come from heaven. We’ve come to this position because we ‘confess’ Jesus, we accept him as our Lord and Saviour
So there are all these things he is subtly stacking up by gentle reminders, things to ensure we hold a right perspective and it is a perspective brought about by Jesus and therefore we should clarify and strengthen it by thinking even more about Jesus. Let’s push these things home even more to clarify our understanding where this writer is going:
- We are what we are because of the work of Jesus on the Cross for us.
- We are now members of God’s family, his children and brothers of Jesus.
- We entered into that relationship when we confessed Jesus as our Saviour and Lord.
- We have a calling that will culminate in heaven.
- To stand strong in all this and not drift away into disobedience, we need to think more of Jesus and understand even more what he has done and what he has achieved.
And that is where we come back to see how he now describes Jesus: “the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (v.1b) Well, the high priest part we have started to consider and the writer will take us there in more detail later in the letter, but for now he also calls Jesus an apostle. Now an apostle simply means ‘a sent one’, one who God has sent with a mission, and that sums up Jesus’ coming to earth. As we have noted before, the Godhead planned it before the foundation of the world and so now the writer concludes, “He was faithful to the one who appointed him.” (v.2a) Now this is important because subtly he is again going to differentiate between Jesus and angels. Jesus was sent with this unique task that we have been considering again and again over these past verses. He was a sent one, and an obedient and faithful sent one, obedient and faithful to the plans of the Godhead we just referred to.
And here comes the new thread: “just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.” Hullo, where did that comes from? What has the writer got in his mind? What point is he going to make about Moses? Now there were two key figures in Israel’s history – Abraham (because he was the father of faith) and Moses (because he was the deliverer from Egypt and the giver of the Law). To understand the line of argument that follows it might be better to start at the end. The writer says we are God’s house, His dwelling place on earth. The apostle Paul also taught this a number of times, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So hold the idea of us all comprising God’s house, all God’s people that is. Now who is more significant, the owner or the builder of the house? But also which is more significant, the house or the builder? In what follows, we, God’s people, are the house, God (Father and Son) is the builder, Moses was the servant to the builder and a part of the house, but Christ is the Son of the owner-builder. Now see the text.
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” (v.3) Jesus was the builder of the house (with his Father) and Moses was simply a part of it. So, to clarify, “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” i.e. the house we are referring to was built by God but, “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future.” i.e. Moses, the prophet, simply spoke about the future of the house (see Deut 18:15-18, one would come greater than him, another ‘prophet’).
So, yes, Moses was faithful as God’s mouthpiece to Israel (but it was God building the nation, building the people who could become His children, His house), “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (v.6) We are part of ‘the house’ because of Christ’s work on the Cross and Christ was faithful in bringing this ‘house’ into being and now in ruling over it as the Son of the Father who ultimately owns it.
Note the little nudge at the end there: “And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (v.6b) We only are part of this house if we hold on – and keep on – with the grace we have for today (courage) and what we expect to get in the future (our hope). Now that is really all the preliminaries to the major warning that is about to drop like a bomb. To summarise: Jesus has greater honour than Moses because Moses was simply a mouthpiece for God to use while the Father and Son worked to build this house (the nation of God’s people) and Jesus’ contribution to the building was dying on the Cross to both deal with our sin and provide a focus for our faith. Clearly Jesus should receive much greater honour than Moses. Now hold on to your seats for what is about to come!