Out of the Shadows: the Sermon to the Hebrews

The famous young theologian Robert Murray M’Cheyne once wrote this about the difficult passages in Scripture:
“When you are reading a book in a dark room, and come to a difficult part, you take it to a window to get more light. So take your Bibles to Christ.”

Perhaps modern Christians who are looking at the Old Testament find much of it obscure, or worse, irrelevant. So it's no wonder that Christians today may not search the entire biblical story in search of hope. As we move through life we endure experiences that cause us to press harder into what we think will make us feel better. Sometimes this results in strengthened faith, and sometimes we jump feet-first into distractions, addictive actions, busyness, or hardened apathy. We begin to pursue what is at hand, helping ourselves believe age-old stories that take our hearts on temporary walks away from our failures, brokenness, and pain. But it is all just a shadow compared to Christ.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, a community of new Jesus-followers in ancient Rome were experiencing the same sort of temptation. Following Jesus as the felt-absence of God became more and more pronounced was beginning to look less appealing than the Old Way of sacrificing animals, listening to the prophets taught, experiencing angelic activity, and hearing the High Priest announce, “You are forgiven.” For them, it was beginning to look like an unfair trade; the tangible, physical, Old Testament was not even “Old”, but contemporary, and being experienced daily by neighbors, family, and community leaders. The Jewish community could walk into the temple courtyards, they could see animal blood on the altar, they could see the High Priest sweat as he tirelessly worked for the atonement of the people; but Christians were beginning to believe they had been cheated; they had heard the Good News about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but where was He as ridicule, exclusion, and suffering began to rise?

Hebrews was the answer of God to the overwhelmed community then, and stands as a response to the church today. The author of Hebrews looks at all of the Old Covenant activity and announces, “It’s all a shadow; it has always been about Jesus, who is supremely greater.” This community needed to once again consider Jesus, and taste His supreme glory. And so do we.

Just as a shadow can only dimly represent reality, the Old Testament and all that occurred therein was pointing beyond, to something better, to Someone greater: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the clear, final, ultimate, and glorious revelation of God - the better message, the better messenger, the better priest, the better sacrifice, the forerunner of a supremely greater covenant, established by His one time, once and for all, eternally-sufficient sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus is the reality, He is the One who both fulfills the Old Testament, and far surpasses it. Jesus is the One who brings His people out of the shadows.