The letter to the Hebrews: The author of this letter is anonymous and people have wondered for long time whether Paul wrote it maybe one of his co-workers like Barnabas or Apollos but really we just dont know. In chapter 2, we discover that the author had a first-hand relationship with the disciples who were themselves around Jesus. So, we know that this letter is anchored in teaching of the apostles. We also don’t know who the audience of this letter was or even where they lived. The author knows them really well and he assumes that they have a thorough knowledge of the Old testament scriptures, especially the storyline of the first 5 books of the bible or the Torah. About how Abraham’s family became the nation of Israel, about how Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt to mount Sinai where they received the Torah and they made a covenant with God where they built the tabernacle, where the priests offered sacrificies and also about how they wandered through the wilderness on their way to the Promise Land. The author just expects that the readers know all of the details about these stories and so most likely the audience is made up of Jewish Christians that´s where the name of the letter comes from. We also have clues from chapter 10 that this church community was facing persecution and even imprisonment because of their association with Jesus. Some in the community were walking away from Jesus and abandoning the faith all together and this explains the purpose and the structure of this letter. First there´s a short introduction which is followed by four sections where the author compares and contrasts Jesus with key people and events from Israel´s history. Jesus is first compared with angels in the Torah, second with Moses and the Promised Land. Third with priests and Melchizedek and lastly with the sacrifices in the covenant and the author has two main goals in all of these contrasts. The first goal is to elevate Jesus as superior to anyone or anything else. Showing that Jesus is worthy of all their trust and devotion, But the second goal is this, is to challenge the readers to remain faithful to Jesus despite persecution. So in every section he includes a strong warning, not to abandon Jesus. So lets dive in now and see how this all unfolded. The elevation of Jesus begins in the opening sentence of the introduction. In the past God spoke to our ancestors in many different ways but in these last days, he has spoken to us in his Son. So the author is saying that Jesus is superior to all of the previous ways that God has revealed himself to Israel. He then makes this astounding claim that Jesus is the radiance of God´s glory and the exact imprint of God´s nature. These metaphores are making the closests possible identification between Jesus and God So Jesus is what the rays of light are to the sun. Where Jesus is what the wax impression is to the signet ring. For this author there is no God apart from Jesus. Jesus is God become human as the Son and it’s this elevated view of Jesus that´s then explored troughout the rest of letter. In the first section the author compares Jesus with angels which might strike you kind of odd, like why angels? In Jewish tradition it was taught based on deuteronomy chapter 33 verse 2 that the Torah and the word of God were delivered to Moses at mount Sinai by angels. And so by saying Jesus is superior to angels the author is claiming that Jesus and his message of good news are superior to all previous messangers of God word. And so the first warning flows from this great point. If Israel was called to pay attention to the Torah that was delivered by angels how much more should we pay attention to the message that was announced by the Son of God? And not only that. Given Jesus´ status high above angels how remarkable is it that he gave up that high status to become human to suffer and to die. in Jesus we see God´s greatest glory and God´s great humillity as Jesus sympathetically joined himself to humanity´s tragic fate. In chapters 3 and 4 the author moves on to argue that Jesus is superior to Moses who led the people of Israel through the wilderness and built the tabernacle. Jesus is also the leader of God´s people but in Him we see not the builder of just a tent but of all creation. then the author retells the story of how the israelites rebelled against Moses in the wilderness and they lost their chance to enter into the rest that God offered them in the Promised Land and so here comes the second warning. If Jesus is greater than Moses how much higher are the stakes if we rebel against him? We also are in a wilderness-like environment where we have to trust God for the future rest in God´s new creation. So lets make sure that we don´t rebel like Israel did in the wilderness and lose out on God´s gracious offer to enter his new creation. in chapters 5 trough 7 the author then compares Jesus with Israel´s priests that come from the line of Aaron. Their role was to represent Israel before God and to offer sacrifices that atoned for or covered over for the sins the sins of the people but he points out, the priests were themselves morally flawed people and so they constantly had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as for everybody else’s. Something more was needed, and so he then argues that Jesus was that something more. He’s the ultimate priest. But Jesus did not come from the line of Aaron, rather Jesus was a priest in the order of Melchizedec, that misterious priest king from ancient Jerusalem and he appears in the stories about Abraham. We also find in Psalm 110 that the messianic King from the line of David will be a priest in the order of Melchizedec. So the authors whole point is this, Jesus is the ultimate priest King, He´s morally flawless , He´s eternal available for his people, and so He´s superior to any other mediator between God and and humans. And thus comes his warning in this section. To reject Jesus is to reject one´s best and only chance to be fully reconciled to God, so don´t do that. Which transitions us into the last comparison in chapters 8 through 10. The author shows how Jesus´ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice, superior to all the animal sacrifices offered in the temple. Those sacrifices had to be offered constantly, both daily but also yearly on the Day of Atonement. Jesus offered his life once and for all, and was sufficient to cover the whole world. And so the author warns the audience from walking away from Jesus, its like turning your back on a gracious offer of God´s forgiveness, why would you do that? Jesus´ sacrifice is permanent he says, and its the foundation for the new covenant spoken of in the prophets were all sins are forgiven. So, now that the author has elevated Jesus through all of these contrasts, this final section is one big challenge to follow Jesus. So think big picture; In Jesus they have found God´s very word, in Jesus they have hope for the new creation, Jesus is their eternal priest, He´s the perfect sacrifice, and so now they should follow all te great models of faith found throughout the story of the scriptures and they should remain faithful to Jesus trusting that despite whatever hardship of persecution, God will not abandon his people. That´s the basic flow of thought throughout the letter which the author call right here at the very end “a brief word of exhortation.” Here a couple of extra tips for reading this letter. Whenever the author quotes from the Old Testament scriptures, which is like every other sentence stop, and go look up the reference and read that quotation in its original context and sometimes you´ll be puzzled but more often you´ll see all kinds of extra, cool conections that you would never notice otherwise, it´s totally worth the effort. You should also just know that these warning passages, they´re going to make you unconfortable and that´s kind of the point. They are not there to make you afraid, they are there to show you that rejecting Jesus is foolish because He´s so awesome. These warning all serve the larger purposes of the letter; To show that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God´s love and mercy. And that´s what the letter to the Hebrews is all about.