The New Testament story of Jesus Christ is built around a core of events described originally by people identified as eyewitnesses to what they saw and heard Jesus do and say, and even with variations in the precise order of things or words spoken, the power of the Christ event remains persuasive 20 centuries later.
The story beyond the Gospels is about early Christian experience – a time after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.
Those “second-generation” stories are, in the most profound sense, faith narratives – belief built in faith with and among people who did not know or see Jesus in his lifetime. People like us in the 21st century.
Paul is the most significant writer about those experiences, but some of the most ringing affirmations are found in books or epistles whose authorship is not crystal clear.
The Letter to Hebrews is among those, and it is important in contemporary understanding of Christian faith because it reflects a Greek philosophical view of ultimate realties that has carried forward in the stream of Western Christian civilization.
Classical thought revolved around the idea that the world we see and in which we live is not the ultimate reality, that there is something more, and perfect.
In that sense the Letter to Hebrews offers both advice and a description of how access to the greatest reality happens.
The access, not surprisingly, is described as through the “blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil that is his flesh” so that “we may draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)
There’s nothing casual or easy in that lofty language because casual relationship and easy commitment do not have standing in the New Testament.
The point is, says eminent scholar of the early church, William Barclay, that Hebrews points to “… Life (as) a thing that (is) on its way into the presence of Christ. … If life is the road to Christ then none can afford to miss the road or to stop halfway.”
The compelling commitment is described in Hebrews 11: “Faith means that we are certain of the things we hope for, convicted of the things we do not see.
It was because of faith that the men of old had their faith attested. It is by faith that we understand that the world was fashioned by the word of God, so that that which is seen came into being by that which is unseen.”
The practical side for all who follow is, in Barclay’s view, “This Christian hope is such that it dictates all a man’s conduct. It dominates his actions. He lives in this hope and he dies in this hope, and it is the possession of this hope that makes him act as he does.”
If Christians live as if they are drawing near to God, the world will change because personal goals will change, and the definition of power will become selflessness – an open heart and willing hands to reshape and remake the world into the ultimate reality.
NEMS Daily Journal