Prepare to be triggered. And when something I say triggers you, may I ask you to sit with it for just a minute and not just have some knee jerk reaction to exit, close out, disregard, or puff up in prideful anger as if you know better. If we are not self-aware or conscious of our own internal assumptions, our reactions are responsible for the decline of the world. The mess our world is in is precisely due to people triggering each other and then reacting from unconscious pride and evil.
That’s not an overstatement.
This post is for all comers, all people in all stages and ages of life, from all geographies, all religions, backgrounds, political parties and from all levels of intelligence, but it won’t sound that way at first because of our presuppositions and because of the residue which the Christian religion has heaped upon us. Today’s passage in Hebrews is almost universally taught from insiders to other insiders with almost no regard for the myriad of worldviews which exist all around us. It’s like a game of “Red Rover, Red Rover” religion has played with the city. Every religion does this with their own sacred texts.
The scale of this passage is cosmic, not tribal. If we end up triggered or offended, it is likely due to our own tribal thinking, myopia, and our inability/unwillingness to see long range reality. Therefore we need to deconstruct this inner resistance to what will be said, so that we can discover our own tribal loyalty to our religion, or framework for God, or deep fear of going astray from our team. Like I said in the first installment, we don’t have to share the same belief as the author, but we must be willing to allow him to use this framework to convey his message. If we don’t, the baby goes out with the bathwater.
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come…” (2:6)
“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (v.8-9)
The Greek word “Pánta” means (everything, all, always, every) it is a term for total inclusion. It means there are no exclusions, caveats, exceptions, or carveouts. This is precisely how this verse is cosmic in scale and why it must be read from that vantage point. The word “úpotáso” means “under control” or “under ones arrangement or design.” The author used the phrase “under foot” or “footstool” which is borrowed from Psalm 8:4-6, which signifies authority, reign, lordship, or government. The theological word for this is “sovereignty.” He’s saying; “Everything is under Jesus control, but we don’t see all yet.” One of my favorite quotes is from Herman Bavinck which says: “Given the sovereignty of God, we all live in a perfect universe.”
That’s what it means to have all things under his feet.
This is probably where you are being triggered. The idea that Jesus is the highest authority in the universe may not be a worldview which you share with the author. Furthermore, that since literally all things are under his design and control, it begs the question for the modern mind as to whether he is any good at his job given all the suffering and global problems. From our human vantage point, there seems to be quite a number of drops and failures on his watch. How can a power so big allow so much suffering? This very question has led to much unbelief.
If those are you questions, then you are in good company. Most of humanity uses the same reference points and comes to similar conclusions. Rather than explain it satisfactorily, the Christian religion has simply doubled down on the position and embraced the disposition that if you don’t believe it, then you are out of Gods plan, will or love and doomed for punishment. I believe we can and should provide a better answer and this is my attempt.
If I steal your bike and sell it for $1000 and then I’m caught, the closest thing I can do to make things right with you is give you the $1000 plus any difference required to get you a new bike, or get your bike back for you. Even if I do that, there still remains the issue of distrust between us so it’s not likely we’ll become best friends. You would likely think I deserve some form of punishment so that I can suffer in some similar way to the suffering I caused you. This is retribution. We all live with the assumption of retributive systems of justice.
But last week we saw that the author is saying there is a new system of justice, one based on restoration. Under this type of rule, reign or government, the scenario would look like this. I steal your bike and intend to sell it for $1000. You understand that this could create a rift between us, so you willingly buy your bike back from me for $1000 and then invite me to dinner and friendship. As for the suffering I caused to you, you not only take the suffering caused by the theft, but you take a double portion so that I don’t have to suffer as you have. In this way, you have exhausted all retribution upon yourself in order to restore me back to a place of trusting friendship.
If you read this and are saying to yourself; “F that!” then you have reached the disbelief of the original audience and why the Gospel is so hard to believe. It’s too good to be true. Even religion can’t and won’t teach restoration like this. Religion requires you sacrifice something or else they call this cheap Grace. However, the bible’s central message is precisely this. I prove it HERE.
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (V.10)
A system founded on this kind of government couldn’t work, could it? It would be a different kind of kingdom. What kind of universal ruler pays the penalties and suffers for all (pánta) in the kingdom? What kind of leader leads from the bottom? What kind of king identifies and even lives the life of the lowest in his or her rule? What kind of God lays down their absolute power, puts on the robe of humanity and then becomes subject to torture and death? The answer, as the author of Hebrews will explain, is the kind of God who isn’t far off and disconnected, but one that identifies and understands our plight and because this kind of God truly understands, he has created a kingdom from which we can all live each day and where death cannot stop its progression.
What seems unjust, unfair, and total foolishness, is actually perfect.
Suffering is the perfect design.
Suffering means we cannot go through this life and miss God because it is not just a human experience, it is something from which God himself is not exempt.
Suffering means we are infinitely tied to a God who willingly suffered.
Suffering means that all humanity will have an experience with Christ with no exceptions.
Suffering means the reign or rule of God will touch each and every person. We are all under God’s foot so to speak. Even those who think or desire to be otherwise.
Suffering triggers us, so we will not want to believe this, yet there are aspects of this which are undeniably true. Later, the author will reveal that even if we can’t seem to believe the Jesus story, we will all have a form or pattern of this story in our lives which we can believe and that is simply called “faith.”
Before the author of Hebrews takes us there, he must explain this reign and rule of Christ Jesus from within the religious framework of the audience. For Israel, that was the Hebrew people, and for them, their icon was Moses.
Moses was special. Delivered by God as a baby, raised by Pharaoh in Egypt and then renounced his royalty, identified with his own Hebrew people, and was used by God to lead them out of slavery in Egypt with the promise of finding their own land, and being their own people, free to worship their God as they chose, in their way on their terms. That’s vital.
Moses was so close to God and was used by God time and time again to deliver the people and to display to them that the God of Israel, reigns over all other gods, tribes, kings and kingdoms. Moses was amazing. He was faithful. He was inspired. He was connected. His faith predated the law, but he was entrusted with the law and instructed to give it to the people. He inaugurated the Jewish religion. This kind of begs the question as to what was their faith based upon prior to the law? We’ll come back to this later in the study, but this is vital as we reflect on the audience to whom this was written. There is a hint of this as the author writes:
“Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.” (Hebrews 4:5-6)
Imagine how this would have been heard in the mind of the devout Jew. These likely saw Jesus the disruption he caused in their region and then witnessed him being murdered by their own people under the hand of Rome. Jesus was not likely a figure to be honored by this audience, especially if he claimed to be the Messiah and then failed (according to them) to re-establish Israel to a place of political, military, and economic power. Exactly how could this Jesus, flunky of the Jews, be faithful over God’s house if he (as they thought) threatened to destroy the temple?
Establishing Jesus as preeminent over Moses, yet alone over all things, is not going to be easy for this audience. Try convincing anyone that their is a power greater than their framework for God, it rarely goes well. It is also true in the minds of our modern world. To do so, the author uses their own sacred text to illuminate how it’s possible, but even then it’s a stretch. How much more for those today, who essentially have no authority beyond themselves? Nonetheless, preeminence is the point. For the author, Christ Jesus is higher than Moses. What say you? Moses and the Law (religion/retribution) or Jesus’ now-not yet kingdom (faith/restoration)?
The modern mind thinks it is free of religion by unsubscribing to the conversation, but by doing so it actually makes a religion out of something else. The mind apart from faith is not free, but captive.
Moses was the priest of God. He reflected the people’s voice to God. Jesus, in like manner, as we’ll go into later, is the “High-Priest” of God in a way that Moses couldn’t touch. Moses was a servant, Jesus was a son. Moses was regional, local, tribal. Jesus is universal, cosmic as the Christ, the anointed one. Can you see the difference? If so, then then I have made the author’s point. Yet we are still far away from faith.
Moses is to be honored as the servant and priest who establishes the external religion, Jesus is to be honored as the son, the high priest who establishes the internal faith, which as we will learn is the faith which Moses had prior to the religion. This faith, by extension, is shared by all people prior to their religion or irreligion too. By extension, this faith places all things under our feet too, if we lead from the bottom as well.
If we follow the leading of this book, it will take us all the way back to this original, cosmic, universal faith in its purest form, and from there it is possible to restore the world.