Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Heb. 3:1 “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;”
Introduction: We analyze this verse under three headings:
I. The Congregation
“…holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…”
Jews call themselves “brethren,” due to their connection by birth. Christians are “holy” brethren, the family of God joined together by divine connections. We are partakers, people holding something in common. We received a summons from God, a “heavenly calling” which made us brethren. Our spiritual family is entered not by physical birth, but by God’s call to share life in Christ.
II. The Christ
“The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;”
Christ the bond which ties God’s family together, is our “profession.” The word refers to speech. We must not be ashamed to confess Jesus. We should openly acknowledge our faith in Him. The first readers of Hebrews were having trouble being bold about claiming Jesus. This should never be the case. We should gladly profess Jesus, for He is:
“Apostle” means, “one sent out.” To Jews, it described the envoys of the Sanhedrin, Israel’s Supreme Court. “Apostles” were sent out, clothed with the Sanhedrin’s authority and bearing its commands. To the Greeks “apostle” meant and ambassador, one sent out with the power and authority from the king and country he represented. To Christians “apostle” refers to the men nearest to Jesus. The apostles knew Him, heard Him, and were sent out as emissaries to spread His Gospel to the world.
In every culture, “apostle” was a position of great dignity and much authority. Today, when communications circle the globe in seconds, it is hard to appreciate the importance of “apostles” in ancient days. It often took days or weeks to receive instructions from home. Therefore, ambassadors sometimes had to assume awesome authority and make immediate decisions for their country.
Our city, St. Louis, is part of America due to a decision made by an envoy. In 1803 President Jefferson sent James Monroe to Paris with instruction to try to buy New Orleans from Napoleon to secure the Mississippi River for America. To the shock of all, Napoleon offered to sell all French lands west of the Mississippi. Monroe had no authority to do so, but immediately signed a treaty which put his country $15,000,000 in debt.
Western Americans loved the treaty, Southerners had mixed feelings, New Englanders were outraged, Spain was furious at not having first chance to buy the land, Jefferson was in a quandary because such a treaty was not authorized by the constitution. None of this mattered, though, for James Monroe had set in motion events that could not be stopped. An emissary had caused it all.
Jesus is the supreme apostle, the ultimate “sent-out” one. He is the great original. Other “apostles” are feeble copies of Him. He was an envoy sent from God, an ambassador from Heaven, and emissary sent forth with a divine message. Jesus came to earth on a special mission. Heaven opened, and a prophet came forth preaching the words of God to men.
B. High Priest
For well over a thousand years the Hebrews had been taught to depend on the work of a High Priest for acceptance before God. Depending solely on one person had been preparation for them to trust in One who fulfilled everything the High Priest of Israel represented. Jesus was the perfect High Priest.
Jesus is Apostle and High Priest. The highest appointive position of the New Testament, and the highest appointive position of the Old Testament, meet in Him. Jesus is God’s representative to man, and man’s to God. He has power from God, power with God. Thus, our author gives a great comprehensive directive:
III. The Command
The first readers of this book were being tempted to look at Jesus with one eye, while glancing back over their shoulders with the other. This was, and is, unacceptable. Believers must “consider” Jesus. The word means to fix attention on something until its inner meaning is caught, to look upon an object until the lesson it is designed to teach has been learned.
Jesus used the word in His admonition to consider the ravens and the lilies (LK 12:24, 27). He was telling us to watch ravens and lilies until we learn God’s lesson in them for us. Many see a raven as only a nuisance. Observant believers see the same bird and say, “God feeds that scavenger, He will also feed me.” A botanist ponders the beauty of a lily. The believers looks deeper and says, “God who clothed this flower in loveliness will also clothe me.” Look until you see the message.
Our author says do the same thing with Jesus Himself. Ponder who and what He is. Fix the mind on Him with all attention. Focus every thought on Him. There is enough in Jesus to warrant a steady gaze. We are always far from discovering all His beauty and glory. In Him are unlearned lessons, undiscovered depths, and unheard-of power, which He wants to reveal.
Sadly, the first readers of Hebrews have not been the last believers to have trouble keeping their focus on Jesus. We all think of Him too rarely, and therein is the cause of much of our trouble. The root of spiritual weakness lies in the absence of meditation. Neglect concentration upon Christ and you lose the only means we have to know Him better. “There is no way by which we can bring an unseen person to have any real influence upon our lives except by the direction of our thoughts to Him” (Maclaren).
The same is true of each day. A few small prayers through the day are not nearly as helpful as one early concentrated time of prayer. Small cleansings through the day do not hold up as well as a morning shower. An early, extended time in prayer consecrates, and gives repeated blessings through, the whole day.
Concentrated prayer is especially needful in times of trouble. “Consider” Jesus in the hard times. Gaze on Him until He begins to reveal for you His power. Focus on Him until you see His absolute sufficiency to meet your every need.
If you come with a burden to Christ, and leave with it, you have not “considered” Him. You must keep looking until you see His sufficiency. Stay with Him until you learn the lesson He has for you. The steady gaze succeeds where the occasional glance fails. Newton, when asked how he solved a complicated problem, offered only one answer, “I keep it before me.” Keep Jesus before you. Contemplate Jesus until you see Him for what He is, and His power for what it is.
You say you do not appreciate prayer. The problem is not prayer, but you. You’re not praying long enough to see its power. A Korean believer said, “Because prayer is such a great discovery, once you realize its power, you can’t pray enough.”
You say prayer is boring. Then you have never “considered” Jesus. You must stay with Him long enough to learn to enjoy Him. A young lady was just beginning to learn art. She said to her father, an accomplished artist, “Father, I cannot enjoy the works of the old masters.” “Then,” said he, “look at them till you can.” Yes, the long look sees their greatness. One must be trained to enjoy the greatest things in life, including prayer.
Conclusion: I have seen the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon. Neither impressed me. Obviously, the problem was not in them, but rather with me. My glimpse of the Empire State Building was through the black windshield of a car. It was raining, and Dad would not let us out of the car. At the Grand Canyon, Dad, who was in a hurry, gave us a full ten minutes to view it.
The problem was not the sites, but the length of my gazes. The same is true when one finds no victory in prayer. The problem is not Jesus, but the shortness of the view. Always there is a remedy in Jesus. “Consider” Him until you see it.