A unique sojourner or visitant beyond the realm of time and space, uncreated, eternal, the author of all things, exalted, sovereign, supreme – the Lord God himself - stooped in great humility to step into our world. God himself came to earth itself, for the sake of ourselves. Breathtaking! Stupendous! Incomprehensible! Too marvellous to be remotely true, and yet he came in his Son – the One who is Son, divine by nature.
Hebrews unfolds the event succinctly in a description of the dignity and deeds of the Visitor who so humbly came among us. The One in whom we live, move, and have our being, came as man. The exalted Being became a human being. The One who generated and governs all that exists came to this mere speck in the universe to we antlike entities as our Maker, Mediator, and Monarch. We live in an age of over familiarity. It is not long before any personage of rank or honour is regarded with contempt. We become chummy or churlish toward those above us. Disrespect marks our attitude to others in society. We are casual rather than comely in our common deportment, and we have largely lost any sense of occasion. The current crop of kings of comedy and cynical commentators have drenched our minds in mockery of all that is good and life has become a game of mutual ridicule all for the sake of a smirk and rude laughter. Our culture cheapens all that it sees and touches. It is scarcely conceivable that our generation could catch a glimpse of the grandeur and magnificence of the One who set royal raiment aside to robe himself in our flesh. We are oblivious to his heavenly origin and honour. Even saints cultivated by years of spiritual discipline and experience baulk at the unequalled nobility of Jesus Christ. In speech and behaviour humanity is forgetful of his pre-eminence and Presence. While heaven adores earth ignores.
Joseph Hall used irony to good effect as a satirist before his ordination to the Church of England ministry. It was his weapon against the folly and vices of his day. He knew the dangers of impure lampoonery and how a generation can be besotted by it. As a bishop he turned the minds of the people towards a reverent appreciation of Christ as God, “Dwelling in inaccessible light, attended with millions of angels of light, and glorified spirits of his saints in a light unspeakable and glorious . . . . I fear many of us Christians are much defective in our holy devotions . . . . but the confirmed eyes of an illuminated Christian can behold God in this notion of his celestial splendour . . . . an infinite resplendence” (Sermon 31).
This is the One who came to our dark world as an infant to endure its mockery and murderous hatred (The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5 i.e. extinguish it in hatred). We can never revere Christ excessively, indeed we can never esteem him sufficiently.
Hebrews compiles a profile of the Son that is impressive beyond measure. In essence he is divine; the radiance of God’s glory; the exact representation of his being. He is the Maker of our home environment and the vastness of the universe that surrounds us. He laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of his hands. How astonishing that those foundations were beneath his feet and that he peered into the stars above from our vantage point. He assumed our likeness and littleness even as he remains the match or counterpart of the divine majesty. He is the Mediator commissioned to restore a harmonious relationship between an offended Creator and those guilty of offences against him. On earth he makes atonement for our sin, a condition as well as a series of crimes committed, and in heaven he continues to save us as our Advocate and Intercessor with our best interests at heart. By his suffering in our stead and his Spirit in our lives he provides purification and soul cleansing, removing the contamination and condemnation that separates us from the Father. Our guilty record is erased and our nature renewed. Now he is manifestly the Monarch of all. He is the promised Messiah, the One anointed to be king, and he is in process of establishing his kingdom which will last forever. As “first born”, preferred, superior, pre-eminent, he is the heir entitled to reign as Sovereign Ruler over everything that is, seen and unseen, and his especial care and governance is for his people. Everything is organized to get them to glory. His omnipotence is exercised towards them and for them by his grace.
The inspired portrayal of Christ brings us to an encounter with a Figure of great authority and great humility, qualities that are rarely co-existent, and all the more wonderful considering the One in whom they are combined. It is a rebuke to our arrogance and a reassurance to us in our uncertainties.
It is difficult to grasp that “the loud voice like a trumpet” condescended to cry from a cradle. The first utterances of the great Prophet were a baby’s bellow and the murmurings of a helpless mite. We cannot comprehend the radical meekness of the Saviour. Our stupid hubris cannot cope with the modesty of God. We think that high rank has to be expressed in haughtiness. With God loftiness comes in lowliness. Supremacy reveals itself in servant-hood. As Hall observes, Majesty comes to us in Mercy. That is both baffling and beautiful. Moreover, the Lord of Glory deigned to die on a cross for our deliverance. The king endured execution in the place of those who rebelled against him.
His condescension, shown in innumerable ways, staggers the mind. His condescension contradicts our concept of exaltedness and almightiness. But his royal throne is a Throne of Grace, and if he must step from it, and stoop towards us in order to do us good, then he will do it. For the Lord Jesus is also consecrated to be our dear Friend at court in heaven. He not only visits his own but invites them to his dwelling. Hebrews is a divine composition on the theme of God’s completion of his covenant promises and endeavours. Hebrews announces the perfection of his purpose which remains steady and sure from past days and through these last days. The Lord Jesus is his full and final revelation. The Lord Jesus is our effective Rescuer and Redeemer. Hebrews sums up the divine intimations and institutions granted to God’s ancient people and says that in his Son the mission of mercy has been concluded. The child of Bethlehem matured as Servant of God and Saviour of men and the Christmas gift of forgiveness of sins endures.