Hebrews 13 – A "brief" Note

Read Hebrews 13

As the author of Hebrews concludes the letter with the customary final greetings, he/she encourages the audience to take what has been written, especially the exhortations (appeals, advice, arguments, persuasion, etc.) seriously.  This letter, the author says, is much briefer than it could have been.

Certainly, that is true of all the writing of Scripture.  There is so much more to say on all of these topics.  John, at the end of his Gospel, attests to this as well:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.  John 21:25

That being said, Scripture doesn’t continue on in this way.  I think of the many dozens of books that I was encouraged to read in seminary, tens of thousands of pages, and the thousands upon thousands of books that have been written on Scripture and theology; we could go on forever… and will!!  But the author here has a way of summing it all up in a couple of “brief” exhortations.

Keep on Loving – This first and primary exhortation is the crux of the whole Gospel, the whole Law, and all of Scripture.  Keep on loving God.  Keep on loving each other.  The author offers some practical ways in which this can be lived out but essentially the message is the same as Jesus’ message in Matthew 25, “Whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did for me.”

Hold to sound teaching – This is a message that endures throughout the New Testament.  As the church continued to grow, it continually faced a number of different threats from different groups that would offer “new teachings” or “new revelations.”  These, however, often steered people way from the faith and away from grace.  They were in direct contradiction of Jesus statement in John 14, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Pray – Prayer is a continual exhortation throughout Scripture as well.  Paul writes that we should “pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”  Jesus too taught His disciples to pray and modeled a prayer life that we are called to follow.  Even at the right hand of God, Jesus is said to be praying, interceding for us on our behalf before the Father.

There is so much more to say here.  But, I suppose, I should take my cue from the author of Hebrews and keep it “brief.”  Much more will come as we begin our reading of James!



Matthew 13 – New Treasures and Old

Read Matthew 13

Apart from His direct teachings, which we heard back in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often taught using parables.  A parable is a story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.  Matthew again makes a point of referencing earlier Scripture as a way of pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah that the Jews were waiting for.

Matthew is not the only one drawing on the Old Testament for teaching; Jesus too draws from Scripture to illustrate the work that He has come to do, the Kingdom of Heaven He is ushering in.  Remember with me back in Matthew 5, Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”  Jesus points this out once again in verse 52; He is bringing out “new treasures” as well as old.

What would have been interesting, though, is how Jesus’ teachings would have been accepted by the Jews that were hearing them.  Most of the people of Israel at that time were certain that the Messiah was going to come and make things “how it was;” you know, the “good ‘ol days.”  They were also quite certain about who Jesus was talking about when He referenced the “Kingdom of Heaven.”  Sometimes we get to be like this too, spending much more time thinking about who is “in” and who is “out” rather than listening for the Spirit’s movement and teaching in our own hearts.

Jesus is painting a picture for His followers, one that illustrates some things that they may already know, or think they know, while also giving them a new, possibly broader image of what God’s Kingdom will really look like.  He names good and bad, like the fruit from Matthew 12, but makes the point that He will make that determination, not us.