Anything written or said should have a main, central, point. It would be nice if it had some sort of connection with the listeners/readers, but it must have a point. Stories should have a point, and the plot should support the point. Speeches should have a main point, and each element should support the main point (this includes sermons, unfortunately more in theory than in practice).
In the convoluted complex set of arguments that Nicodemus (my new name for the writer of Hebrews) has so far, all have a “main point”. If you don’t believe me, read this:
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.Hebrews 8:1-2 NASB
And it literally has, “main point” in the text. The Greek word, “kephalaion“, is very common outside of religious writings, and only used twice in the New Testament. For the Greek philosophers, it means, “main point”, or “head of the topic”. And they probably extended the meaning from a more common meaning of “principal” (as opposed to “interest”) as in loaned amounts.
This should tell us something really important, and something merely interesting. First, Nicodemus is truly focused on the ministry of Jesus as our High Priest. To this point, he has demonstrated the superiority of Jesus over all the other pretenders to devotion, angels, Moses, even the law. Yet, the point of Jesus’ superiority is to demonstrate how His ministry is, therefore, superior to all other religious practice. The other pretenders all had to do with religious practice to some degree. Jesus and His ministry is superior to all.
So what? It all sounds very Jewish, and it is, which is why the letter is called “Hebrews”. But there is a massive meaning for us, church-going, Bible-believing, disciples of Jesus today.
How many fights, divisions, arguments, bitterness, and strife within church has come over “practice”? Which songs, what sort of songs, drums or no drums, decorations, lighting, traditional-versus-contemporary, all these things have divided our churches and congregations, sometimes virulently. And there are some who have taken their hurt, anger, and bitterness to their graves, and therefore to face their Savior. You think He is honored by that sort of gift? Really?
We have a movement within contemporary Christianity to get away from “religion” in favor of a “relationship”. All that means is that one group (the contemporary group) calls the other group (the traditional group) invalid and unspiritual. According to the inspired Scripture in the letter to the Hebrews, they’re both wrong.
The Nicodemus is writing to Jewish believers in the “Diaspora”, the dispersed community of Jews throughout the Roman Empire, mostly collected around the Mediterranean Sea. They all used the Greek text of their Scriptures. They were “strangers in a strange land”, keeping themselves separate as Jews, and surviving, sometimes thriving, in those lands.
For those of them that devoted themselves to Jesus as their Messiah, things changed in relation to their Jewish brothers and sisters. They were shunned, ejected from Synagogues, and sometimes persecuted in other ways. They were told that the followers of this “Way” were enemies of the Jews, adding them to a long list of “goyim”. How could these disciples of Jesus also be Jews? Wasn’t it practice that differentiated them from the communities around them?
Nicodemus points out that no human religious practice, even the practice given to Moses by God, supersedes the heavenly practice of Jesus. Therefore only His practice truly matters. It isn’t the keeping of the law, the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the music, the decorations, or the lighting that defines who is and is not relating to our Savior.
Is it traditional or contemporary? It’s both. Now, STOP FIGHTING ALREADY! Why can’t we see what Nicodemus clearly points out, that we are heading to REST, not chaos. When we, as the ambassadors of divine Peace, Joy, and Love, fight and divide over stupid stuff, we fail and Satan wins. Sometimes, it’s not a matter of being right, it’s a matter of agreeing in the Lord (Philippians 4:1-3).
For these besieged Jewish disciples, it wasn’t about being right. It wasn’t about being accepted by their brethren. It wasn’t even about being connected to their Jewish community. Those things may have been important, but they weren’t the main point. For them, and for us, the main point remains what our Savior, Jesus, our High Priest, does, right now, today, on our behalf. That remains the Main Point.
So, after all that, what’s your view through the knothole this morning?
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation