In 1977, as a young 17 year old, I sat in the dark theater waiting for this new science fiction movie to start. As the crawl started I read “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…” Then, the Imperial Battle cruiser began to make it’s way across the screen and I was mesmerized. It was the first Star Wars movie and the subtitle was “A New Hope.” Of course, now everyone knows the Star Wars story.
But as I thought about the frenzy surrounding the movie story of Star Wars, I thought about that word “Hope.” It got me thinking about the power of that feeling; that emotion of hope. I’ve seen too many lives hang in the balance and everything hinged on whether the person had hope or not. If they did, there seemed to be a strength there that carried them through the hard times. If they didn’t, it was easy to watch the strength drain from their lives and the circumstances swallowed them whole. And the only difference in these people was their ability to find some hope in their dark place.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 7:18-25:
Brethren, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘Thou art a priest for ever.'” This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
What a passage! And what a message. Don’t forget our Hebrews preacher is trying to get across to these Christians who were former Jews that what they have is better than what they left. In a day when making such a statement would be considered politically incorrect or culturally insensitive, the scriptures pull no such punches. You see, what is at stake is much more profound than temporary feelings. The claims of the Christian scriptures insist that Jesus Christ is the complete fulfillment of all the promises God made to Abraham, the Father of the Faithful in the first testament. So, to pretend otherwise is to mischaracterize the message of the Christian Faith. Our preacher wants to prove to these wavering believers that going back is going backwards, and leaving what is better for what is already past!
Look at what he writes.
First, the former commandment (the old Jewish Law) is “set aside.” But why is it set aside? Because it’s wrong? Because it’s bad? No! The former is set aside because it is weak and, now that Christ has come and fulfilled the Law, useless. And it’s weak and useless BECAUSE it didn’t do what needed to be done. It didn’t make people perfect. Now it’s important to remember the word “perfect” here doesn’t mean “without flaw” but “complete”-“mature”-“grown up.” The Law was designed to prove to stubborn humanity that, no matter how hard we tried, we simply couldn’t overcome mortality by ourselves. The Law was to be our “schoolmaster” to teach us how badly we needed a Savior. And the Law did this completely.
Next, the new covenant is better. And why is that? Because this new covenant does what the old covenant could not: it (or rather He) could make humanity perfect because He is perfect and He is fully human as well as being fully God! The old system of sacrifices and laws only served to wake us up to our need for a Messiah, a Savior. But that was only halfway home. The Better Covenant brought to us by Jesus Christ provides a better Hope. He does what the old system could never do. He heals our relationship with the Father and reconnects us with Life Himself. And that, dearest, solves our real problem-mortality. We were made for life, not death!
Today, do you have hope? Do you know what your hope rests upon? Our precious and life-creating Faith solves your deepest weakness and destroys death so that you will reach the destiny you were made for in the first place. Being Orthodox on Purpose is always the better hope and that ain’t just a movie. It’s the real thing!
P.S. Next week we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. Today we celebrate the Royal Hours of the Feast. This celebration is so much more than mere happiness. It asks great things of us. That’s why we are committed here at Faith Encouraged Ministries with sharing this message with everyone we can. Will you help us? Thank you and God bless you!