Each year cute little bunnies, brightly colored eggs and pastel-wrapped chocolates encroach a little more on our religious holiday. Now don’t get me wrong, I love all these heralds of spring! At the very least they offer hope that renewal is coming, even if our frozen koi pond and a certain groundhog tell another story.
But the holiday Christians celebrate tells a much bigger and better renewal story. While we wait and wait (and for us Wisconsinites–wait some more) for spring like everybody else, we don’t put our hope in thawing snow, budding trees, or tulips popping out of the mud. Instead we enjoy new spiritual life in this winter of a world while we wait for spring to break eternal with the return of the risen Jesus!
All our hope is in this Jesus, and as we prepare for the celebration of his resurrection, we’ve been looking at Hebrews 1:1-3 to find out more about him.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Last week we noted that Jesus is God’s eternal son and heir to the entire universe which he made alongside his Father at creation. Today we’ll note that it was God’s word that brought the world into existence and the word of the Son that upholds it all until the appointed hour when God will make it new. He is able to succeed in this task because of who he is.
And he is God! The phrases “radiation of God’s glory and exact representation of his being” both point to this one indisputable truth. Other writers of Scripture testify to this same truth using different kinds of language. Paul describes Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” and the one where all God’s “fullness” dwells. (Colossians 1:15-20) John, one of Jesus’ original disciples, calls Jesus the “Word” who “was with God” and “WAS God.” (John 1:1). As humans with physical bodies we have no category for one being made up of two (and as Scripture testifies in other places, three) persons. But this is what Scripture teaches. And the human authors of God’s Word summon the best of human language to help our finite minds better understand the God the Father and God the Son.*
Besides the testimony of the apostles and the Scriptures, we have the testimony of Jesus himself. While he was on earth, Jesus boldly took his Father’s name in a clear statement of his divine identity. (John 8:58) Standing there on the steps of the temple and speaking to God’s people, he took the name Yahweh (I am = Yahweh)–the very name God used when he first called Moses to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. This time, Yahweh was preparing a much bigger deliverance for his people. But his people could not stomach Jesus’ claims. His words hit their ears in blasphemous-sounding chords. They couldn’t begin to grasp the idea that their one God enjoyed communion as Father and Son. So with murderous intent, they picked up stones and tried to kill their Deliverer and their God.
In time they would succeed, unwittingly carrying out God’s plan to deliver them from the bondage of their sin and setting the stage for that first glorious Easter Sunday.
*for a fuller understanding of the doctrine of the trinity and the person of Christ see Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrines: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith.