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Please turn your attention to our second lesson for today as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us of what Jesus did for us by becoming our brother.
It’s a long-standing tradition that we call those who believe the same things we do brothers and sisters in Christ. We talk about a church building being God’s house and we consider those who worship together in God’s house our family.
Those are wonderful sentiments, but there are those, and their number is increasing greatly in the younger generations, who would say that’s all it is. It’s just a nice sounding sentiment, but not something that the church I used to attend put into practice. They might cite abuse that they suffered at the hands of a priest, a pastor, or a youth leader. They might talk about how the church they used to attend was click-y and they felt left out because people were talking to each other but never seemed to include them. They might mention that when they were sick, or down on their luck, no one bothered to check on them to see if they were okay, or to offer to help. They might point out that those in leadership positions made arbitrary decisions and never listened to any of their suggestions or ideas. Whether there is merit to what they say or not doesn’t really matter. For them, perception is reality, and Satan uses these perceptions, real or imagined, to keep us from being what God intends us to be – the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ.
No matter how hard we try this side of heaven a church will never be a perfect family just as no one’s own family is perfect. There will always be petty arguments. There will always be times when someone does or says something hurtful toward another member of the family. The verse right before our text reminds us that, right now we don’t see perfection. We see the imperfection of a world that is subject to sin. And the church on earth is not made up of perfect people. It’s is made up of people who are sinners just like everyone else. It’s not a gathering of those who have gotten to the point where they live without sin. It’s a gathering of those who have gotten to the point where they know that they do sin and need to hear about a savior.
So, the writer says, because we don’t see perfection, we need to look to Jesus.
Think about that as you enter a Christian church building for worship. Think about where your focus needs to be. What’s the focus of your attention when you enter the church building? It’s the cross, isn’t it? That’s a reminder that the focus of your attention shouldn’t be on that person across the aisle who hasn’t treated you in a very brotherly way. It’s a reminder that the focus of your attention shouldn’t be on why a certain person is present or not present. It’s a reminder that the focus of your attention shouldn’t be on the financial information on the back of the folder. Your attention needs to be on Jesus.
What an amazing thing that Jesus did! Think of the worst thing that anyone has ever done to you. Now multiply that by thousands of times. Would you still consider that person who did such terrible things to you a part of your family? Would you still call them “brother?”
Consider all the times that you have sinned against God. And yet, Jesus, true God from all eternity, the one for whom and through whom everything exists, still wants us to be a part of his family. He still wants to call us “brother, or sister!” In fact, when he saw how much trouble we were in. When he saw that we were in danger of being condemned and sent to suffer in Hell with Satan for all eternity, he chose to give up everything to save us.
He chose to give up his place at the right hand of the father. He chose to set aside the perfection and glory of heaven to be made a little lower than the angels, take on flesh and blood just like ours, and live in this imperfect, inglorious world of sin. He did this even though he knew what it would take to save us. He took on flesh and blood so that he could taste death for everyone, so that through (HIS) death he could destroy the one who had the power of death (that is, the Devil) and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. He reached his goal through suffering and is now crowned with honor and glory. He rose bodily from the dead and ascended back to the right hand of the Father with his glorified body.
He still has his flesh and blood. He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified all have one Father. For that reason, he is not ashamed to call them(us) brothers. And because his death in our place paid for all our sins, and because he suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. He is able to put himself in our shoes.
How great is the love and grace of Jesus, that in spite of all our sins against him he would still want us to be a part of his family and be able to call himself our brother. How great is the love and grace of Jesus that, instead of saying what we too often do, “if they apologize, if they are sorry enough, if they make it up to me, then I might still consider forgiving them and calling them my brother or sister and a member of my family.” No, he sacrificed everything for us. He did it while we were still sinners. He did it even though we can never be sorry enough for our sins against him; even though we can never make it up to him.
As we enter a Christian church building the cross reminds us that we are to look to Jesus, the author of our salvation. He is to be the primary focus of our attention. And when he is, when we realize how he loved us in spite of all the times we sin against him, it will change our view of those sitting in the pews next to us.
Jesus tasted death for everyone! Not just for me, but also for everyone else in the building and everyone else in the world. He tasted death to pay for the times that someone who is supposed to be a brother or sister in faith didn’t treat you in a very brotherly way. He tasted death even for those who took advantage of others or let the power of leadership go to their heads. They are not a separate class of people to be looked down on or avoided. They are sinners just like us, and Jesus paid for their sins just as he paid for ours.
Seeing each other as sinners for whom Jesus died goes a long way in learning to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, as fellow members of God’s family. And following the example of Christ, who was willing to humble himself and to make sacrifices for others, goes a long way in promoting peace and harmony in the family of God.
When Jesus is our focus; when he is the tie the binds; we are moved to humbly apologize to our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see that we have wronged them. When Jesus is our focus, we are enabled to forgive each other and continue to work together as a family of God. When Jesus is our focus, we will be constantly looking for opportunities to help and encourage one another, especially because we know that the world is continuing to grow even more evil as the last day gets closer and closer. When Jesus is our focus, we are reminded that he literally put himself in our shoes. We are reminded that, before we think judgmental things about our brothers and sisters in Christ, things like “Why do THEY do that, or why don’t THEY do this?” we will do our best first to put ourselves in their shoes, to understand their situation in life. Then, instead of judging, we will be able to encourage one another as we speak the truth in love.
Amazingly, Jesus has chosen to be our brother. In spite of the way that we have treated him, he went out of his way to help us, even tasting death for us. Through faith in him as our Savior, we are now a part of his family, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been rescued by Jesus from the devil and the fear of death. That makes us want to say with Jesus, I will declare your name to my brothers. Within the congregation I will sing your praise. I want to gather with my fellow believers and give thanks and praise to God. I want to be like Jesus, to be humble; not to be served, but to serve others; to forgive for Jesus’ sake, as I work together to do God’s work with those who confess their faith in Jesus with me at this place. I look forward to living forever in God’s presence with everyone here today, and as many others as Jesus calls his brother and sister.