Hebrews 1 v 4 to 14 SUPERIOR TO THE ANGELS

(A) Introduction.

If I was trying to highlight the greatness of Jesus to a contemporary audience I wouldn't compare him to angels. We have not seen much of angels lately. They were more in evidence at the time of Jesus. Perhaps the writer had seen and been impressed by angels. He certainly considers it worthwhile to show that Jesus is superior to the most glorious of angels. Doubtless there will be unexpected and helpful benefits in examining the writer's argument.

(B) His superior name. V 5: For to which angels did God ever say "You are my Son".

Angels had status as God's messengers. They announced the birth and resurrection of Jesus. They were splendid and awesome. The shepherds feared them. There was something 'other' about them. Men could never form a close relationship with angels.

Jesus was very ordinary compared with angels. Isaiah prophesise, He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53 v2. The men of Sodom found the two angel visitors to Lot attractive! Jesus was, however, loved as no angel has been loved. He was one of us, the approachable master to his followers who if they did not understand him did love him.

Yet Jesus is immeasurably superior to the angels. They were created beings but he is the Son. The one who was, and is, loved intimately by his disciples has access to the heart of God.

(C) His superior dignity. V6: God says, "Let all God's angels worship him."

Jesus is superficially a very ordinary man. It is significant that in spite of the miracles that he performed most Jews found it difficult to believe that he was the Messiah, God's appointed. His teaching was homespun. He told stories. When Pilate said, "Here is your King" (John 19v14) the crowd was unimpressed. Yet this same Jesus who was despised and rejected by men is worshipped by angels. He does not worship them!

I think we find it easier to love Jesus than to worship him. We are helped to worship by the hymns we sing - especially the great hymns of Christmas and Easter.

Verily we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would his favour secure.
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

(D) His superior example. v7: In speaking of angels he says, " He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire." But about the Son he says: "You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;"

There is something impersonal about the fire and the wind. They are beyond temptation. It seems unlikely that angels can ever be flawed as we are flawed. They either remain untouched by wickedness or like Satan incapable of righteousness. So they know nothing of the human condition by experience. We know what is right but are tempted to do wrong and frequently, but not always, succumb to temptation. Jesus unlike the angels was tempted in all the ways we are tempted and yet without sin. He experienced the reality of temptation without succumbing to it.

Jesus, as a man, sets us an example. He shows what can be achieved. He loved righteousness, hated lawlessness, practiced obedience and joyful submission to the will of God. It is for this that God has honoured him above all other men. Jesus does encourage us to look to his life and teaching and to follow him. It is as we practice what he taught that we build on the rock and not upon the sand. Those that love him are called to a life of decision, renunciation and obedience. See Luke 14 v 25

(E) His superior work. V10 to 12: The heavens are the work of our hands. They perish, but you remain;...... You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed;... your years will never end.

The angels are creatures. We read: He makes his angels winds. They, like us, are created beings. Jesus on the other hand is the one through whom God created the universe and who will be there to bring it to an end. It will be discarded like a worn out garment and changed for some thing new and better.

Most astronomers agree that the universe will come to an end. However they expect it to last several billions of years yet. The Bible suggests that at the return of Christ the universe will be brought to an end quickly. It is something we will experience. It might seem difficult to reconcile something astronomers anticipate occurring over millions of years with an event happening quickly in the experience of those raised to life at Christ's return. Perhaps it helps to think of being taken out of Universe time into God's time after the resurrection of our bodies. As C.S.Lewis put it: the characters in a novel exist in time but not in the same way as the writer of the book. The author creates the time framework of the novel but exists independently of it. At the resurrection we are, as it were, taken out of the book.

The important truth to stress is that whatever happens, be it something as dramatic as the destruction of this Universe and the creation of another one, Jesus remains the same. An author may write two very different books but he remains the same. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be phased by changes in fashion, scientific advances, a decline in morality or major catastrophes that prompt the pundits to cry, "The world will never be the same again." Jesus stops the same and men still need him in the way they have always needed him - for salvation, leadership and guidance in right living. Men and women do not require more self belief but faith in him, more Christ belief.

(F) His superior achievement.

In verse 14 angels are described as: Ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. Raymond Brown retells the story of Marie Monsen a Norwegian missionary who served in North China. During a period of great unrest rampaging soldiers intent on looting surrounded the mission compound. The mission walls were flimsy but in spite of that the residents were left in peace. At a later date the soldiers stated that they were deterred from entering the mission house by tall soldiers with shining faces standing guard on the east veranda. This is a heart-warming story and has strong appeal for Christians. It seems such a notable achievement on the part of the angels. Jesus achievement is far greater because he did what no angel could ever do - he died to save us. He gives us the status which makes us worthy of angelic protection. His superior achievement makes Jesus God's right hand man. He sits there as both great David's greater son and as God's son. He sits there for us.

(G) Conclusion.

No better illustration of the difference between Jesus and the angels can be found than in the account of Jesus' resurrection in John's Gospel. See John 20 v 10 to 17. Mary cared nothing for the two angels in white once Jesus had revealed himself to her. She did not cling to them - she clung to him. The news she brought was not, "I have seen angels", but, "I have seen the Lord". That is every Christian's hope, not to be in the presence of the angels, but to see the Lord.

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