Just as the English language does not contain seventeen different words for snow, neither does it really have the capacity to fully describe the mystery which is the Incarnation, the Word Made Flesh. Notwithstanding, in this extract from the letter to the Hebrews, the writer of the letter and the various translating bodies have made a serious attempt to encapsulate Jesus’ mission not just on earth but through all eternity.
Already we run into that very problem of vocabulary. Is “mission” eternal or is it earth-bound and temporal? Perhaps “purpose”, or even “being” would be better words to allude to Jesus whose identity is perfectly at harmony with his purpose; who is what he does.
The writer of the letter has identified five key features of Jesus’ purpose or being. He is:
- The source and means and sustainer of creation;
- The image of God;
- The redress of all that has gone wrong;
- The restorer of the broken relationship between creation and the creator;
- Now crowned over everything that is.
Crowned, Jesus’ mission is accomplished, his identity fully completed and revealed. And, here we have hope. The letter-writer observes, “at present we do not see everything subject to him”. Looking around us now, we may well concur with that, sadly. But we do see Jesus crowned, by the Father, with glory and honour; we remember this week by week in the sharing of bread and wine, and we celebrate it each year at Easter and Ascension. And surely God, who began this great work in and through Jesus, will complete it in the restoration of those who are made holy through Jesus. That is us.
- How are the five features of Jesus’ purpose and being, reflected or echoed in his earthly life and ministry? And how do we – or might we – do likewise?
- The text refers to Jesus being made “higher” or “lower” at various points. Nowadays we probably understand this as being a change in status rather than physical movement. How does it affect your understanding of the relationship between Heaven and Earth to think about movement between the two as being through a gate or a door, rather than as ascending and descending?
Music can express more than words are ever able to. You might like to end by listening to Tom Fettke’s setting of Psalm 8, The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.