Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV
While do not know who the author of the Letter to the Hebrews was, we can almost certainly conclude that his audience was made up primarily of Jewish believers. Throughout the letter, he makes references to facts regarding Judaism, apparently assuming his readers were well-versed in them. He takes little time to explain details regarding the sacrificial system, the office of high priest, the history of Israel, or the identity of the individuals listed in chapter 11, who were primarily Jewish in their ethnic identity. The fact that the author was also addressing Jews whose faith in Christ might be in question is evidenced by his repeated warnings against drifting away, neglecting so great a salvation, having an unbelieving heart and failing to enter in to the rest God has promised. Even in the opening line of his letter, the author tells his readers that, “in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV). He is acting under the understanding that his audience is very familiar with the words of Jesus and the message of the gospel. Interestingly enough, he does not mention the name of Jesus anywhere in this first chapter, but simply refers to Him as God’s Son. That Jesus was inferred and understood by his readers as the one being talked about is quite clear. The original recipients of this letter would have known exactly who was being discussed.
That the writer would delay the mention of Jesus’ name until the ninth verse in chapter two is intriguing. But it would seem that he felt no need to use the name of Jesus, but simply referred to His unique designation as the Son of God. That term would have been very familiar with his Jewish audience and would have brought to mind the very reason for which they had rejected Jesus to begin with. It was Jesus’ claim to be divine, the very Son of God, that led the Jews to accuse Him of blasphemy and to seek His death. At one time Jesus had said, “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27 NLT). These kinds of statements did not endear Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. In fact, when He was arrested and brought before them on the night He was betrayed, Caiaphas, the high priest, questioned Jesus asking, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63 NLT). Jesus answered, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NLT). And Caiaphas, in shock and horror, responded, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” (Matthew 26:65-66 NLT). And his fellow religious leaders shouted out, “Guilty! He deserves to die!” (Matthew 26:66 NLT).
It was Jesus’ claim of divine Sonship that got Him in trouble – not His miracles, signs and wonders. It was not His teaching that drove the high priest and his cohorts crazy, but His insistence that He was divine. And the writer of Hebrews jumped all over this very fact, claiming that God had “spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV). He attributes to Jesus the divine role of creator of the universe. He was and is God. In fact, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT). This man from Nazareth, who was murdered at the hands of the Romans as the insistence of the Jews, was the Son of God. And it was the very fact that He was the Son of God that made His sacrifice on the cross acceptable to His Father. He was without blemish, sinless, making Him the perfect sacrifice and the only acceptable payment for the sins of mankind. And, the writer of Hebrews reminds his readers, “When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Jesus returned to where He had come from, the very throne room of God. The apostle Paul writes about this very reality in his letter to the Philippians.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:7-11 NLT
Over the next chapters, we will see the author go out of his way to insist on the superiority of Christ. He is superior to angels, Moses, and any earthly high priest or institution. His sacrifice was greater and more effective than anything man could ever hope to accomplish through the sacrifice of bulls and goats. Jesus was and is incomparable. There was nothing in Judaism that could compare. There was no reason for those who had placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Messiah, to return to the old covenant of laws and ritualistic rule keeping. Christ was sufficient. The good news was good enough. There was nothing missing and no man-made requirements necessary to complete or compliment what Christ had done on the cross.
Peter reminds us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). In Christ, we have all we need to for salvation, sanctification and our ultimate glorification. Nothing is missing. Nothing need be added. As the old hymn, Rock of Ages, so aptly puts it, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Jesus is enough.