We’re all on a journey. We’re all becoming something: older, stronger, weaker, more confident, or less so…. Computer whizz-kids or out of our depth! And we’re all becoming more like Jesus or less like him. If you think you’re standing still, you’re probably going backwards! So what are we becoming?
The writer suddenly stops himself and says “I may be wasting my time telling you about the High Priesthood of Jesus, because “You’ve become dull.” (“you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening” says the Message. NIV UK edition says “you no longer try to understand.”) In other words, “it’s difficult to get through to you because you have become sluggish in listening.” Lazy listeners. Not really bothered. Not really engaging. Wanting spoon-fed: “tell me what I’m supposed to believe and I’ll believe it!”
Now, I will always be the last person to say something like “if you don’t get anything out of this talk, it’s because you didn’t bother to listen properly”. I am always going to try to communicate the best way I can and I believe in getting people involved as learners. Dull preaching is a sin. But we need to learn to listen in a positive, engaged way, expecting something. Maybe something to puzzle out. Maybe something to surprise us not just confirm us in our existing views. And definitely expecting God to speak to us. So what are we becoming?
We should be becoming teachers.
By now you should be teachers…The writer doesn’t mean people with a “teaching ministry,” whether preachers or or bible-class leaders. Some people have a gift of teaching, and usually have a deep grasp of truth or a particular knack of making that truth understandable.
“By now you should become teachers” is about the plan of God for all of us as God’s people. It’s about a teaching role for every Christian. Christians teaching Christians. Discipleship.
All of us can potentially disciple others. All of us should be able to disciples others. So I want to ask, who are you teaching? Who is learning from you? Who is looking to you for an example of how to live the life of a Jesus-follower? And who are you learning from? Its time to grow up. To take responsibility. The writer talks about milk and solid food. The basics, and the deeper stuff.
A crash course in Christian basics.
Chapter 6 verses 1-3 are the ABC; the first foundational stuff.
- Repentance from dead works. Turning away from wrong actions that lead people towards death.
- Faith toward God, which has to mean faith in the one he has sent, Jesus: Son of God, Messiah, who died for our sin, and rose again.
- Washing ceremonies or Baptisms. The word is plural – so suggests different ceremonies using water. But it’s difficult to imagine how you could talk about washings without thinking about Christian baptism.
- Laying on of hands, to receive the Holy Spirit, at the beginning of your Christian journey.
- The resurrection of the dead: Jesus’ resurrection, and how that promises us resurrection too. Jurgen Moltmann says “Hope for the resurrection of the body is not merely a hope for the hour of death but for all the hours of life.”
- And, eternal judgment: Jesus, the Messiah (Christ) who died, rose again and brings the Kingdom, will judge the world.
And that is the basics. What is involved in making a start as a Jesus-follower; what to expect at the end of it all, and how that affects us day by day.
So what is the solid food?
What is the teaching that carries us forward to maturity (Chapter 6 v 1)?
The idea that Jesus is a high Priest like Melchizedek is on the writer’s mind: it’s the obvious example, and as one example, it tells us a bit about “Solid food” is.
- It’s the whole of Scripture. Even the unexpected corners of the Bible, like the story of Abraham and Melchizedek in Genesis
- It’s big truths about things like who Jesus is. The Melchizedek story points to Jesus.
- The Melchizedek story deconstructs and reconstructs Jewish Christians’ ideas of “Priesthood”. Solid food disrupts and resets our thinking. It challenges complacency, that kind of lazy idea that we have god all neatly packaged like a do-it-yourself wardrobe.
- And solid food is not just theoretical. It’s practical. “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use (literally by experience) have trained themselves (in the gymnasium) to distinguish good from evil”. (Chapter 5. 14)
Finally, why bother?
Why are the basics and the deeper stuff, the milk and the meat, important?
Chapter 6 v 4 should begin with the word “For”. It’s missing in NIV but there in the Greek and it’s important. That word for says “Here’s why this all matters…”
It matters because it’s impossible to sort out people who have faith, then lose their way in the faith and finish up opposing that faith. That sounds harsh. It sounds like God is saying, “You’ve had your chance you’ve met Jesus, and you blew it – so I’m finished with you!”
- Remember that for Jewish Christians, to give up following Jesus would mean going back to a Judaism that was actively persecuting Christians! That’s why the writer talks about repeatedly crucifying Jesus. (Chapter 6 v 6)
- And even then, as one scholar wisely suggests, the writer “is stating a practical truth …as a matter of human experience”. Talking about whether rich people could get into the kingdom of God, Jesus said “What is impossible with people is possible with God.” (Luke 18. 27)
- This isn’t a judgement on people who have wandered away. It’s a warning to those who are in danger of doing so.
The point is, we as believers have had our eyes opened to the truth, have met Jesus (God’s amazing gift! ), received the Holy Spirit, been fed on the word and known the power of the coming Kingdom. (Chapter 6 v 4-5) We’ve had all that God offers: Light, Jesus, the Spirit, the Word, the Kingdom. It’s like God says “I’ve got nothing to add to that lot. If you’re looking for something better than that, it doesn’t exist.”
The warning calls us to do our part To respond to God’s grace with diligence, urgency, haste. (Chapter 6 v 11) “Don’t drag your feet” (The Message, v. 12). To imitate (v. 12) someone with a strong faith (learn from their example)! The thing to add to what God has done is exactly this: you do your bit. Engage with the gifts God gives.
So if you’ve got a bit lost, there is a way back – if you want it. Don’t drag your feet.
And if you’re feeling like your faith is losing its sparkle, do your bit. Be a disciple, a learner, and grow into someone who can help others to grow. Don’t drag your feet.