We See Jesus
hen his grandchildren came along my brother Eddie decided that he needed better pictures, and that meant a better camera. Having a lot more money than know-how, he purchased an auto everything, fool proof, special. However nothing is ever really fool proof, is it? The auto-focus was especially flawed. It set critical sharp focus on the object in the very center circle in the viewfinder, but grandchildren do not always stay in the center of anything. So, Eddie got some in focus pictures of crib toys, and some out of focus pictures of grandchildren.
Life can get all out of focus sometimes, and unlike photos, you can't simply discard the bad prints.
I have an acquaintance who has done some repair work on our family cars. He has been honest and fair and I always ask for him at the shop. I had assumed he was Jewish by his name, but last week he shared how he had written a novel around the theme of Armageddon. Since that is only mentioned in the New Testament book of Revelation, I asked, "Are you a Messianic Jew?" "Yes!" came his reply. "What is the focus of the book?" I asked. "The focus is on Jesus the Messiah's final triumph," he said. My somewhat astonished reply was, "Well, he has certainly triumphed in our hearts!"
The New Testament book that our text is taken from is called "The Letter to the Hebrews." It was a first century circular message to Messianic Jews, or ethnic Jews who had become Christians. The author's central purpose is to encourage them to keep their focus upon Jesus. Evidently, many former Jews had made angels the focus of their doctrine and had taken their eyes off Jesus. In the first two chapters this point is made clear, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets ... but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son... so he became much superior to angels... currently we do not see everything subject to angels... But we see Jesus who for a while was made a little lower than the angels (became flesh) and who now is crowned with glory and honor, because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."
In much of today's Christian world there seems to continue to be an out of focus picture. Groups have made secondary elements the main thing and have lost their focus on the central subject . They have missed the picture of the grandchild, and have a fuzzy picture of the carpet.
Andre Hunter and I were in the parking lot experimenting with my baseball/birding binoculars a few weeks ago when a shiny new sport utility vehicle drove in and three young couples came piling out. Andre was telling them that they could not park there, but I saw potential customers and said we would make an exception for them. Then the leader began to grill me with a string of questions: "What do you believe about the rapture? When do you think the world will end? What about the year 2000? Do you Methodists believe in angels?"
Andre later agreed that I had done a good job of confusing then even more as they finally trailed up Peachtree Street for supper. Since I had been trying to perfect my binocular focus I had the thought that those folks seemed a little out of focus. They seemed a little like the first century Hebrews who had inadvertently taken their eyes off Jesus. Maybe some of us have unintentionally shifted our focus.
One of my favorite seminary professors was Claude Thompson. One reason I appreciated him was that he was not afraid to challenge the focus of the institution we all loved. And the Candler School of Theology loved him and heard his clarion call to always make Jesus the main element in our theologizing. He spoke out against the then popular "God is Dead Theology" which had been embraced by some. There was the overemphasis upon the "Social Gospel" at the expense of the grace of God in Christ. There were many other frayed and fragmented secondary notions that kept us from focusing on the main thing. Dr. Thompson shared in his classes one day that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and within months he was gone. At his funeral someone asked, who will stand up for Jesus now?" The Dean commented that "for Claude Thompson all of theology was Jesus Christ."
As we celebrate this World Communion Sunday around the Altar we share in symbolic reminders of Jesus' death upon the Cross for us. We are not sharing in bread of the rapture, or drinking fruit of angels, or praying in some unfounded fear about the end of the age. We are focusing, with Christians all around the globe, on the main thing, Jesus Christ.
We are forced to answer the same question the first century Hebrews were forced to ask, "How can we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Heb. 2:3, NIV).
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor