4th Sunday after Epiphany
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, how easily do you get distracted? A ring, a buzz, a new text message, a phone call, a chime for a new email in your inbox, a ding for a new facebook post, forget about what you were doing and the attraction, the alluring, the captivation of whatever it is, you have to find out, you need to know, and…you’re distracted. Driving down the road focused on where you need to be going, oh but wait, what’s that sign there? That must be a new sign, I’ve never seen that before or, oh, that looks like so-and-so’s car I wonder where they’re going and …you missed your turn, you were distracted. And this one, an especially favorite of mine, my wife will be talking, telling me about something really, really important and all of sudden I see a book on the table and I begin to think, “Oh, that’s where that book is, I’ve been looking all over for that, I wonder how that ended up there, I better grab that and I was at a really good spot in that book, what was that point the author was making again” and…distracted…and my wife says, “Are you listening to me?? Did you hear what I just said?” “Umm, oh yeah, could you repeat that?” J Someone actually studied this whole thing about distractions and decided that an average office worker gets distracted every 11 minutes and it takes 25 minutes to get back on task, if at all. Wow! We live in a world of distractions, don’t we? How easily are you distracted?
It’s one thing to be distracted with our work or while we’re driving or when we’re in a conversation with someone, but, it’s a whole different matter when we’re distracted from our God and Savior. And the truth is, it can easily happen.
In fact, it was something that was happening to the Hebrew Christians to whom our text was written. We’re not sure which apostle wrote this letter to the Hebrews but it seems that he was writing to Hebrew Christians who lived in Rome. They were beginning to face more and more trouble and persecutions for being Christians. And it seems that they were being tempted to abandon their Christian faith, abandon Christ and revert back to their Jewish faith. And so the book of Hebrews shows how Jesus is the one to whom all the Old Testament pointed and how Jesus is far superior to all these great leaders of the Old Testament. The book began as the writer showed how Jesus is superior to the angels. Then in chapter 2 he described how Jesus became a true human being so that he could be the ultimate high priest and make the ultimate sacrifice by dying for our sins on the cross and thereby destroying him who holds the power of death – that is the devil. He showed how Jesus successfully faced every temptation in his life and offers the help we need for the temptations we face.
And so, he says, “Therefore” in other words, because of all of this, “holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” Literally the word means “direct your whole mind to Jesus” “rivet your attention to Jesus” “think carefully about Jesus” “Look very closely at Jesus.” Why? Because He is the apostle and high priest whom we confess. This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus is called an “apostle.” But it makes sense. An “apostle” was literally someone who is “sent out” by someone else. Well, clearly, Jesus was “sent out” by God into this world as the final word from God to sinful humanity. God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. And Jesus is also our “high priest.” In the OT it was the high priest’s job to represent the people to God. He would do this by making sacrifices for them to God. But Jesus is the high priest par excellence. He didn’t just present a bull or a lamb sacrifice to God, He represented the entire world before God and laid Himself down as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. So, God says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus!”
If you were to ask one of these 1st Century Jewish Christians who their hero was, it would be easy for them to say, “Moses.” Moses is actually mentioned some 80 times in the NT, more than any other OT person. What we need to understand is that the Jewish people held Moses up and highly honored him. Which was fine in and of itself. Moses was a great leader, he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he led them throughout their wanderings in the wilderness for forty years, he prayed to God and God sent manna to miraculously feed them, we’re told that he would speak with God like a man speaks with his friend. Moses was a great and faithful leader. Some Jews even took Moses too far. Like when the Jews were stoning the first NT martyr Stephen they accused him of blaspheming God…and Moses. In other words, putting Moses on the same plain as God! Some held that Moses was greater than the angels.
So, the writer to the Hebrews tells them, it’s not that Moses was bad, he was faithful in God’s house, His group of believers, it’s just, Jesus is far greater than Moses. While Moses was part of God’s house, Jesus built the house! In fact, Jesus built everything, He built the whole world! A house is a great thing, but a house didn’t just spring up from the ground. There was a builder who designed and built that house. That builder gets far more credit than the house because the house wouldn’t be there had the builder not built it. Moses was part of the house, he was a member of God’s household, part of God’s church, but Jesus is not only the foundation on which the house, the church is built, Jesus is the one who built it. And finally why is Jesus greater than Moses? Yes Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house, but this is why he was faithful, he was faithful because he “testified to what would be said in the future.” In other words, he simply relayed God’s Word to the people, he directed people to the promised Savior who would come after him, to Jesus. We saw an example of that in our first lesson for this morning where Moses said that God would raise up a Prophet who would speak God’s Word to the people. He was talking about Jesus. Jesus wasn’t just a servant in God’s house, he’s the Son with authority over God’s house. Jesus didn’t just speak the words God gave Him, the very words Jesus spoke are God’s Word. When Jesus spoke people were amazed at His teaching, when Jesus spoke demons had to run and flee.
So God was encouraging the Hebrews here: Don’t get distracted, don’t get focused on the wrong thing, don’t even begin to think that Moses is greater than Jesus. Fix your thoughts on Jesus! Hold on to your courage and the eternal hope you boast in. Don’t lose your focus!
And that’s God’s message for us too, isn’t it? There are plenty of things in my life that can distract my attention away from Jesus. For the Hebrews it was the trials and troubles they were going through, it was even something good, like Moses, who was beginning to become more important to them to Jesus. That’s also true in our lives. When I’m distracted from Jesus, something else is more important in my life than Him. What is it in my life that I am giving greater honor to than Jesus? The devil loves to get us focused on the wrong things: like selfishness, complaining, anger, bitterness, grudges – and those things have a way of consuming us and becoming the focus our attention. And it’s not always that what we get focused on is inherently wrong. Moses wasn’t wrong, the problem was he was becoming more superior to the Hebrews than Jesus. There’s plenty of things in our lives that aren’t “wrong.” It’s not wrong to have a hobby, it’s not wrong to have a job, It’s not wrong to have a family, it’s not wrong to watch TV, it’s not wrong to go ice fishing, or to surf the internet, or go out to eat. Those aren’t wrong. But here’s a really simple but profound statement when it comes to our time management: We have time for what’s important to us. It’s true. Now imagine that someone charted your week or mine and the things that we spent our time on. Do you think they would come away with a pretty good idea of what’s important to us? I’m thinking so. But, here’s the searching question: would the answer be obvious that it’s Jesus and our relationship with Him first and foremost?
If we’re honest with ourselves we all have to admit that: we’ve been distracted, we haven’t kept our focus, we haven’t fixed our eyes on Jesus. We’ve sinned. And in the OT those who didn’t listen to Moses did not survive, what about us who haven’t focused on the one far superior to Moses, Jesus!?
Fixing our thoughts on us, on our sins, on this world or the things of this world will never give us an answer to the greatest question of our lives: our sins. The only answer to what we need the most is found in one place, the greatest place, one person, the greatest person: your Savior and mine: Jesus, the Savior. That’s why we fix our thoughts on him.
So, fix your thoughts on Jesus who is greater than Moses, greater than us all, because he is truly God and the builder of all things. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who humbled himself to also become man and live among us. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who not only lived under the laws Moses gave, but kept every one perfectly because we couldn’t. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who was beaten and battered and bruised for you. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who was pinned to a tree for you. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who carried all your sins as he suffered hell for you. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who cried out, “It is finished,” as he paid for all your sins. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who rose triumphant from the grave so that because he lives you also will live. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who has given you a new and holy life, a life you can live to serve him in everything you do. Fix your thoughts on Jesus who comes to you in worship in Word and Sacraments to remind you that though you have sinned and though you are unworthy, he still forgives you. Fix your thoughts on Jesus whom you soon will see face to face for all eternity in heaven.
So do you want to battle sinful thoughts and sinful distractions? Do you want less craziness, worry, anxiousness in life? Want to live a new and better life? Want to know that all your sins are completely forgiven and the heaven is your free gift? Then fix your thoughts on Jesus.