Your Key to Life
Your Key to Life
- Madonna said, ‘When I was growing up... Jesus Christ was like a movie star, my favourite idol of all.’
- Napoleon Bonaparte said, ‘I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man.’
- Novelist H.G. Wells said, ‘I am an historian, I am not a believer. But this penniless preacher from Galilee is irresistibly the centre of history.’
Even people who would not describe themselves as followers of the ‘penniless preacher’ recognise that there is something extraordinary about Jesus.
No one, not even angels, can compare to Jesus (Hebrews 1:1–14). If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. He said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). Everything you read and understand about God through the Bible needs to be read through the lens of Jesus. He is the ultimate revelation of God.
Your key to getting your life sorted out is Jesus. Your key to understanding the Bible is Jesus. Your key to understanding God’s character is Jesus. Your key to life is Jesus.
Jesus provides cleansing from our sinsPsalm 119:129-136
Reading the Bible is, in some ways, like looking in a mirror with a very bright light: ‘The unfolding of your words gives light’ (v.130a). The light reveals what is wrong with our life and what we need to have cleaned up. It reveals the things that cause a barrier between us and God.
This barrier was removed when Jesus provided cleansing for your sins. Through Jesus, you can be confident that God’s face will shine upon you (v.135).
Pray like the psalmist:
‘Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love
Direct my footsteps according to
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from human
that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine upon your
The psalmist’s prayer foreshadows the great act of Jesus in providing purification for sins. Through Jesus always turn to God with confidence knowing that he will have mercy, ‘as you always do to those who love your name’ (v.132).
Lord, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for your mercy. May no sin rule over me. Keep me from pride, anger, lust, greed, envy, prayerlessness, rivalry and all the other temptations of life. I pray that you would make your face shine upon me today.
Jesus is superior to angelsHebrews 1:1-14
Jesus is unique and he is all you need. As Eugene Peterson points out, you do not need Jesus-and-angels. You do not need Jesus-and-Moses. You do not need Jesus-and-priesthood. ‘This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons.’ All you need is Jesus.
The book of Hebrews is all about who Jesus is and how he is better and greater than any other being, teaching, or religious system. It opens with a comparison between Jesus and the Old Testament prophets. It explains the wonderful truth of how God spoke through the prophets, but then describes how Jesus is even better (vv.1–3). He is ‘the heir of all things’, he was involved in creation, he is the ultimate revelation of God, he is your sustainer, and he is your redeemer. The reason for all of this lies in who Jesus is.
Jesus ‘is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being’ (v.3). As The Message puts it, he ‘perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature.’
Jesus came to sort out our lives. ‘After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven’ (v.3b). Sitting down symbolises the fact that his work was finished (see also John 19:30).
There have always been people who can’t accept this truth. Today, some argue that Jesus was ‘just a great religious teacher’, and nothing more. In a similar way, at the time of this letter, some people were arguing that Jesus was ‘just an angel’. The writer of Hebrews says: ‘So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs’ (Hebrews 1:4). He then goes on to argue the superiority of Jesus over the angels.
There are nearly 300 references to angels in the Bible. What do we know about them?
In this passage we see that angels worship and serve God (vv.6–7). They are God’s messengers (v.7, MSG). They are spiritual beings who serve Christians (v.14). They ‘are sent to serve those who will inherit salvation’ (v.14).
Angels are nearer than you think. They guard and protect you God has given ‘his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11). For example, an angel strengthened Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Each church has one (Revelation chapters 1–3).
But Jesus is far greater. The writer of Hebrews sets out seven passages from Old Testament Scriptures to show the superiority of Jesus over the angels (Psalm 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalms 45:6–7; 102:25–27; 104:4; 110:1).
All these passages are the answer to anyone who says that Jesus was only an angel or (more likely today) a ‘great religious teacher’. The peak of the argument is in Hebrews 1:8, ‘About the Son he says, “Your throne, O God…”’ This is an outright ascription of divinity to Jesus. Jesus is the one whose identity is God.
Lord, thank you that you send angels to guard and protect us. Thank you that they serve us. But thank you even more for Jesus, who is far superior to all angels.
Jesus is the anointed MessiahLamentations 3:40-5:22
The writer of Lamentations says, ‘Let us lift up our hearts and our hands’ (3:41). The lifting of hearts and hands seem to go together in prayer. Raising hands in prayer is not eccentric or weird, it is the traditional form of prayer in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
The writer calls the people to pray and says, ‘Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God’ (v.40, MSG). This is an important discipline in a life of faith. Ask God to reveal if there are any areas of your life that you need to change.
If there are, then return to God in confession and repentance (v.42 onwards). Now you know that you will be forgiven and your relationship with God will be restored because of what Jesus has done for you. This passage, like so many others in the Old Testament, points forward to Jesus.
The writer of Lamentations says, ‘You, O Lord, reign for ever; your throne endures from generation to generation’ (5:19).
The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus: ‘“Your throne, O God, will last for ever… therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy”’ (Hebrews 1:8–9). Jesus is God’s anointed one – the Christ, the Messiah.
He is the one to whom all the Scriptures point. The people of God were expecting the Lord’s anointed. The writer of Lamentations speaks of ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (Lamentations 4:20). The Hebrew word for anointed one is ‘Meshiach’ from which we get the word Messiah. He goes on to say, ‘to you also the cup will be passed’ (v.21). Jesus spoke of the cup he would drink (Mark 10:38; John 18:11). Jesus was alluding to the cup of God’s wrath against sin.
God’s anger is not like ours. It contains no element of spite, pettiness or hypocrisy. It is the reaction of a holy and loving God towards sin. Passages like this help us to understand how serious our sin is in God’s sight and how amazing it is that, on the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of God for you and me.
The prophet sees that they are cut off from God by their sin: ‘You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through’ (Lamentations 3:44). This is the barrier that Jesus removed when he drank the cup of God’s wrath and provided purification for sins. This is the answer to the prayer of the writer of Lamentations when he prayed, ‘Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old’ (5:21).
Because of Jesus, the Anointed One and the one who drank the cup, God’s presence is no longer covered with a cloud, and your prayers can get through to him. You can lift up your heart and your hands to God. He will restore you and renew you.
Although there are many words about judgment in the Bible, they can be read through the lens of Jesus who revealed the true character of God and provided purification for your sins.
Father, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that I can know and understand who you are through Jesus. Thank you that the key to life is in Jesus.
‘In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire”’ (v.7).
‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ (v.14).
I have heard of unexplainable stories of rescue or remarkable intervention that may well have been angel. It is exciting to think there are angels flying around the world bringing help to those who need God.
Verse of the Day
‘In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…’ (Hebrews 1:1–2).
The Bible in One Year commentary is now available in book form. Available on amazon.co.uk
Robert P. Vande Kappelle, Truth Revealed: The Message of the Gospel of John - -Then and Now (WIPF & STOCK, 2014), p.xii.
Madonna, SPIN, May 1985.
Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 1986), p.127.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.