Hebrews 1 “Angels of God”
Who is Jesus? If you ask that question in a mixed group, you may get many different answers. I was asked that question not too long ago as I was signing in to go swimming at the pool here in Waimea. The lifeguard Shea, just out of the blue, asked:” Hey Pastor, you should know this: Is Jesus God?”
“Yes,” I responded.
“That’s all?” Shea asked.
I have decided not to mix swimming and preaching. The two really are not conducive anyway. Although I will say that sometimes I do get ideas for preaching while I am swimming. It is hard to write them down just then.
The people of the world more than 2,000 years later still want to know the answer to this basic question: Who is Jesus?
If you ask a Muslim this question, they will say that Jesus was a prophet. If you ask a modern Jew, you might hear that Jesus was a great rabbi. A Buddhist might say that Jesus was an incarnation of Buddha. An atheist might say that Jesus was merely a carpenter’s son from Nazareth who lived two millennia ago.
Then, you go and ask a Christian this same question. “Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the anointed and resurrected one.”
This letter that we started by reading this morning was written to the early Jews of Rome within the first Century after Jesus’ death on the Cross. The question of who Jesus is was apparently being answered with the unique understanding that Jesus must have been an angel. He was in heaven with God, was sent down to earth to be with us, then performed great miracles that seem to be what an angel would do. The understanding was then that Jesus was therefore only really ever in the Spirit and not in the flesh. This of course was wrong and had to be addressed.
Was Jesus an angel? Ask Mother Mary! She will tell you for sure that Jesus was no angel. No joke intended! Angels are not born into the world. They are directly dispatched by God from heaven in all their heavenly glory. They do what they are assigned to do, then they are out of here.
Recently we had a little bitty mouse come visit us in the living room at the parsonage. It would stick its little noise out from under the furniture and then disappear again. If you tried to catch it by cornering it, you would be amazed at how this mouse could evade you. At one point Helen was sure that the mouse was in the ottoman, so she placed it outside on the lanai. Next thing you know, the mouse was up by the television set.
I got up and scared it into one corner of the living room. Suddenly it was gone. There was simply nowhere it could of gone but in the blink of an eye it had escaped. We looked all over the floor. Finally Helen looked up to see that the mouse had indeed ascended up screen door. He or she was truly an angelic mouse! Helen opened up the screen door and finally it jumped off to freedom outside.
That is exactly how we see angels manifesting themselves in the Holy Scriptures. You cannot pin them down. They cannot be captured. They always seem to disappear as fast as they appear. They have a message or a task, complete it, and head back to the realm of the angels. Let me just share with you Revelation 14:6-9 “Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven., with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation and tribe and language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give Him glory. For the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. . . .’”
This raises a sincere question: Would you or I even recognize an angel if one were present with us? I know what a mouse looks like, but what does an angel look like? The first angel in the Bible is technically the fallen angel named Satan who came in the form of a serpent to Adam and Eve. The second angels mentioned are the cherubim that God places at the gate to the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve out. Genesis 3:23-24 “therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Now I know that when we think of cherubs, we think of cute little winged babies. But, actually the bible has quite a different description of this angel. Let us look to the description in Ezekiel 1 that describes a cherub as having four faces, one of an ox, one of an eagle, one of lion, and one of a human. The angel had four wings and feet like hooves.
Yet, other angels in the Bible just seem to be regular folk like you and I. Three angels visit Abraham and he thinks they are just travelers passing through (Genesis 18).
Mary is confronted by the angel Gabriel, who seems quite normal in appearance. So, we can understand how the early Christians might have been confused about who Jesus was.
Our text for today says that angels are like winds (verse 7), they come and then the regular heat and humidity sets back in again. They can be just like that nice cool breeze you suddenly feel when you are sweating and hot. You realize that God’s presence is suddenly with you in a sticky situation.
The presence of Jesus in our lives is not like that at all. Jesus is always with us telling us to be calm, be kind, and be loving to one another—to have faith throughout all our days. Jesus did not just blow into town. He grew up as a human, knew us in person, and died for our sins. He lived with us. He died for us.
This last week there was a terrible mass shooting in San Jose. Nine people lost their lives needlessly. Why didn’t the angels of heaven come down to save those people from death? Why didn’t the angels tell those people not to show up that day? I am not sure, but that is why I do not put my faith in angels but rather in Jesus. Jesus conquered death already on the Cross—so even if I do get hit by a bullet tomorrow, I am safe with Jesus! (Verse 11) “They will perish, but you remain.”
In verse 13, but actually in 1-4 too, we read that Jesus is the likeness, the character, the reflection of God’s glory for us who sits at the right hand of God. In those days this meant that he shares all but equally with God’s absolute power.
In verse 9 we read already that Jesus has been anointed by God. This also means that he has gained that power from God. Which angel has ever been anointed? Jesus cannot be an angel for he has been anointed, that is Christos in the Greek, or Messiah in the Hebrew. Our text says that Jesus is now on the throne, holding the scepter. And, he was there at the Creation with God. So, in fact, Jesus was there when the angels were Created! The angels worship Him, not the other way around!
Going back to the lifeguard’s question, “Is Jesus God?” YES, Jesus is! And, if you want your life to be guarded, then know that to be the Truth. Are there others who have been sent by God? Sure. We have had teachers, and preachers, and prophets, and even angels, but there is only one Son of God, the very likeness of the Almighty that we can know personally through Jesus Christ.
Lastly, let me point out what will become a great theme for our sermon series on Hebrews: In angels there is no covenant. In Jesus there is the promise of the life everlasting through the forgiveness of sins. This is a new covenant that supercedes the old covenant. This is a promise made in the flesh and before God. WE are set to inherit salvation. That is the line at the end of today’s scripture. WE are all going to be like the angels in heaven. That is the promise here: “Are not all angels, spirits in the divine service, sent to serve.. . .?”