A. Why is the Christian Life So Hard?
B. Limping towards the Finish Line
C. A Field Trip to Zion
D. Zion Revisited
II. Why is the Christian Life So Hard
A. Preacher responds to congregations bewilderment re. hardships of Christian life
1. Remember the Example of Jesus - Jesus suffered but endured on his way to ultimate victory
2. Provides a framework of meaning for their suffering - uses analogy of parents disciplining their children. Why should we think of God's strict rod of correction as a good thing?
a. Sure sign we are God's children - only children who go undisciplined are unloved
b. We can recognize God's pattern from our own family upbringing - as we grow into adulthood we can recognize the wisdom of our parents' discipline
c. End result of God's discipline is worth the pain - grow up to be more like God
B. Important to note Preacher makes no claim that all suffering comes from God as punishment
III. Limping Towards the Finish Line
A. Preacher uses analogy of marathon runner - something I can relate to:)
1. Preacher isn't talking about elite runners at the front of the race
2. Rather, he is talking about the recreational athletes at the back of the pack
a. "God's race is not the Olympics; it is the Special Olympics, and runners who are 'lame', that is encumbered in so many ways are encouraged to get out on the track and to 'make straight paths for your feet'" (Long, p.135)
b. Must run through pain...leads to healing. Staying on sideline just makes the injury worse.
3. Runners at the back of the pack look out for each other. If someone gets hurt, they stop to help. It's not about your time; its about your experience during the race.
a. Preacher says Christians should be like runners at the back of the race...looking out for them.
b. "We are to try to make peace to the best of our ability with everyone in the community and act towards others in the everyday relationships of life in the holy ways of mercy and justice that we have seen in Jesus." (Long, p. 135)
B. Preacher now brings up Esau
1. Calls him 'morally corrupt'.
2. Short term focus - cost him his birthright
3. Preacher is telling them - finish the race. Don't let the temporary pain distract you from your goal.
4. Running buddy's favorite saying, "Pain is temporary, pride is forever."
IV. A Field Trip to Zion
A. Preacher uses popular and successful marketing strategy to sell people on continuing down the path to Mt. Zion (new covenant) - Describes Mt. Zion in detail allowing congregants to picture it in their mind...paradise
B. Also describes Mt. Sinai (old covenant) - fearsome place. Human beings come to Mt. Sinai as perpetually unclean sinners. Thus, holiness of God at Mt. Sinai is terrifying.
C. Preacher reminds them of the good news. They're not at Mt. Sinai, they're at Mt. Zion. What do they find?
1. City of the Living God
2. Citizens of the city are angels and 'firstborn', those who have gone on to their glory before them
3. The Judge and the Acquitted
4. Jesus and the Sprinkled Blood - "On Mt. Zion, by contast, there is the 'sprinkled blood' of Jesus offered 'once for all', blood that purifies the 'conscience from dead works to worship the living God." (Long, p.139)
V. Zion Revisited
A. God of Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion are one and the same; holy and awe-full, a purifying fire of perfect judgment.
B. Further surprises - there is only one mountain with two paths. Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion are one and the same, the dwelling of the holy God.
C. "What makes the difference is not the destination, but the path; Mt. Sinai is transformed into Mt. Zion--if we go there with Jesus." (Long, p. 140)
Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible – The Letter to the Hebrews. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002
Harrison, Everett F. Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville: John Knox Press, 2008
Long, Thomas G. Hebrews, Interpretation – A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997