One of the principles that was emphasized repeatedly during my seminary education was the importance of context. So often, when we read the scriptures, we don’t take time to get our bearings and develop even a rudimentary understanding of the setting in which our passage appears. We don’t clarify its cultural and historical roots. We don’t place it within the broader arc of God’s Story. Sometimes, we don’t even place it within the flow of the specific biblical book in which it appears; and as a result, we miss out on the fuller picture that the passage could paint for us.
Today’s New Testament reading (Hebrews 3:1-6) is a case in point. Sticking to the “assigned verses,” we read: “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest” (verse 1). Of course, the reminder that we should “fix our thoughts on Jesus” is a helpful one — and one that might encourage us, regardless of how well we contextualize it. But as a preacher I once knew used to say: “Whenever you see a ‘Therefore‘ in the Bible, you should stop to see what it’s ‘there for.'” And if we back up just a few verses, we find the reason that we should fix our thoughts on Jesus:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (2:14-18)
It is my sincere desire that all of us would fix our thoughts on Jesus today. But not just because He is worthy of our attention. No, I pray that we can fix our thoughts on Jesus because He has broken the powers of sin and death that enslave us. In a world that is all too familiar with darkness, He is able to make us light. And no matter what trials and temptations we might be facing, He has embraced and experienced our condition — and is therefore able to help us.
May you fix your eyes on Jesus today; and in so doing, may you discover that His face is turned toward you to grant you faith, hope, and victory.