The Unchangeable Christ: A Reflection on Hebrews 13
By Matt Wireman
We heard this past week from our friend, Jamie Barrett, who serves with Chosen People International, from our final chapter in Hebrews. I love to grow and become better than I was yesterday. All of life is about learning and changing and becoming more like Jesus. Because I want to constantly get better, there can be a tendency to get discouraged if I stare too long at where I am in comparison to where I want to be—as a child of God, a husband, a dad.
Seeded within this passage of Scripture is this reminder that we are all on a path to know and love and resemble Christ more and more. Specifically, vv.7 and 8 make a connection that I believe is key in understanding this entire passage. But before we get there, it is important to note that this growth in godliness is the impetus for a litany of exhortations. After demonstrating for chapter upon chapter of Jesus’ superiority to all other ministrations of God’s grace, it’s as if the author of Hebrews sees his parchment drawing to an end and he’s heaping exhortation after exhortation: “Oh, but lemme say this. Oh, and that. Oh, and don’t forget! Oh, oh, oh!” It’s like the phone call is ending and he knows he won’t get to talk to these beloved and persecuted brothers and sisters until they meet again in glory.
- Let brotherly love continue
- Do not neglect to love the stranger
- Remember those in prison
- Let marriage be held in honor and the marriage bed be undefiled
- Keep your life free from love of money
- Remember your leaders
- Consider and imitate their faith
- Do not be led away by heresies
- Let us go outside the gate (the comfortable, the easy, the rote) and pursue the difficult way of self-denial
- Let us offer a sacrifice of praise
- Do not neglect to do good and to share with others
- Obey your leaders
- Pray for us
- Bear with my word of exhortation
- Greet everyone with love
Verse 7 tells the believers to “remember your leaders” and “consider the outcome of their faith” and “imitate their faith”. But then he says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (v.8). What a strange, seemingly non sequitur. At first glance, it just seems like a nice sentiment or tautology, like “God is good.” While true, it doesn’t make a lot of sense just sticking out there, does it? As someone who is serving Redeemer, this is a reminder that while I aim for my life and faith to be imitable, it is ever and only Jesus who is constant.
How many of us have been failed by leaders? How many of us have expected a different decision? How many of us have looked askance at something done or said by a leader? Inevitably, leaders will fail us.
This is informative for two reasons: First, the only one that was ever meant to meet our expectations (and exceed them!) is Jesus. This is why the author puts this reminder that Jesus is the only one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Second, because of Jesus’ constancy, we can be assured of growth in our own lives and love for God. We will stumble and struggle. Life will not go the way we’d like. The ships of our lives will take on much water and be on the verge of sinking. We will have to trim the sails. And yet, we lash ourselves to the mast of God’s faithfulness to redeem us on Calvary and then on that final Day when Christ returns in glory and finality. When our eyes of faith see him for how he truly is. Ever and only the same, with no shifting or changing or failing.