Wayne Gretzky, the famous, Canadian hockey player, is typically touted as “the great one.” Even if you don’t give a hoot about hockey, you can’t help but be amazed at some of the statistics he racked up. One thing that is simply amazing is that his professional hockey career spanned two decades. That alone is quite a feat.
But he has been labeled the greatest hockey player that has ever lived because there is no one who can even come close to comparing with him.
Our passage this morning continues to show the greatness of Jesus and how he is much more superior to the angels. And what we are going to look at this morning is how he is superior in terms of his Word and in terms of his Rule.
The first four verses of this chapter focus on the Word of Christ. Look at how it challenges us.
I. The word of Christ [1-4]:
It says, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Now, these words are drawing from the previous passage. Remember what Mark talked about last week. Mark reminded us that Jesus is greater than angels. And since this is so, how much more important is it for us to take heed to the things he has said?
This is developed more in the following verses. Verse 2 says, “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable.” Now he’s talking here about the OT law. The Jewish tradition believed that angels assisted in the process of delivering the law to Moses when he was atop Mount Sinai. And he goes on to say that every transgression of that law received a just retribution. In other words, that law was important, and if you broke it, that was a bad thing. You’d have to be punished if you did.
Now, he’s making an argument from the lesser to the greater. You have to understand it like this: if the Old Testament law was in fact true having come from God by his angels, and it was important to listen to it, how much more important is it to listen to the words of Christ? Christ reveals the truth in a fuller and more precise manner. He has more authority than those angels who gave you the law. So how much more attentive should we be to the words that he speaks and to the gospel that he reveals?
Let me give you a little comparison. You moms speak to your kids each day, and what you say is true. And your kids need to listen carefully to what you say because what you say is important and you have a great deal of authority. Your kids would get in trouble if they didn’t listen to you, right? But what if your dad says something? That should carry more weight. Why? It’s because he’s got more authority. He’s the head of the house and so what he says should be considered even more weighty than what mom says. Even if he says the same thing, it still that much more significant because of his office.
That’s what the writer here is saying. What the angels said in the OT is important. But what Christ says requires even more reverence of us.
And think about how great it is. It is not like what Christ says is so terrible. Look at verse three. It says, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.” That’s summarizing the essence of Christ’s message. What is it that he talked about? What words did he offer? He spoke of salvation! He proclaimed himself to be the way to the father and to everlasting life! Why would we ever want to ignore it?
I had a good illustration of this at the fair this past week. One day I was walking through the area where all the concession stands are lined up. And there was one concessionaire who was handing out free samples. I walked over and took one. I have to say that it was downright unbelievable! As soon as I put that in my mouth I understood why he was handing out the free samples. I’ve never experienced this before, but as soon as it touched my pallet, I wanted to turn around and go buy some. It was absolutely exquisite.
But you know what? Many people passed it on by. Even though it was so succulent, even though it was absolutely free, many people ignored the man and did not take him up on his offer.
What Jesus Christ offers though, is so much greater. He offers “so great a salvation.” He offers you the chance to be reconciled to God and life forever more with Him. He offers you a new body and eternal joy.
Does this not then obligate us to “pay much closer attention” to the words that he has spoken.
The first four verses which we have just looked at are important words. But they are something of a tangent to the author’s argument. He paused in those verses to give an important application and remind us how important it is to heed Christ’s word. But in verse 5 he returns to the main argument, that of showing how Christ is superior to the angels.
And I entitle this part “the rule of Christ.”
II. The rule of Christ [5-9]
That’s because he proceeds to talk about the dominion Christ has by virtue of his manhood. Last time we were together Mark spoke about Christ’s deity. We saw that Christ was superior to the angels because he was “very God of very God.” If there is one who is greater than angels, it is God, right?
Well, here in this portion of the Scripture the author shows how man is superior to the angels. You remember that in the opening chapter of Genesis God vested Adam with sovereignty over all the creation. He charged Adam to go and take dominion of the world that he had made.
And Psalm 8, the psalm that is quoted here in verses 6-8, deals with that creational mandate. It says, “What is man that you are mindful of him or the son of man that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything under his feet.”
Now, follow this line of argumentation: God made man his vice regent. Man was to rule and to subdue God’s creation. Well, angels are a part of that creation. So, even despite being “lower than the angels” comparatively speaking, man has been crowned with the honor of ruling even angels.
So no matter how great angels may be, God has put us in a position over them.
This past week we were at the fair and my family and I got to see one of the horse shows. It was fun to see, especially the draft horses. You can’t help but stand in awe of these beasts simply for the sake of their sheer size. They are behemoths. And they were majestic ones at that because they were all decked out. They came prancing in with their ribbons and bells and shining silver over their harnesses. The horses were adorned in such a way that they looked like they were ready to wisk a princess away to the ball.
But you know, it wasn’t the horse who got the blue ribbon. The ribbon went to the horse’s driver. His master might have been less majestic and much “lower” in terms of his strength, but he had dominion over the horse. So he was the greater one.
That’s how we view angels too. Even though we are “made lower than the angels”—even though we have less strength and less majesty than angels, we still have superiority by virtue of our dominion over them.
This of course is especially true when it comes to Christ’s superiority over the angels. Christ was man, so he is superior.
But you’ll notice that the passage goes on to talk about Christ’s redemptive work. It says, “but we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.”
Now, this is pointing out that Jesus is not just a man, but he is the fairest among men. He is the most supreme among the angels because he is the most supreme among men. Why is that? It is because of what he did to redeem them. He suffered and died in our place so that we may have eternal life. And the one who dies on behalf of another is most certainly the greatest by comparison.
This past week the Los Angeles Times reported that President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to two men who fought in Vietnam. Unfortunately, one of the men was not able to be present in the ceremony. Army Spc. Donald Sloat died in action in January of 1970. While patrolling an area the lead soldier tripped a hand grenade booby trap. The grenade rolled to the feet of Sloat. He bent down, initially intending to throw it away. But he realized there was no time for that. Knowing it was about to explode he threw himself upon it to protect the other three men who were on patrol with him.
Who was the greatest among those men? Which one of them deserved the distinguished Metal of Honor? It was the one who died in the place of the others.
In the same way Jesus is greatest among men. For he threw himself in the path of God’s wrath and took upon himself the curse of sin and death. And since he absorbed it on behalf of his people, he has the highest honors among us.
And what angel can begin to compare with that? An angel might be able to bring us a message from the Lord, but not one of them has done anything to repair our relationship with the Lord. And that is why he is vastly superior.
We might close by simply asking again the question that is found in verse 3: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” It is a great salvation. And all that is said here does show how foolish it would be to neglect it.
RA Torry preached what is one of my most favorite sermons on this verse. He does a great job of talking about what it means to neglect so great a salvation. In that message he reminds us what a great salvation it is. But he presses upon his audience the importance of believing and receiving Christ words. Torry rightly understood that there were many people who put off turning to Christ. They say, “Ahh, I’ll do it later.” He says that they are neglecting this salvation.
Torry then told the story of a news reporter from the Minneapolis Tribune who was caught in a burning building. The reporter heard that a fire had broken out a couple floors down. But instead of evacuating the building, he chose to stay in it and give reports. Every few minutes he would send a telegraph out to describe the state of the fire. The fire came to the second floor, but he did not leave. The fire came to the third floor, but he stayed right at his post. The fire escape beckoned for him, but he demurred. The fire came to the fifth floor, the floor that he was on, and finally he decided to escape. Unfortunately, it was too late. The fire had engulfed the fire escape. He decided to climb out his window, as it was the only available option. As the fires began to consume his office he sought further refuge by the wires that ran between the buildings. He thought that he might get to safety if he went hand over hand by it.. The people below gasped and pointed at the man’s perilous condition, until finally the inevitable happened. It was too much to hang on, and he tumbled to his death. All of this because of his neglect.
Men and women, you are in a burning building tonight, you are in a doomed world; but, thank GOD, there is a way of escape, and one way only, in CHRIST JESUS. No one knows how long that way will be left open. But I beg of you, do not neglect it, and then when it is too late lay hold on some poor wire of lame philosophy, and go a little way, and then let go and plunge, not six stories down, but on and on and on the awful unfathomable depths of the gulf of despair. Men and women, turn to CHRIST to-night!
Torry’s words still ring true today. May you see how great a salvation Christ offers and may you not neglect a single word of it.
 Christine Mai-Duc, Metal of Honor Awarded, Los Angeles Times. September 15, 2014
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.