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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: A Great Cloud of Witnesses

The Bible says “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” Are the biblical saints of old watching us live our lives like characters in a bad reality TV show?

Hebrews 11 presents the Bible’s hall of fame of faith: The book of faith and hope. The writer of the book of Hebrews refers to the biblical saints as “a great cloud of witnesses.” What does that term imply? Study Hebrews 12:1-4.

To hear more teachings from Hebrews 11, listen to “The Book of Faith and Hope.”

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Forty-one: A Great Cloud of Witnesses
Originally presented on February 1, 2014
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin…

Hebrews 12:1-4 (NASB)

In last week’s sermon review, Lancaster blew through Hebrews 11 faster than I imagined, especially given how detail-oriented he’s been in addressing the other chapters so far. Of course, he’s devoted an entirely different sermon series to that one chapter, but I’ll have to listen to those fourteen sermons another time.

This week the focus is on how Chapter 11 affects the current material, namely Hebrews 12:1-4, but let’s stay with Chapter 11 for a little bit longer, particularly verse 2:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.

The New American Standard Bible translates the Greek word martus as “approval” and other English translations include “commended,” “their commendation,” “good report,” and “testimony.” The best word we could use in English though is “witness.”

legal witnessLancaster goes through the original meaning of this word which is where we get the English word “martyr.” Today, we all think of a martyr as someone who dies for his or her religion, but back when the Epistle to the Hebrews was being written, it meant a witness in a legal proceeding. You might think of the early believers being taken before a Roman tribunal and directed to renounce their faith, blaspheme the name of Jesus, and to worship a pagan idol. The actual testimony of the believing witness, if they were true to their faith, was to affirm their trust in Messiah and belief in the coming resurrection and Kingdom of God. The consequence for that affirmation was to be executed, hence the eventual change in meaning of the word “martyr” (so, no, some suicide bomber blowing himself up to kill a bunch of innocent people is not a “martyr”).

The readers of the Hebrews letter were in a similar position, but not relative to the Romans. The Sadducees, who were in control of the Temple, were after these Jewish disciples of the Master to renounce their faith in the resurrection and the life in the world to come, since Sadducees believed in none of that (see Acts 23:6-8).

This has applications for us today as disciples. First of all, the “witness” of our faith in terms of Evangelical Christianity is not really a witness at all. A bunch of teens from a church youth group ambushing people at a shopping mall with religious tracts is not a witness. Being a witness is being directly challenged to renounce your faith and yet holding fast to it anyway.

There are many Christians in atheist nations like China or in various Muslim countries who are witnesses, who can only save themselves from being put in prison or killed if they renounce their faith and, like the ancient believers before Roman tribunals, they hold fast and faithfully suffer and even die rather than betray Yeshua.

Compared to that, no one in the western nations, including the U.S., has their witness challenged significantly.

Or is that true?

Lancaster says our challenges are much more subtle:

  • Embarrassment
  • Social pressure
  • Moral relativism
  • Materialism
  • Sensuality
  • Self-indulgence

The world around us attempts to get us to renounce our faith by encouraging us to conform to progressive and politically correct standards. In fact, this manipulation is so subtle that you don’t even have to stop calling yourself a “Christian,” you can continue to go to church (at least certain denominations), and yet still conform to every single standard valued by progressive secular society.

michaelsonI couldn’t help but think of Jay Michaelson’s book God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality and the methods he employed to convince his readers that his understanding of the Bible, one that affirms and supports “loving same-sex couples” and “marriage equality” in the church and synagogue, is the correct and desired one.

If you remove the strong emotional components from the Michaelson book and look at it in terms of strategies and tactics, then it’s possible to view a parallel between the content of the book and what Lancaster says about how the Adversary seeks to remove, dilute, or delete our witness as Christians, to convince us to denounce Jesus so we can be just like everyone else.

Lancaster said in his sermon that one witness to our faith is lifelong, male-female, monogamous marriage, and he says the world laughs at this witness. Besides the issues involved in Michaelson’s book, how many couples, even Christian couples, have sexual relationships before marriage or outside of marriage, and have children outside of marriage? This is something of the norm in secular society and it seems the only people who actually want to get married are gays and lesbians, and that only because it’s still illegal in a dwindling number of states in our nation.

The world does work against us in many ways, challenging us, and demanding a witness to our faith. We need to look back to Hebrews 11, which is all about the many, many role models we have to look up to who were also challenged and yet never wavered:

…and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:36-40

If we think we have problems living Holy lives, look at the people, in this case, the prophets of old, who suffered, were tortured, murdered, lived desperate and difficult lives, and all of them who had gained a good witness of their faith, even though they did not receive anything they were promised by God, so that we too could be included in the promises of the future resurrection.

What Did I Learn?

The sufferings of the faithful we read about in Chapter 11 were their witness, their faith testified about them and still does every time we read the Bible. The “great cloud of witnesses” doesn’t mean the saints are sitting around in Heaven spying on our lives as if we’re part of a bad reality TV show. They aren’t witnessing us, their lives are a witness to us.

long-distance-runnerWe are like runners in a race. Those faithful witnesses have already run that race and won. We are still facing the challenges they overcame. They are our heroes and our guides. Their lives are our inspiration.

The central message of the sermon is “Don’t give up. You aren’t alone. Others have crossed the finish line — you can too.”

When my kids were young, we used to watch a variety of different cartoons including one about a group of martial artists who trained in weighted clothing in order to increase their strength.

Verse one of Hebrews chapter 12 says, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance (weight) and the sin which so easily entangles us…” If you’re going to run a race and your life, your eternal life, depends on successfully crossing the finish line, you need to be as light and strong as you can. “Weighted clothing” or the weight of sin will just slow you (and me) down. We need to endure because it’s a long race, not a sprint. And there are many “stumbling blocks” along the way, which is why we need to keep our eye on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith.”

No one’s perfect. No one’s faith is perfect, but then again, it doesn’t have to be. We are broken, just like the world around us, but the perfecter of the world is also the perfecter of our faith. If we keep our eyes on him, we don’t need to be perfect, we just need to keep paying attention and not to waver.

That bullet point list I posted above is a list of items designed to distract us and to change our focus. If we start paying attention to all that and let our attention wander, it’s easy to become very discouraged and even to give up. Even if we don’t think we’ve given up, it’s easy to slip into some model of “Christianity” that says we’re doing the right thing by ignoring the standards of God, difficult as they seem to be, and embracing the standards of people and of the culture in which we live. We may still believe we’re part of the “community of faith” and that we are doing good and showing compassion, but in fact, we have exited Yeshua-faith and joined the ranks of a faithless society more concerned about present appearances than future and eternal glory.

burdenA life of faith seems to be very weighty sometimes. I’ve felt it pressing down on me, and often the tonnage seems triggered by religious rather than secular people. But they can really do nothing if faith is strong. If you feel discouragement and are tempted to give up or even just lighten up, don’t blame the world, look to your own heart, your own faith, and your own stamina. Call on God to strengthen you and to see you through to the end of the race.

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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Ten Testimonies

In the first two chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer of the epistle employs ten proof texts drawn from the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings to make his case that Messiah is more exalted than angels. In this teaching, D. Thomas Lancaster connects the dots between the ten passages to reveal the larger message. A fun exploration of apostolic methods of Bible interpretation.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Six: Ten Testimonies
Originally presented on February 2, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

Each of Lancaster’s sermons about Hebrews seems to have a different emphasis, sometimes radically different. Last week, we focused on a Judaic study of Christology, if we can say there is such a thing. This week, we use the “midrashic method of Bible study,” as Lancaster says, to prove a simple statement: Messiah is greater than the angels.

Actually, Lancaster’s explanation for the distinction between how Christians do Bible study and how Rabbinic Judaism approaches the same task is worth the price of admission alone. It’s the reason (or one of them) why I’m doing a review on the Meaning of Midrash, humble though it may be, based on a series written by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. It’s not just the way religious Jewish people study the Bible, it is, according to Lancaster, the way the Bible was studied in the Apostolic era; it’s the way that the writer of the Book of Hebrews wrote the Book of Hebrews.

Thus, in order to understand the Book of Hebrews, we need not only to understand something about midrashic Bible study, but we need to apply that method when we read the Book of Hebrews. Otherwise, we’re going to sail right past the meaning and come up with (probably) some pretty goofy conclusions.

This is also why many, many Christians Pastors and scholars, people who are very smart, well-educated, and well-read can be firmly convinced, based on educated and rational grounds, that they know what the Book of Hebrews is saying and yet still (probably) be very, very wrong.

I should note at this point that the very first person to comment on part one of my “Reviewing the Meaning of Midrash” blog post took Christianity/Messianic Judaism to task, rather severely so, for our use of Rabbinic commentary to “prove” Yeshua was Messiah and that Messiah was/is Divine. I can only conclude that any further mention of Midrash from a Christian (me) is going to be viewed unfavorably among Jewish people. I mean no offense, though I understand (to the best of my ability) why you experience offense from me. However, this is the only way I can say what I’m trying to say right now.

Be that as it may…

This kind of goes back to what I said in The Two-Thousand Year Old Christian Mistake. If the most fundamental foundation by which we understand the Bible and our Christian faith is in error, then our theological and doctrinal conclusions are also very likely to be in error. In fact, it’s by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit that the Christian Church continues to serve God just as, I believe, observant Judaism continues to serve God, even though most Jewish people do not currently recognize the Messiah’s face or voice.

So what is the “midrashic method of Bible study” according to Lancaster?

    1. A Rabbinic dissertation or midrash attempts to solve some sort of identified “problem” or topic in the Bible.
    2. The solution is stated and then a series of proof texts are presented to support the solution.
    3. The proof text references assume that the audience has memorized large portions of the Bible, since typically only a short phrase or sentence from each proof text is presented.
    4. Keyword associations are used to link the proof texts whereby portions of scripture are deconstructed and then reconstructed to create new meanings (which can be terrifically unsafe).

And this is how Lancaster says that the Bible was studied in Apostolic times. If he’s right, then the traditional methods of Bible study we employ in our churches are nowhere near what is required to understand the apostolic texts including the Book of Hebrews.

Some of you think that’s a big “if.”

Talmud Study by LamplightLancaster presented ten proof texts along with their explanations and yes, they’re very involved. It would make a very long blog post if I were to try to replicate his commentary here, plus it would be very unfair, since such a detailed review might make it unnecessary for you to actually listen to his sermon.

Here’s the goal of these proof texts again: To prove the Son, that is Messiah, is superior to the angels…not necessarily in the world today, but in the world to come.

…having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

Hebrews 1:4 (NASB)

You’re probably thinking of Philippians 2:9-10 where it says, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,” but according to Lancaster, you’d be wrong. The inherited name is the “Son of God.”

How do we know this? Start in Psalm 2.

Like I said, it would take a lot of space and be very complicated to go through all of these connections and compress a nearly fifty minute sermon into a few paragraphs (OK, more than “a few”).

But Lancaster uses the Rabbinic associative method to link Psalm 2 to 2 Samuel 7 where it speaks both literally of Solomon and prophetically of Messiah, Son of David, building a house, which can be both a house and a family or congregation.

The linkage got kind of tricky when we arrived at the third text Deuteronomy 32:43, because the writer of Hebrews used an alternate version found only in the Septuagint, and almost all of our Bibles use the Masoretic text. However, the quote references the joy of both the Jewish people and the Gentiles, which is important later in the study and important in general.

D. Thomas LancasterIt also speaks of the angels worshiping Messiah, which connects to the fourth text, Psalm 104 quoted in Hebrews 1:6. Lancaster was speaking fast and furious, so it was tough to take notes on everything he said (his speaking notes would be a great download to offer with the recording for people like me). This point goes back to point two when it speaks of a Throne and a Kingdom forever and is echoed in text five, which is Psalm 45, Solomon’s wedding song. This is also a Messianic prophesy since it addresses the Son of David. It also speaks of the Throne and the Scepter.

An apparent contradiction is revealed since Hebrews 1:10-11 states everything that God has made, both Heaven and Earth, will be destroyed so that only God remains, but the sixth proof text, Psalm 102 tells us that Hashem’s Throne will last forever, even when everything else perishes, as is stated in verse 12. Verse 18 of this Psalm says the words were recorded for a future generation, which Lancaster says is us, we who are servants and children who will also be eternal with God.

Proof text seven is Psalm 110 and the key in this scripture is not just that Messiah is sitting at God’s right hand but that the Throne we have been referencing is God’s Throne and is also the Throne of Messiah, which is how Messiah’s Throne can be forever.

The next referenced text is Psalm 8 which is quoted in Hebrews 2:5 and speaks of all things subjugated to the Son, but this is not apparent now because we are reading about the age to come.

Text nine is Psalm 22 which is the classic prophesy of the suffering and crucifixion of the Son. Verse 22 says the Son has brothers and verse 23 identifies some of those brothers, the congregation as “you who fear the Lord,” which is taken to mean God-fearing Gentiles. Verse 24 follows up with identifying the offspring of Jacob, the Jewish people also as that congregation.

While Psalm 22 says that God has not hidden his face from Messiah, the tenth proof text, Isaiah 8 says God has hidden his face, in this case, speaking of the current exile of the Jewish people…but the exile will not last forever.

The conclusion of the lesson ties everything up, but you need to listen to the sermon to get Lancaster’s summarized points in his own voice along with all of the details I had to leave out of my review. However, the big point, like in the last couple of sermons, is that the original audience of Hebrews as well as we modern readers, should place our hope and faith in Messiah, so that we will become part of the body of his servants, of his children, his congregation, and be built up into a house for Hashem.

What Did I Learn?

As I mentioned above, it wasn’t just Lancaster’s whirlwind tour of the Bible that I found illuminating, it especially was the method he used to open up the scriptures. I won’t pretend that there aren’t a lot of pitfalls, trap doors, and sinkholes in employing this method, especially when traveling at rocket-like speed through different parts of the Bible, but if indeed we can say this replicates how the apostles and disciples would have understood the New Testament (or all scriptures) in general and Hebrews in specific, then there are also many definite advantages.

Glasses on Open BibleAs I’ve said previously, this isn’t going to sit well with people who are used to studying the Bible through normative Christian processes. It’s not that Christians don’t have a rich and well-defined scholarly approach to Bible study, but the premise upon which Christianity builds that study may not lead down the path of the original author’s intent and what the original audience, especially a first century Greek-speaking Jewish audience, would have heard.

But what about the guidance of the Holy Spirit? I’ve said before that the Holy Spirit can guide us, but I don’t think He will overwrite our free will. If we are determined not to see a particular perspective, even if the Spirit is pointing our nose right at it, then we won’t see it. We have the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit, but we also have free will and the desire to confirm what we think we already know, rather than (sometimes) learn what God really has to say to us, especially if it is unexpected or contrary to long held belief and tradition.

As I also said above, this re-enforces my desire and intent to review the Midrashic approach to scripture as presented by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman and Chabad.org. That doesn’t mean that everything R. Freeman teaches and everything the Chabad believes completely or even greatly meshes with the study on Hebrews, but at least gaining some additional familiarity with how Rabbinic interpretation works, especially if indeed this is how Hebrews is written, may well give those of us who don’t have the benefit of a classic Jewish education a bit of a leg up.

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Solomon’s Porch

At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.

Acts 5:12 (NASB)

Sermon Three: Solomon’s Porch
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

In this third sermon on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship teacher D. Thomas Lancaster expands on why the writer of the Book of Hebrews constructed this word of exhortation to the letter’s recipients and further identifies them as Jewish disciples of Messiah living in or around Jerusalem sometime in the early 60s CE (common era).

Where did the first Christians go to church?

This is how Lancaster started his sermon. He says the question is nonsensical because the first Christians were actually Jews. They didn’t go to church because the modern concept of “church” didn’t exist. Neither did the modern concept of “Christianity.” The first Christians were Jews and they practiced Judaism. As you saw in the quote at the top of the page, the first Jewish believers commonly met in an area on the east side of the Temple called Solomon’s Colonnade.

Lancaster speculates that, because of the prophesy in Zechariah, saying the Messiah would descend upon the Mount of Olives and enter the Temple through the eastern gate, the disciples met there in anticipation, since the Mount of Olives was plainly visible from Solomon’s Colonnade.

Then Lancaster diverted his sermon, taking the audience back in time twenty years or so, recalling a conversation he had with his Father who had been a Baptist minister. Somehow, they got to talking about the Book of Hebrews and his Father, remember, this was twenty years ago, twenty years before Lancaster thought of producing this sermon series on Hebrews, commented on Hebrews 13:22:

But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.

Thirteen chapters is hardly brief and in fact, Hebrews is one of the longest epistles in the New Testament. Lancaster’s father suggested that Hebrews was originally written in two parts: a longer sermon intended to be delivered to a Jewish audience and a shorter letter accompanying the sermon as an explanation.

That’s pretty much was Lancaster suggested in last week’s sermon.

Lancaster’s father said something else rather interesting. He said he thought that Hebrews was written to a group of believing Jews who had been kicked out of the Temple and who didn’t know what to do next. This was a group of Jews who, if they renounced Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, would be allowed to return to the Temple. Hebrews then, was a letter and a word of consolation to those Jews to not give up their faith but to hold fast to their devotion to Messiah.

Traditional Christian teaching about the Book of Hebrews states that the epistle was a warning to believing Jews to not “backslide” into Judaism and return to Temple worship, so the senior Lancaster’s suggestion was the exact opposite of how most of the Church understands the meaning of Hebrews.

But Lancaster’s Dad’s interpretation has several advantages, according to the younger Lancaster:

    1. It doesn’t anachronistically require a fully-developed Christian identity that is separated from the normative Judaisms of the mid-first century CE.
    2. It doesn’t require that Jesus abolish the Torah or the Levitical system.
    3. It better explains the arguments within Hebrews (which will be covered in subsequent sermons).
    4. It fits much better with what we know about the early Jewish believers and their relationship with the Temple.

The Early Jewish Believers and the Temple

This part of the sermon fits within the realm of established fact as we see in the scriptures and doesn’t require any speculation. It does require setting aside traditional Christian doctrine about the early “Jewish Christians” and taking the scriptural text, primarily in Acts, at face value.

levites-aaronic-blessingWhat was the relationship of the early believing Jews to the Temple? They revered it, just as their Master Jesus revered the Temple.

Lancaster covered those portions of the Gospels that demonstrated Jesus’ devotion to the Temple, his first recorded appearance there as a boy to debate the scholars, evicting the moneychangers, calling the Temple “my Father’s house,” and so on. You can listen to the recording to get the details, including how Jesus, when he returns, will rebuild the Temple and reinstitute the Temple services.

After the ascension, the disciples returned to the Temple. They may have received the Spirit while praying at the Temple (Acts2). Acts 2:46 mentions their presence at the Temple. Acts 3:1-3 speaks of the disciples participating in prayer services at the Temple. And Acts 5:42 asserts that the disciples were in the Temple daily teaching and preaching of the Messiah.

It is strongly believed in normative Christianity that the disciples must have given up the Temple sacrifices since Jesus fulfilled them all, and yet Acts also speaks of many Priests in the Temple coming to faith in Messiah because of the devotion of the disciples. According to Lancaster, these Priests didn’t give up their jobs and stop administering the sacrifices, but rather, found greater meaning in their Priestly duties, seeing Messiah’s blood in each of their services.

In fact, the only occasions on which the disciples were accused of speaking against the Temple, were when they were accused by false witnesses. The trial of Stephen before the Sanhedrin is an example, and Stephen took a full chapter in Acts to deny and refute the false accusations.

Lancaster also points out that the Bible never, ever says that the disciples stopped offering the sacrifices. This would have been a big deal and if it were so, you’d think Luke would have mentioned it. It’s assumed by most Christians that the Jewish disciples stopped offering Temple sacrifices based on doctrines that were much later established by the Christian church, not because it says so in the Bible.

If we look at Acts 24:17 and the surrounding text, we can see how, thirty years later after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the Master, Paul was encouraged to offer sacrifices at the Temple to show many other believing Jews that the accusations stating Paul was teaching against Torah and against the Temple were utterly false.

Maybe you can accuse Paul of vainly clinging to obsolete Jewish customs by offering sacrifices but what about James, brother to Jesus, steward of the Throne of David, head of the apostolic community? If anyone should have known the truth about the teachings of Jesus, it should have been James. If Jesus had taught against the Temple and abolished the sacrifices, James should have known about it and advocated for that position. Obviously, he didn’t.

A plain reading of the relevant passages, without being filtered through Christian anti-Torah, anti-Jewish, anti-Temple bias reveals this. Except as viewed through the heavily-colored filter of Christian tradition, there’s nothing in the Bible that says the Torah, including the Temple sacrifices, were ever to be abolished. If you want more information about this, watch the First Fruits of Zion television episode The Torah is Not Canceled. It’s only thirty minutes long and well worth your time.

History records the death of James the Just, the brother of Messiah, the leader of the Council of Apostles and head of the entire body of believers, as happening in 62 CE. Lancaster dates the Book of Hebrews at just a few years later. According to Lancaster, this was also about the time issues came to a head between the disciples in Jerusalem and their arch foes, the Essenes, the group of corrupt Rome-collaborators who illegally had control of the Temple. The Essenes wanted the disciples out of the Temple and wanted them to renounce their faith in Jesus as Messiah.

Speculation

This next part can’t be firmly established through scripture or historical texts and is extrapolated from Lancaster’s understanding of the content in Hebrews. He believes that after the death of James, the Essenes held their own Sanhedrin, leaving out the Pharisees, and forbade the Jewish believers from Temple participation, cutting them off (“Koret”) until such time as they renounced Yeshua.

The Master even predicted this would happen in John 16:2. And this was the purpose of the sermon and letter of Hebrews: to encourage and support the Jewish believers in Jerusalem who had been removed forcefully from Temple participation to keep the faith, keep faith in Yeshua, and not to break faith, even for the sake of returning to the Temple.

MessiahYes, Temple devotion was appropriate and desired. Every year during the pilgrim festivals thousands upon thousands of Jews from all over ancient Palestine and the diaspora nations would converge on Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple in obedience to the commandments.

But devotion to Moshiach and devotion to the Temple were not to be considered mutually exclusive and the writer of Hebrews was earnestly imploring the Jews in Jerusalem to not forsake Messiah in the face of being removed from the Temple.

For even if removed, and even after the Temple was destroyed, it has been promised in Messianic Days that the Temple will be rebuilt and Jews as well as many, many people from all the nations will go up to the Mountain of the Lord and the House of the God of Jacob and worship Him there in Jerusalem.

What Did I Learn?

Well, again, quite a lot. I was wondering how Lancaster was going to firm up his suppositions from last week and I admit he did a pretty good job of it in this sermon. His point kind of wavers when he suggests last week that the disciples were Greek speaking Jews and this week they seemed more likely to be Jews who were native to the Land, but I suppose it could go either way, or even involve a more general population of Jewish believers.

I’m certainly getting a very different picture of the Book of Hebrews than I imagined, and indeed, one more consistent with my understanding of the over all message of the “good news” to the Jewish people.

At the very end of this sermon, Lancaster said he was finally finished setting up the required background and that in next week’s sermon, we’ll begin to actually study the Epistle to the Hebrews. I know that I’ve been turning some of the more difficult passages of this part of scripture over in my head and wondering how they can be seen as consistent with the overarching message Lancaster is presenting. Can all of the book of Hebrews, even the “pesky” parts, really be interpreted as an encouragement for believing Jews in Jerusalem to keep the faith in Messiah, even though denied access to the Temple, which both they and the Master revered? In my next review, we’ll begin to discover the answer.

Edit: Where it says above that the “Essenes” were involved in the death of James and in opposition to the believing Jews in Jerusalem, it should read “Sadducees”.  I apparently misunderstood what was said on the recording and apologize for the error.