Sunday School Lessons

When to Ask “Why?”

The question “Why?” is the traditional cry of the inquisitive toddler.  “Why does it rain on my birthday?”, “Why shouldn’t I eat all of the cookies?”, “Why can’t I have the toys that I saw on TV?”.  As we get older, we might learn techniques to find answers for ourselves, or become more reluctant to admit our ignorance, but conventional wisdom suggests that successful people continue to ask this question all their lives, as they strive to keep learning.

Knowing when to ask “Why?” is an element of maturity, though.  If a passenger yells out “Stop!” while driving down a wooded lane at high speed, it’s probably not a good time for the driver to pause and ask “Why?” while running into the deer crossing the road.  However, as we learn and study (especially when our subject is God’s Word), the question “Why?” can often be a good one.  In the right context, this question helps us to either develop our knowledge (if we find the answer) or build our faith (if we don’t).

Let’s take that searching attitude as we read Hebrews 3:1.

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.
Hebrews 3:1 NIV

https://hebrews.bible/hebrews-3-1

You may or may not have heard this phrase, “fix your thoughts on Jesus”, and it’s an important one, but this is one of those times when it’s OK to ask, “Why?”  In fact, it seems unfair to skip over some verses in chapter 2 when the first verse of chapter starts with the word, “Therefore”.

The latter part of chapter 2 (verses 5-18) mentions that all things will be in subjection to Jesus, but that this wasn’t always the case.  Jesus was temporarily “lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9 NASB), during which time (which, as I understand, is when He came to earth as a human being), He suffered greatly.

As an aside, some people (especially those who have already decided to not accept Jesus at His word), see the crucifixion of Jesus as a tragedy: something bad that God the Father inflicted upon God the Son.  As they imagine it, the Father did this out of some sort of supposed malice or need for appeasement.

If we accept that explanation of why Jesus had to die, though, and don’t ask “Why?” for ourselves, we might be left with an answer that isn’t accurate.  Hebrews 2 tells us two key things that explain how God the Father did not sacrifice Jesus for some kind of selfish gratification or sociopathy.

First, Jesus wasn’t treated by God the Father as something to be sacrificed and left there; He was was greatly rewarded by God:

  • Jesus is “now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death” (from Hebrews 2:9)
  • God made “the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered” (from Hebrews 2:10)

Secondly, Jesus’ death had a purpose.  His voluntary sacrifice (see John 10:11-18, Matthew 26:52-54, John 15:12-13, 1 John 3:16) provided an amazing gift to human beings.

  • “by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (from Hebrews 2:9)
  • “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11)

As we are answering not only that question (why Jesus had to die), but also why we should focus on Him, I encourage you to go ahead and read Hebrews 2:14-18 for even more good news.  (Maybe read it a couple of times.)

With this context, let’s remember three things from chapter 2, before we return to chapter 3.

  • Jesus frees us from the enslavement of the fear of death (which I would interpret as slavery to sin; see Romans 6).
  • Jesus is a high priest, having atoned (i.e., paid for) our sins.
  • Jesus lived as a human being, so He can help us when we are tempted.

In this context, let’s revisit Hebrews 3:1 again:

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.
Hebrews 3:1 NIV

https://hebrews.bible/hebrews-3-1

So, why should you (and I) “fix your thoughts on Jesus”?  Well, for one thing, Jesus is all of the following:

  • An apostle: Jesus is one who was sent [Lookout, Girdwood], and probably also one who is “both properly equipped and commissioned” [Girdwood, p.112].
  • A high priest: Jesus is one who intercedes for us, as the most superior priest in a royal priesthood [Girdwood] (see 1 Peter 2:9)
  • Confessed (“whom we acknowledge” in this translation): A commentator writes, “Confession of Jesus is a necessary and natural part of belonging to him and to the Father”, and “Confession of Jesus is the open acknowledgement before men of who Jesus is and what he has done for our redemption.  It is the center of evangelism” [Girdwood, p.113]

Since Jesus has done all the good things from Hebrews chapter 2, and is all of these things from chapter 3, we should – in my words – focus on Him.  Those help to provide the “Why” to the “Therefore” and the command of this verse.

But those are just a few examples.  When you are reading the Bible, questions are OK.  However, we must dig into trusted sources (usually the Bible itself) if we want to get good answers to those questions.  Like a toddler, don’t stop asking “Why?”, even if someone claims to have a quick answer to your questions about the Bible.  There’s always more to learn.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 5, 2021

References:

  • The Lookout, September 12, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse.  College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.