by Melissa Kruger
The writer of the book of Hebrews aims to convince his Jewish audience of one paramount truth: Jesus is better. He is better than the angels. He’s better than the prophets. He’s better than Moses. His priesthood is better than Aaron’s. His new covenant is better than the old covenant they could never fulfill. His blood is better than the blood of bulls and goats. In every way and at every turn, Jesus is better.
It isn’t that the treasures of the Jewish faith were in and of themselves detrimental; it’s simply that they were insufficient. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. Jesus’ blood atoned for sin once for all. The old covenant was written on stone tablets. The new covenant is written on our hearts. The high priest entered into an earthly place of worship to intercede for the people once a year. Jesus entered heaven itself, into the very presence of God, and forever intercedes on our behalf. Though the Jews were richly blessed with God’s favor through the ministry of prophets, priests, and kings, it would be foolish for them to continue living in shadows once the substance of their faith had been fulfilled in the person of Christ. Why continue to live on crumbs when invited to a feast?
Two thousand years later, we share in our ancestors’ propensity to miss the greater by clutching onto the lesser. Our modern American culture daily entices us with temporal blessings as if they are superior to the riches found in Christ. Perhaps we need a modern-day apologetic to answer our culture’s questions: Is Jesus better than material wealth? Is he better than the relationships we yearn for? Is he better than our sexual freedom? Is he better than comfort and ease? All these we may be called to sacrifice in order to follow the way of the cross. And at every turn, the Christian should be able to resound with joy: Jesus is better.
Jesus Is Better than Material Wealth
Money can seem to provide so much: vacations, security, relational peace. Yet, in truth, the love of money is dangerously corrosive to our soul. He who loves money never has enough. One can be extremely wealthy and completely miserable. The poorest saint who has the Holy Spirit residing within her soul is far richer than the wealthiest man devoid of knowledge of God. How many have labored endlessly for money only to look back in deep regret at a wasted life? Yet those who set their hearts on pilgrimage go from strength to strength. Their hearts are wedded to Christ’s kingdom in such a way that they can enjoy material blessing here, without being possessed by their possessions. To those who labor long and enjoy few material blessings, rest assured. Jesus is better.
Jesus Is Better than Relationships
We were created to be in relationship with one another. However, when we seek for another person to fill the relational void that can only be satisfied in Christ, every relationship we encounter will be lacking in some way. Our spouses can never love us enough, our friendships will be marred by insecurity, and our children will suffer from the pressure of our relational demands. Fear of losing relationships leads to anxiety and worry. Despair at what we may never have leads to bitterness and anger. In Christ alone can our relational needs be fulfilled. No other person can make the promise, “I will never leave or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). All other relationships suffer from the finite nature of the participants. Only an eternal God can promise that nothing will separate us from his love. Indeed, by growing in our affections for Jesus, all the other relationships we treasure are not lessened but increased. Jesus is better.
Jesus Is Better than Sexual Freedom
The world entices that sexual freedom is paramount to love. To lack the freedom to express oneself sexually is seen as repressive and, by some accounts, harmful. In truth, however, sexual immorality enslaves its victims, and the freedom promised most often results in the painful chains of regret. But Jesus breaks the chains by offering forgiveness and true freedom. “Greater love has no one than this,” he says, “that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The call to chastity outside of marriage in no way precludes our ability to love. The greatest demonstration of love the world has ever witnessed wasn’t found in the passion of the bedroom, but in the passion of the cross. Jesus is better.
Jesus Is Better than Comfort and Ease
In the world’s estimation, Christians do seemingly ridiculous things: They move their families thousands of miles away to share the gospel. They adopt children when they already have a full house. They forfeit jobs that would require them to sacrifice their integrity. They give to others financially at cost to themselves. They are labeled as foolish and ignorant because they believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. They get involved in messy relationships and keep pursuing peace, even when it would be much easier to let the relationship go.
Why do Christians make their lives more difficult instead of pursuing comfort and ease? They follow Jesus, who left the comforts of heaven to enter into the difficulties of this broken world. Jesus came to provide abundant life for his followers. However, the full life promised in the gospel isn’t found by making our lives easier; it’s found by laying down our lives. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it,” Jesus said (Luke 17:33). Christians don’t lead safe lives. They lead joyfully purposeful ones.
Drink and Live
One who attempts to quench his thirst in seawater will only find himself thirstier still. If he keeps drinking, eventually he will die. Likewise, one who attempts to quench his spiritual thirst with temporal stuff will only find himself thirsty for more. This world’s treasures simply cannot satisfy our souls. They were never intended to do so. Jesus is the only remedy for our spiritual hunger. It’s the greatest kindness, then, to invite others to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).
As we share our faith, may we do so with the winsome confidence that life in Jesus is so much richer, fuller, and better than any life apart from him. The gospel is good news! Lives that reflect a joy deeper than circumstances lovingly bear witness to this soul-satisfying truth: Jesus is better.
Melissa Kruger is an author, wife and mother living in Charlotte, NC. Her husband Michael is Professor of New Testament and Dean of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. This article appeared on THE GOSPEL COALITION blog on January 30, 2014.