The Greatness of Jesus Applied (Hebrews 13:1-6)

Above All, Jesus

Big Idea: The greatness of Jesus leads us to love, sexual purity, and contentment.

Last week, someone asked me why I chose Hebrews as my first series here. I responded: I thought it would be good to begin with a book that’s so Jesus-centered. I agree with the British preacher Charles Spurgeon who said:

Of all I would wish to say this is the sum; my brethren, PREACH CHRIST, always and evermore. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our great, all-comprehending theme. The world needs to be told of its Savior, and of the way to reach him … Blessed is the ministry of which CHRIST IS ALL.

That’s what we want for this church. It’s certainly what I want my ministry to be all about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Hebrews as much as I have. This week marks a switch in the letter, though, as we come to the final chapter. Chapter after chapter, the writer has been arguing: Jesus is better, so endure.

Jesus is better than prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, Aaron and the Levitical priesthood. He’s a better prophet though whom God declared his word, a better priest who accomplished the perfect work of redemption, and a better king who sits enthroned. He’s a better high priest, covenant, sacrifice, and a better rest. Don’t abandon Jesus for anything, because nothing is as good as Jesus. Because he is incomparably great, stand firm in him even in difficult times.

Then we get to chapter 13, and the writer is going to show us what it looks like to stand firm in Jesus. Once we understand Jesus is better, how does that affect how we live?

He covers two areas: our personal lives, and our church lives.

We’re going to return to how to stand firm in Jesus as a church in a few weeks, but today we’ll ask: what does it look like to stand firm in Jesus in our personal lives? What difference does it make in our day-to-day living when we comprehend that Jesus is incomparably great? What does it look like to follow God as we come to Mount Zion, as we looked at last week?

The answer in this passage comes back: it’s going to look very practical. In this passage, he describes what it looks like to trust Jesus’ work for us and to walk with him. What he describes here is what all of us when we turn from trusting out own goodness and trust what Christ has done to save sinners, and then endure in walking with him too.

Three things: the greatness of Jesus leads us to love, sexual purity, and contentment.

First, the greatness of Jesus leads us to love (13:1-3)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (13:1-3)

How does the greatness of Jesus show up in our lives? It shows up in the way that we love our fellow believers. This always seems to come first in Scripture. One of the surest ways to measure whether our lives have been changed by the greatness of Christ is how much we love other Christians. Loving others is an outflow of the love that God has shown us. Genuine Christians are characterized by love for their Christian brothers and sisters.

And love isn’t just an abstract idea here. Bob Goff was right when we wrote a book called Love Does. Love isn’t just something we feel. Love shows up through the actions we take. The writer mentions two in particular:

Hospitality (13:2)

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Here’s what he’s saying: the greatness of Jesus leads us to invite strangers into our homes. Hospitality means making strangers welcome in your home, making them feel as if they’re friends.

That sounds strange, so let’s back up. When we travel, I check Hotwire and TripAdvisor for hotel deals. And I check reviews. I’m looking for that sweet spot in the Venn diagram: great room, good location, affordable price. Once in a while I find it, and then I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

Traveling back then wasn’t so easy. “First-century inns were notoriously immoral, unhygienic and expensive” (Raymond Brown). Christian travelers would need a place to stay, and so the writer presents the solution: invite them into your home. Use your home to serve other believers, because they’re not strangers. They’re your family.

When I was a kid, I visited my father in England. My mother put me and my sister on an airplane so we could see my father for five weeks. I arrived in England at the age of 12 with my little sister. I knew exactly one person in the entire country: my father. And I wasn’t exactly sure I could count on him.

I remember visiting a church in Margate. On that Sunday, I sat amongst strangers in a country in which I didn’t know anybody. I was only 12 but I could finally relax. Why? Because those people were my family. I didn’t know any of them, but I knew that I had family there, and if I needed, I could count on them to come to my aid and invite me into their homes.

That’s what the writer is talking about. If you’re a Christian, you have family everywhere. You can show up almost anywhere in the world and know you have brothers and sisters who have your back. Even though they don’t know you yet, of course you’re welcome in their home because that’s what family does for each other.

And so the writer reminds them, when a Christian brother or sister shows up, and you don’t know them, treat them like family. Have them over. Put them up if they need it. Meet their needs. Open your home.

We have better hotels today, but the need for Christian hospitality is still there. We’re living through what some call a loneliness epidemic. I’ve talked to people recently who feel under-connected. We live compartmentalized lives. Our homes can be powerful tools we can use to love others. It’s such an important part of the Christian life that Paul says you can’t lead in the church if you’re not known as someone who has people into your home.

Let me ask you: how many people could describe the inside of your home? How many can describe your cooking? “Are there any people you have entertained simply because you were looking on them as brothers and sisters in the family of God and have sought to minister to their loneliness or need for encouragement and support?” (Richard D. Phillips). This is a sign that we understand the greatness of Jesus. The writer refers to Abraham entertaining angels in Genesis 18. I don’t think he’s saying that we can expect to do the same, but he is saying that if that happened, it wouldn’t be the first time! Show hospitality, and God will give you unexpected blessings.

So have people into your home. It’s a great way to love others, which is an important way to show that you understand the greatness of Jesus. But there’s more.

Prison Ministry (13:3)

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

In time of persecution, some Christians were jailed. Prison wasn’t a great place to be. Prisoners would depend on outside help to be able to survive. But it’s easy to forget the needs of those we don’t see. And it’s dangerous to visit believers in prison for their faith, because it could out you as a fellow-believer. But the writer says: remember them. Have the courage to visit them.

How do we apply this today? Certainly, remember Christians in countries like Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India where Christians face severe persecution, imprisonment, torture, and even death for practicing their faith. Pray for these believers regularly as if you were suffering alongside them.

But expand this. Where are others suffering where you can help, even if it requires courage and sacrifice?

The greatness of Jesus leads us to love other believers. It leads us to have them into our homes and to courageously serve them even when it’s difficult.


The greatness of Jesus leads us to sexual purity (13:4)

Okay, this is getting personal. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”

The original recipients of this letter lived in a sexualized culture just like ours. Some taught that you should avoid sex altogether. Others believed that, because men typically got married around the age of 30, you could pursue sexual pleasure both before and after getting married with a variety of sexual partners.

So what’s right? No sex or promiscuous sex? Neither, says verse 4. God is not anti-sex. He’s so for sex that he’s given it as a gift to be enjoyed in a lifelong covenantal union between a man and a woman. Don’t let people put marriage or sex down. Enjoy it in the context in which it’s meant to be enjoyed. I love how Ray Ortlund paraphrases the message of the Bible about sex: “When you get married, drop your inhibitions, and go for it … Make it fun and frequent!”

Sexual purity is a battleground. It was back then, and it is now. Satan has taken this good gift and twisted it so we’re tempted to enjoy it outside of God’s design. He’s weaponized one of God’s greatest gifts. God sees this gift as so valuable that he promises to judge those who abuse it.

The greatness of Jesus causes us to take this gift seriously too, to refuse to use it outside its God-given context.

Friends, if you are struggling in this area, you are not the first. This was a struggle when Hebrews was written, and it’s a struggle today. Your struggle does not have to have the final word. Jesus loves to cleanse sexual sinners. There are a variety of measures you can take to battle sexual sin, every one of them rooted in the gospel of grace and the surpassing greatness of Jesus. Talk to an elder or a trusted brother or sister for help. Read books like Finally Free by Health Lambert or More Than a Battle by Joe Rigney. Refuse to coddle your sin secretly because you’re embarrassed. You’re not alone. Allow the greatness of Jesus to lead you to sexual purity, to protecting God’s gift of sex so that it’s enjoyed — really enjoyed — in the context of marriage.

The greatness of Jesus leads us to love and sexual purity. There’s one more thing that it leads us to:

The greatness of Jesus leads us to contentment (13:5-6)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Everything that he lists here goes against how we would normally operate. It’s not easy to love others by treating strangers like family or taking the side of prisoners. It’s not easy to learn how to control our sexual desires so that we use God’s gift of sex as he designs. And it’s not easy to be willing to lose money or property for our faith as some of these Christians might have done (10:34).

Following Jesus may mean you turn down a promotion. Following Jesus means that you may lose your job, or even your profession. If that happens, that’s okay because you have everything you need because you have Jesus, and he’s promised you everything you need.

Whether I live in poverty or wealth, I will always be able to say with the Puritan who was stripped to nothing but a piece of bread and a glass of water, “What? All of this and Jesus Christ, too?” The long-term, worst-case scenario is that I will inherit a wealth that will never spoil, perish, or fade — the wealth being Jesus himself. (Scott Sauls)

What does it look like when we grasp the greatness of Jesus? What does it look like when we see his utter beauty and glory, when we gaze at all he’s done to save sinners like us? This is not what we do in our own effort. This is how we respond once we’ve been captured by the surpassing greatness of Jesus.

What does it look like to endure when we’ve seen such a great Savior? When we see the greatness of Jesus, it will lead us to love, sexual purity, and contentment. Come see his greatness, and then follow him as he brings these transformations into your life.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada