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Jesus the pioneer

Have you ever been the first to do something? Or perhaps you been able to imagine a little of what it was like to be first to go to some place or to follow a new way by following closely someone who went before you. Sometimes in Australia when we are travelling we come across historical markers showing where one of the famous explorers went before us. Back on the farm where I grew up I used sometimes to explore the ruins of the original house and garden where my great grandfather established a home in what had been virgin bush. It is often very interesting and indeed an inspiration to learn the stories of our forbears who were pioneers. We honour the pioneers. It is one kind of leadership that is readily acknowledged in egalitarian Australia. At Christmas time it is appropriate to remember pioneers because Christmas has to do with beginnings.

Of course, Christmas marks the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, but it is more of a beginning than that. Because Jesus was who he is, the Messiah our Saviour, it is also a new beginning for us, the human race. In the letter to the Hebrews, Jesus our Saviour was called a pioneer.

He was the first to go along a way which others would follow. He worked like the pioneers of our land to open up the way for us who would come after him.

Why he became one of us

Here is another way of understanding the message of Christmas: that Christ had to become like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our saviour by going along a new way for us to follow. In the passage from Hebrews we read today:-

To understand this it is necessary to understand the role of a priest. The basic principle is that a priest is a representative. To serve both God and the people a priest must represent both. When he or she goes between God the people the priest must be one with the people in their relationship with God. Just as the ancient Jewish priests offered sacrifices in the temple on behalf of the people, so Jesus was called our great high priest who offered the perfect sacrifice of himself on our behalf. After that no other sacrifice was needed. To represent us in that way, he had to be one of us. As the writer to Hebrews said, Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest...

To make the sacrifice for us, he had to be one of us: to be fully identified with those whose way he pioneered.

The message of Christmas is here in strong measure: his flesh is our flesh, born of Mary a representative of ordinary humanity (as we saw last week), which he takes into the Holy of holies - the most holy place, with God.

Through our flesh he was able to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

- to liberate all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.

Only by becoming man could Christ conquer death and sin which separates us from God. We are his brothers and sisters, children of the one Father:

Here the writer quotes from Psalm 22, the psalm Jesus quoted as he died on the cross:-



He became the first to go through the difficulties which all human beings face and yet alone come out of the struggle perfect, thus once and for all denying the powers of evil the last word.

He was made perfect through suffering, so that he perfected or completed the way for us. He was the origin, the beginning of it all, and he became the fulfilment, the end to which it moved, the completion or the perfection of human life.

The pioneer of eternal life

So we say, with the book of Revelation, that he is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end -- the origin and the completion of human life.

Having accepted the humility of ordinary human life, and the humiliation of a criminal's death, he was the first to be raised from the dead, thus demonstrating the triumph of his life over the final enemy of humanity, that is death.

Being the first to win the victory, he opened the way for all who share in his death by denying themselves and following him to share in his life through faith, that is to share in his risen life which triumphs over death.

He opened the way for us to follow him to the place he is preparing for us in the Kingdom of God.

Remember how Philip then said that they did not know where he was going, how could they know the way, and Jesus replied, "I am the way." -- the way, the truth and the life.

He is great pioneer of eternal life, but to open the way for us to follow he had to start from where we were. So he shared our common life, our flesh: Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect.

So we see that

Sharing with fellow travellers

And we look to Jesus, trusting him and following him:

He would not be exempt from the afflictions of the people - human beings - so that his solidarity with them would be complete.

There are profound consequences for us, first in our faith as we trust in him as pioneer for us to follow on the way to God, and equally for our relationship with others who are our brothers and sisters just as we are his.

Think of this the context of suffering in the world today: refugees and the victims of war and exploitation. Who is on the margins of our own society? We know where Christ stands. How do we share that solidarity with him - how are we in communion or fellowship with him in our solidarity with those who suffer?

As we share his life, accepting the union with him which he came to give, we must be prepared to share his commitment to solidarity with the least of the human race. To follow the great pioneer on the way to eternal life necessarily joins us with other pilgrims along the road, requiring us to share their burdens, to encourage them and to share our hope with them. The hospitality of the pioneers is part of the privilege of following the great pioneer who opened up the way of life for us. Glory be to him.

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APPENDIX It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer(1) of their salvation perfect through sufferings. -- Hebrews 2:10

Note: (1) "PIONEER" Archegon = QV Dict. 747. archegos, ar-khay-gos'; from G746 and G71; a chief leader:--author, captain, prince.746. arche, ar-khay'; from G756; (prop. abstr.) a commencement, or (concr.) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank):--beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.Archegon:- L&S archegos:- beginning, originating; as Subst. archetes: a leader, founder; a first father 2. a prince, chief.arche: a beginning, first cause, origin; archen: at first

[Note: Aparche -- first fruits -- If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. -- 1 Corinthians 15:19-20]

NRSV --... should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

REB -- ... should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.

NIV -- ... should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Jerusalem Bible and NEB -- leader

Hebrews 12:2 NRSV looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

REB -- our eyes fixed on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith ...

NIV --Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith

The consequence was that he was killed. As the apostles said to the Jewish council when they were on trial:-

and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. -- Acts 3:15

The word author in this text is the same Geek word as that translated pioneer in Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2. The NIV like the old King James version translates the Greek word "Archegon" in Hebrews as "author" while the two most recent and probably the best translations [NRSV and NEB] give us "pioneer'.

NIV --Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith

Another word sometimes used here is leader [JB and NEB] and that is found also in other texts. For example:

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. -- Acts 5:31

His leadership and headship are based on his being the first to go through our life without sin even in the face of death, and to be raised from the dead:

He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. -- Colossians 1:18

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