For many of our conceptions about God we are unable to express,
and many things we express but do not have the strength to conceive.
—John Chrysostom, “On the Epistle to the Hebrews”
In the first chapter of Hebrews, Jesus is described as
the Son of God,
the radiance of God’s glory,
the exact representation of God,
the intermediary between humanity and God,
and seated at the right hand of God
while also being God.
These attributes may not seem to go together
—in fact, they seem to violate multiple laws of physics—,
but Jesus is all of these and more.
He is spoken of as higher than the angels,
yet he is also fully human
and therefore lower than the angels.
Jesus is present before creation
and active in creation,
yet he enters into the creation
so creation can be recreated.
Or try this one:
We normally think of an “inheritance” as received after someone dies,
yet Jesus is the heir of one who will never die,
but through his own death he shares his inheritance with us,
and as we too die and are resurrected into life,
all inherit infinite shares of eternity.
The inheritance (a term we normally associate with death)
in, in fact, life.
The book of Hebrews is full of these mind-bending ideas because its subject matter is a God who is beyond time and who created time but who chooses to act within time. As we read this letter, the author invites us to sit in the contradictions and paradoxes— the things that make perfect sense to God but make no sense to us. The author doesn’t explain them away or offer easy answers; rather, the author lifts up these paradoxes as times where we glimpse God.
You see, to the author of Hebrews, God’s key attribute is holiness— the way in which God is set apart and completely “other.” But at the same time, this God is deeply personal. To read Hebrews and really engage its author and subject matter, we must engage this God who is unfathomably grand and yet intimately personal, inaccessible and yet present, alien and yet relatable.
And that is the mystery of Hebrews.