Reflection: The Son is the Radiance of God’s Glory
of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."
I’d like to try and paint three pictures in your mind, without PowerPoint, if possible! Please do bear with me.
The first starts with a question!
Have you ever seen a partial eclipse of the sun? You know, when the moon moves across the sun and it looks like someone’s taken a bite out of the sun itself. It’s usually a big thing, predicted for weeks ahead with lots of publicity and TV coverage. If the weather is good and it’s a clear day, you can see the passage of the moon really well. I remember looking at several over my life, one in Cornwall in mid-summer, which was quite amazing, one in the back garden here on the Wirral, six or seven years ago, and one when I was at school. The thing I recall most about that one was that the teachers distributed black plastic photographic film. We had to hold the film up against the sun and watch the eclipse through the film. Do you ever remember doing that?
The point was that you definitely shouldn’t look at the sun directly with no protection, because the power and sheer brightness, the energy involved, would irreparably damage your eyes. So, to see the eclipse, you looked through black photographic film, which blocked most of the sun’s radiating light. You see although the sun was 96 million miles away, its brightness was exceedingly dangerous. You couldn’t look straight at it.
It’s like that with God the Father. God is so utterly holy that no one can look on Him and live. And that was the big problem in Old Testament days. Sacrifices had to be made so that people could come into God’s presence, and even then it was only the priests in the temple, in the inner Holy of Holies, behind the thick curtain, who could approach God and ask for forgiveness on behalf of the people. God couldn’t be approached without sin offerings.
When Moses was first being called by God, to lead the Israelites, God came to him from within a burning bush, burning but not consumed. Moses went over to look at it:
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” God was unapproachable without a sin offering.
And later again, the Israelites rebelled against Moses and God revealed His anger with them in Exodus 33. Afterwards, when Moses had warned them of God's anger, he spoke to God:
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
There are many examples where the sin of the people makes them unable to approach God, the Father, the holy one. I’ve mentioned Moses here, but you could look at the story of Elijah, and the same thing applies.
But this is why our passage from the letter to the Hebrews, the Jewish people, is so important. Their history is that of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob with Rachel, and of Moses and the prophets, such as Elijah. They understood that God was to be feared and revered. He is Holy, and only a priest could approach God on their behalf, and the way to God was with the shedding of blood through countless sacrifices. The writer to the Hebrews, starts off by introducing Jesus.
The New Testament writer to the Hebrews (the Jews), is explaining that their long-promised Messiah, whom the world had rejected, was Jesus. And whereas God the Father, could not be approached, because like our sun, it was dangerous to look at him, in fact Jesus, God’s Son, is approachable.
The writer uses this beautifully descriptive language to explain: The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory.
- The first is of the bright sun during an eclipse which we can’t look at directly, God the Father.
- The second is of the beautiful radiance of the sun’s rays, over the Dee estuary, bringing colour and light to all the touch. Jesus the radiance of the Father.
- The third, a coloured Christmas lamp lit by a candle, shining from within and out to the all it touches, God the Holy Spirit within us.