The Unchanging One

Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ… the same yesterday and today, yea and forever."

There is nothing more certain in our world than the transitory nature of all earthly things.
We change our calendars, and become conscious as we do so, that we ourselves have changed.
We glance around us, and we find that there has been change everywhere.
And even while we are in the act of thinking, we have changed again,
and all around us is changing even as we look.

Someone has said that the fact that change is the salt and the poison of life.
It is the salt of life preventing monotony which is a deadly foe of the soul.
It is the poison of life paralyzing effort.
Change is of the very nature of life and is necessary to life.
Change takes on the guise of death and checks the movements of life.
So we are perplexed, and earnestly desire to find some center of permanence
in some secret of perennial freshness.

We need a center of permanence, not an anchorage.
An anchorage means of limitation and monotony.
An anchorage belongs to a ship and is a hindrance to the ship.
The purpose the of the ship to get away from the shore and to get out upon the sea,
and the anchor holds it back.
We are not asking for anchorage.

The only sense in which the figure of the anchor is wanted is when it is used,
as it was used by the writer of Hebrews.
In the earlier part of Hebrews, we read: "… the hope set before us; which we have
as an anchor of the soul, …both sure and steadfast."
This is the figure of the anchor cast, not where the shallows are, but the place of finality,
the place of satisfaction, and of eternity, and of God.

The anchorage which we need must have some element that is sure and unshakable,
persistent and continuous; and because of who we are we need Jesus
who is never weary and never changing.

We need not only a sign of permanence, but a secret of freshness.
It is not excitement that means reactions that we need, but we need some element growing,
developing and nourishing the soul.
We need Jesus who is always alive, full of initiation and always equal to whatever comes.

So where do people look for that place of stability and freshness.
Many look within, and we fail to find the stability for which we cry out and for the freshness we desire. .
We may look to our friends, and the story is tragic.
The days are full of farewells to the dying.
We look at circumstances which neither provides freshness nor satisfies the soul.

Where are we?
In the name of our great God, where are we?
We must find anchorage in that broader sense of the word somewhere.
Where shall we turn?

Such thinking should cause us to recall those lines of the hymn which Henry Francis Lyte wrote.
He wrote this hymn two months before he left this world, and saw his Pilot face-to-face.
His intention in writing was not the referred to the closing of the natural day but to the the close of life:

"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me!

Swift to its close ebbs our life's little day!
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away,
Change and decay in all around I see,
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!"

When Henry Francis Lyte wrote those lines as expressive of his own experience,
he wrote a hymn for humanity.
It is one of the few, rare hymns that throbs with the elemental things of the human soul
and captures the heart and conscience of people everywhere.
It is no wonder that this hymn is sung around the world.

The man who wrote that hymn was a man who believe that Jesus Christ
is the same yesterday and today and forever .

In our text is found the perfect answer to the two-fold cry of the human soul.
We need to be reminded again of the eternal freshness of Christ.
He is always alive.
He said "… I am alive for evermore…."
He is always beginning some new thing for He said, "I am the Beginning…";
always realizing and consummating that which He does began.
And He said, "… I am the Ending…"

We must remind ourselves of the unchanging nature of Christ.
He is never destroyed nor can He be.
He is never weary, however weary we may be.
He never changes.

He is unchanged in the fact of His perpetual freshness so that no one has ever found it to be the monotonous
to walk with Him or talk with Him or think of Him or sing of Him.
He is perpetually breaking in upon the soul with new surprises, in some amazing and lightning flash,
or as the freshness of the morning in the springtime.
He is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Jesus Christ yesterday.
Jesus Christ today.
Jesus Christ forever.

Jesus is constantly referred to by His human name, the simple name of Jesus.
He is referred to by the august and dignified title of Christ.
Jesus was a Hebrew name.
There were hundreds of boys who had that name in Galilee and Judea for it is the Greek form
of the old Hebrew name, Joshua.

We see that this name is not introduced in this letter of Hebrews until we reach
the second chapter and the ninth verse.
The one referred to there is as Jesus was introduced at the beginning of the letter in of the terms
and by other designations.
At the beginning of this letter, He is described as Son of God, heir of all things Whom God did fashion the ages;
the effulgence of His glory, the very image of His substance the One Who upheld all things
by the word of His power.
That's how he was introduced, and then we come to where this person is named Jesus.

Another statement that will help us to apprehend the mystery is from John in what is called the prologue
to his Gospel, in which he says: "In the beginning was the logos (Word),
and the logos (Word) was with God; and God was the logos (Word);
and the logos (Word) became flesh
!"
That is Jesus.

The other name, Christ, is the Messianic title indicating the fact of the office, the work, the mission
of this mysterious Person Who was human, and yet was infinitely more than human.
He, the King-Priest, is introduced by this title at the third chapter in the 14th verse, having been introduced
at the beginning of the letter in the way that we have already mentioned.

Now in this text the two tiles are brought together, and the combination is rare in the letter.
Only on two other occasions did this writer link them.
When he spoke of the Lord as the One through Whom the will of God for our sanctification is accomplished,
he called Him Jesus Christ.
A little later when he spoke of Him as the One through Whom God makes us perfect to do His will,
he called Him Jesus Christ.

And here when the writer of Hebrews was referring to Him as the unchanging One,
he named Him by the human name and by the Messianic title.
The Person to Whom he referred is the One Whom he had already introduced as Son of God,
the effulgence of His glory, the express image of His Person, the One Whom all things were made,
the One Who fashions the ages.
It is to this Person that we're introduced, and He is declared by the writer of the letter
to be the same yesterday, and today, and forever

If we are to understand Him, we must consider the yesterday in its limited sense,
and remind ourselves again of what are described in the New Testament as the days of His flesh.
That is the focal point of revelation.
The mystic and the infinite Son of God is revealed by this veiling of deity in human flesh.

Men were attracted to Jesus by what He was in Himself.
Christ came into the midst of human life making hypocrisy impossible as He stood confronting men.
Men unveiled themselves, or unmasked themselves in His presence.
They can do nothing other than show themselves.
They were often angry as they were unmasked, but they were compelled to do so.
They were more often confronted as they unveiled themselves.

But the supreme fact that impresses us is that here was a Man Who moved among men
and whenever they came into His presence, they were seen for the men they really were.
Their masks were torn off and their hyprocrisy was revealed, and they stood naked in the essential facts
of their character whenever He came.

Remember as you look back at Him of His appeal to humanity in its need.
We can cover the whole ground of humanity's need by the use of to commonplace words
in our language – sin and sorrow.
Remember how He appealed to each.

He never excused sin.
He never admitted that sin was necessary.
There is not a single sentence in the teachings of Jesus Christ that suggest that sin is a necessary
part of a process by which God is moving to something higher.
He never excused it.
He never admitted that it was necessary.
But he never abandoned it.
He never admitted that it was incurable.
There was never a hopeless case to Jesus.
When Jesus confronted people, they were saved by their faith, not theirs is in Him, but His in them.

When Jesus walked on this earth and saw all the sorrows of people everywhere,
His heart was touched by their need.
He saw the dark clouds and the storm clouds.
He said, "I do set My bow in the cloud!…"

Jesus knew the agony and tears of people around him.
He was a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…"
But He never yielded to it, and He never came to despair.
He mastered it – He transmuted it.

He trained His disciples by showing them surprise after surprise.
They thought they knew Him, and they were glad they did; and they followed Him.
Then He would startle them by something He did or said.
Now they thought they understood Him.
Then He would perform some new wonder or miracle, and they would ask, "Who, then, is this?"

He was so human they called Him Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet out of that human personality there were always glories and powers and revelations and surprises.
How are we to see all of this.

The "yesterday" includes all the infinite mysteries of the splendors of the ages about which
we can only dream about and which we know nothing.
In the beginning was the Word in human form, walking human paths, mixing among human beings,
lights shined, and glories flashed, surprising all of those who were about Him.
Jesus Christ yesterday!

And what about Jesus Christ today?
There is a difference, and we must face it.
The difference is that He is now gone out of sight, as He said He would, and for a while we shall not see Him.
He is gone out of our sight.
But He also said, "… A little while and ye shall see Me."

Here Jesus was referring to something that was to be immediate.
Something to which actually did happen and was soon.
Those men who heard Him talk in the Upper Room, Peter, James, and John; Philip, Thomas, and Jude;
the man who spoke in the Upper Room, those men lost Him.
He passed out of their sight in His ascension.

Then Pentecost came, and they saw Him as they had never seen Him, though they could no longer see Him,
He said to them: "… It is expedient for you that I go away…"
Why would it be better?
It was because this Eternal One, localized in flesh, was limited by that localization;
because in the midst of His Ministry He was compelled to say,
"… I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"

Passing out of sight, and His coming again by the Holy Spirit to the consciousness of of all
who put their trust in Him, He came as a nearer Companion of the spirit-the life of men,
that inner spirit-life which no man can see, either of himself or of his neighbor, by the eyes of sense.
"No man hath seen God at any time.…"
We all agree that no man hath seen Him at any time.
It is true!

You have never seen me, I have never seen you.
We look upon these outward forms and these are only tabernacles.
Thank God if we have learned the lesson, that the body, marred, spoiled, broken, laid to rest,
is only the tent house we live in.

In effect Jesus said to these men, "I am shut outside you by living in this body,
while you live in these bodies.
I will go away and come again, and come right in to the true spirit-life of you and reveal Myself
to you by the Spirit, as you never can know Me while I remain outside you
."

We can have closer fellowship with Jesus than with each other.
We are shut out from that final fellowship of our nearest and dearest and friends in this world,
and we must wait for the larger spirit-life that lies beyond.
We can have no complete spiritual fellowship with our earthly friends,
but with Him we can have full spiritual fellowship.

So He came again to those men who followed him and He comes again to us.
He is known today through His Word, to spiritual interpretation, and to the the saints
who in their fellowship with Him are transformed into His likeness and reveal Him to other people.
So, He is the same.
The only thing that is different is the accidental.
The essential abides.
The that which I have just carefully described as the days of His flesh,
the essential and abiding was revealed.

I look again to the yesterday, to the days of His flesh, and I declare to you that He is the same,
and is making the same appeals to humanity.
That is the deep secret of the victory of Christianity.

All our hindrances are due to the fact that we quarrel about forms and methods of expression
and we neglect the central authority of Christ Himself.
Shame on us!
Shame on us!
He is the same.
Let us remember that whenever we are tempted to quarrel.

Christ makes the same appeal to humanity today.
So we must take that New Testament of ours and read it to people everywhere.
Read when they are quiet and when they are thoughtful.
Let them look, and let them listen.
And let them see Jesus.

They will come to Him.
He will attract them whether they are black or white, whether they are learned or illiterate,
whether they are high or low, bond or free, rich or poor.
When they see Him, they will forget black or white, high or low, rich or poor, bond or free,
for they have found in Him their own humanity.
That is the story of the success of missions.

He makes the same appeal to human nature today.
He will not excuse sin.
He will not excuse my sin.
He will never allow me to say in His presence that I was bound to sin.
We cannot say this in His presence, but we do say it to each other.

We say it to our own souls sometimes.
Comments like, "I just couldn't help it."
We know we lie when we say that!
But when we are alone with Him, we dare not look into His face and say that we were bound to sin.
We know it is not true.
Man need not sin.

It is also true that we cannot say in His presence that our sin is incurable.
It is not incurable.
He believes in us.
He is producing the same effects today as of old that I will not enumerate,
but I will summarize the effects in His own sweet word – "Rest."
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
In that word we find, righteousness, peace, joy, all the things of the Kingdom of God.

He is the same today in His mysteriousness.
He still surprises the soul.
He still breaks out upon us at some point in our life, amazing us and then explaining
His own surprise and moving us a little further on towards the final knowledge.

He is the same forever.
The phrase that the writer actually use was most suggestive.
"Forever," is too mechanical.
It is trying to say everything.
We cannot say everything.

So let us keep company with the words from His Word -- the Bible.
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and to the ages!
They come, they pass, they go!
The year has passed, the year has dawned.
It is for us a new age, but only a hand breath – only a span; but it illustrates to us everything
that is suggested by the phrase, to the ages.

We are always at the beginning of a new age.
Behind us are ages; before us are ages!
Now the writer of Hebrews says that this One Who came into human history and human life,
and Whom He names as Son of God, Jesus, Christ, is the same to the ages!

At the beginning of this letter he declared that this is the One who fashions the ages,
determines their nature, limits their duration, and includes the forces of the ages.

Heaven will never be monotonous.
There will always be new satisfactions for the heart.
We shall never become satiated with the things that are spiritual.
The unfathomed deeps and distances of the ages live before us, but He will lead us through them.
Therefore I am no longer afraid of the vastness of the outlook.

The Living One is in our midst now, calling us to rest.
He is the center of all that is permanent, and the spring of all that is fresh.
Dare we be afraid!
Amid the shock of battle, the stress of life, and the overwhelming perplexity of things,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

So, we march on without fear of faltering because the gracious Hand holds the scepter of the universe,
and all is well.


Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White