“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:7-8)
6) Remember Your Leaders and Imitate Their Faith
The book of Hebrews was written in the midst of severe persecution. Many Christians were captured, tortured, and killed because of their faith in Jesus, including several great Christian leaders like Peter and Paul.
The author urged the readers to remember their leaders and imitate their faith. They were to remember the leaders’ teachings and consider the outcome of their way of life, which refers to their deaths, martyrdom.
The leaders not only taught the readers many things about faith, but also demonstrated their faith by living out their teachings in the face of severe persecution. During trials, they didn’t give up on their faith, but persevered even though it required them to lay down their lives. They followed Jesus’ path of suffering and literally joined in his death.
Even though many Christians leaders were executed, they didn’t die in vain. Their deaths served as valuable lessons. Their unshakable faith and courage in the midst of the worst troubles, physical pain, and death allowed others to have the same faith and courage.
They were severely tortured physically, but their souls were calm and secure. The readers saw their leaders’ peace even as they were being executed. They didn’t give in to the fear of suffering and death because God’s love and Jesus’ peace worked in them. That’s the faith that the author of Hebrews encourages the readers to imitate.
Because of this severe persecution, many Jewish Christians were heavily tempted to deny Jesus Christ and go back to Judaism. They had endured suffering well and kept their faith in the past, but the hardships and troubles they were now facing were on another level.
In this situation, the author never told the readers to pretend to deny Jesus to avoid suffering. Rather, he encouraged them to remember the leaders and their deaths and imitate their faith. It basically means that the author urged the readers to keep their faith without any compromise to the point of death.
So, this is not an easy verse to read. If we agree with this, we must also be willing to risk our lives. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do especially when we suffer because of our faith in Jesus.
Jesus Christ Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever
That’s why it’s important to remember that Jesus remains the same forever. Let’s read Hebrews 13:8 together,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)
The readers saw their leaders die. They saw the outcome of their faith. It’s possible that they learned some lessons from their faith, but it’s more likely that they were terrified and lost heart.
The leaders who had encouraged them to keep their faith were now dead. The readers didn’t have many leaders to follow. They didn’t know what to do next. They were likely greatly discouraged.
So, the author had to remind the readers of the great truth that Jesus was still with them. Even though their leaders were gone, Jesus remained the same forever.
When Jesus was caught by soldiers, all his disciples fled and abandoned him. When he was crucified, most of them were not there. After they heard about Jesus’ death, they were terrified. Their leader was no longer with them and the religious leaders were looking to kill them as well.
Could you imagine their sorrow and fear? Not knowing what to do next, without any hope for the future, filled with fear and discouragement, Jesus’ disciples were huddled together with the doors firmly locked.
But their sorrow and fear turned into great joy when they saw Jesus standing among them. When they saw the resurrected Jesus and found that He was really the Messiah and the Son of God with whom nothing was impossible, something amazing and remarkable started in their hearts.
They were no longer afraid. Instead of fear and sorrow, joy and peace filled their hearts. This joy and peace continued even after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Even though Jesus wasn’t with them physically anymore, they didn’t lose heart or wander from their faith, but continued to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ despite persecution because they knew that Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, was with them to the end.
Like Jesus, most of the disciples suffered and were killed. That faith was handed down to their disciples who later became the leaders of early Christianity. And the cycle continued.
The situation that the readers were facing now wasn’t good. Severe persecution and death were waiting for them. Their leaders who had taught them and helped them to grow in faith were now gone.
But still, they were able to keep their faith just as their leaders did because they trusted that the same Jesus who had worked in their leaders was now working in them as well.
That’s the faith and confidence we should also have. That’s the firm foundation that we should put our hope in. We should put our hope only in Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His love, grace, and power that we find in the Scriptures worked in his people two thousand years ago, have worked in other disciples thus far, and is now working in us.
Even though everything in the world is constantly changing, Jesus never changes. That’s the only reason we can still find hope and keep our faith and confidence in every circumstance.
In the book of Revelation, we find this phrase repeated. Jesus introduces himself, “I am… who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)
As we professed in worship and read from the book of Hebrews, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Jesus is our eternal High Priest. As the author of Hebrews writes,
“Jesus lives forever. He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb 7:24-25)
Jesus is who is, who was, and who is to come. And, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay” (Heb 10:37)
Therefore, with strong confidence in Jesus Christ, we must keep our faith in every circumstance. We should remember who Jesus is in every test and trial so that “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Heb 10:39)
That’s how we live by faith, not by sight. The only person we count on must be Jesus Christ who is the same forever.
Ever since I first believed in Jesus, the environment of my faith has changed. Sometimes, I was surrounded by people whom I considered to be sincerely and fully committed to God. But sometimes, I felt like I was alone in this fight of faith.
I’ve seen and met some great Christian leaders whom I really respect and want to be like. But I’ve also seen their failure to keep their faith and watched them turn away from Jesus. In my journey of faith, I’ve been encouraged or discouraged by the people and situations around me.
But, one thing is for sure, Jesus has always been there for me, even when I went through difficult times. And I can profess that that’s the only reason I can keep my faith even now.
I’ve failed many times, but I didn’t fall because Jesus’ gracious hand never let go of me. His grace is enough forever. Today, I want us to think about Jesus more deeply. I want us to fix our eyes on him, thinking about who he really is.
Jesus remains the same forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is who was, who is, and who is coming soon. He is our eternal High Priest who always walks with us, guides us, and prays for us. Amen!