Finished reading the Book of Hebrews today. It's longer than the last few letters from Paul, and it's not known for sure, but speculated he didn't write this one.
Hebrews is a reminder of the Old Testament teachings, which were precursors to the life, death and ressurection of Jesus. Hebrews was written at a time when Christian numbers were waning and a reminder was needed of what Jesus did and how Christians should think of him as a priest (not just a prophet) who was/is superior to every priest before him, even Malchizedek, who, especially in the eyes of the Jews, was highly regarded at the time of Abraham.
Most of this book was written to explain how Jesus supercedes the Jewish laws, coming after the writers of the Old Testament to establish a new covenant with God. First, the author notes that for Jews it was/is important to sacrifice the blood of an animal for the atonement of sins. For Christians -- anyone who's willing to believe in Jesus and what he did -- the sacrifice of Christ's blood was enough to wash away humanity's sins once and for all, therefore there need be no more animal sacrifices.
(Side note: living in the 21st century, I am, of course, rather biased, but I like this message not only for the supreme hope it gives, but for the attitude towards less violence and killing of other creatures.)
Second, Jesus's superiority should be accepted above all other priests, and even above angels, who, while Jesus was incarnate (walking the earth in a human body), were superior to him, without sin.
Third, the covenant God had with his people was renewed with the death and ressurection of Jesus. With this act, Jesus removed the barrier of fear and shame in sinful ways for God's people who could now come to have a personal and direct relationship with God through his Son.
Finally, having full faith in Jesus is tantamount to being a Christian, and there are many examples of folks in the Old Testament who through faith were able to achieve amazing things and endure incredible suffering (think lions, pits of fire, torture, stonings, poverty, etc.).
The author of this book doesn't say, however, that faith is easy or that being a Christian doesn't take discipline and perserverence. There's a lot of work that's needed, physically, mentally and emotionally, but with faith and love for God and each other, the rewards are endless and eternal, as the author suggests. Anything worth doing is difficult, and being a Christian is very hard.
Be always aware of the moment, what you do and think and say, because in the end, God will judge everything and everyone throughout time. While this may sound harsh and scary, it is said with an undertone of hope and a message of encouragement:
"Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." -- Hebrews 13:1-2
I can't help but feel jazzed about reading the Bible these days. It's powerful stuff!