The writer of the Book of Hebrews is making an appeal to Jewish Christians (or Christian Jews, if you prefer), the purpose of which is to point them back to Christ Jesus and away from the traps of legalism and traditionalism. ‘Religious rituals, ’ he might say, ‘are hindrances to faith and diminish what Jesus did on the cross.’ Their purpose is defined in their role as pictures and types of the future glory of Jesus and since Jesus is their fulfillment, the faithful should have little need for them.
Practically speaking, imagine if your spouse went away for a long time, but in their absence they send you photographs and letters. Understandably, you might deeply cherish these mementos. The day arrives when your loved-one walks through the door, arms open wide. But instead of greeting him or her at the door, you turn towards the picture on the mantle and lavish it with your affections. That certainly would be a silly response–no one drools over the menu once the steak arrives.
The True Sabbath
The Sabbath, as we know is a day of rest first ordained by God in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear. He also makes it clear that God ordained that the Promised Land also be a place of rest. But the biggest case this writer makes is that God, in the Old Testament, promises a future rest; a rest that was perpetual and best of all free. That rest is Jesus Christ.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… Titus 3:5a
In that light, the Sabbath day of rest and the Promised Land of rest were really just shadows of the continuous rest we have in Jesus. Our respite was never meant to be a vacation captured in a day off, or a location linked to a Promised Land, but a relation to a living Savior. Unending rest is not realized in a custom, or in Canaan, but in Christ.
The Message of Hebrews
The Bible tells us the faithful in Christ are free to do whatever we want. The message of Hebrews is a reminder to all that traditions can be a snare that hinders our walk with Jesus. As Christ enters in, let us never be found worshipping His shadow.