The writer of Hebrews (I will call him 'the Writer", and in spite of lots of speculation, we don't know who he is) opens his sermon with a few 'better than' comparisons.
1) Jesus is better than the prophets. In the past, God spoke to our parents and grandparents through the prophets. It was nice and good and important. BUT NOW, God has spoken through His Son, who "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven". In other words, Jesus is better.
2) Jesus is better than the angels. You think the archangel Gabriel or Michael is impressive? God never said to them, "You are my Son" or "Let all the angels worship him" Regardless of what an angel of God can do or how awesome they are, they are nothing compared to him. Jesus is better.
Now, these are the two explicit comparisons that the Writer makes. But there is, underlying these, an implicit comparison:
3) Following Jesus is better than the Religion of Judaism. I'm sure this will upset some folks. It sounds judgmental. It's not meant to be. The Writer is writing to people who are either considering following Jesus and/or Jews who currently follow Jesus, but are considering a return to becoming Jews again. Why would they do that?
1) Judaism was safe. If you were a Jew, you knew exactly what to do and what not to do. No fumbling around with asking God for direction. Through the prophets, God had given some instruction. Through the priests and religious teachers, they had 'expanded' on that instruction and developed an elaborate set of do's and don't's.
2) Jesus had not come back. When he departed at the end of Luke (24:50-53), the assumption was that Jesus would return. He said he would do this (See John 14 for just one example). But to Jesus' original hearers, the assumption was at the return was imminent. Clearly, from our perspective, that's not what Jesus meant. But by the time Hebrews is written, Jesus has been gone for 20 or 30 years. The Jews who decided to follow Jesus were beginning to question if Jesus really was coming back.
3) There was intense persecution. A hunt was on for followers of Jesus. There was a powerful political determination to root out the infection called 'Christianity'. Anyone who followed Jesus was at risk. Going back to being a Jew or just staying away from Jesus was an easier pill to swallow for many.
The underlying theme the Writer wants to debate - and prove - is that following Jesus is far superior to being Jewish or irreligious or following another religion. His opening words are powerful, inflammatory, but (can I say it?)...TRUE.
Would love to hear your thoughts and comments on chapter 1.