HEBREWS and a runaway train

HEBREWS and a runaway train

…how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3).


It was 10 years ago this summer.


Most of us had never heard of the place, a small town in Quebec with a population of less than 6000.


But Lac-Mégantic suddenly became known around the world because of a tragedy triggered in the early morning hours of July 6, 2013. 


At 1:14 am, the parking air-breaks failed on an unattended 74-car freight train owned by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway. It began to slowly roll down a grade from its original parking location beginning an 11 km trek toward the unsuspecting town.


Various witnesses saw and heard what they had never experienced before; the unmanned locomotive carrying crude oil created an eerie, ghostly scene, speeding through the night – lights off – attaining speeds of 105 km/hour!


After descending a long slope, the train jumped the track in Lac-Mégantic and multiple tank cars exploded. 


As a result of the derailment 47 persons died. Half of the downtown area was destroyed with the visible damage measured at a 1 km blast radius. More than 30 buildings were destroyed and more than 30 more required demolition because of petroleum contamination.


The infamous event triggered a lament across Canada; it was the single deadliest rail accident since the birth of our nation. 


But, in a sense, the relative and unexpected suddenness, the widespread impact of this event is an analogy for the Gospel in the 1st century.


That’s because the cultural and spiritual explosion of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world can be likened to a runaway train.


To understand the impact in Israel, rewind to that first Easter weekend.


The disciples of the Lord Jesus had approached the Holy City with expectations of grandeur as Jerusalem received her Messiah. The Triumphal Entry did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.


But within a few days, they watched as their Master was arrested, rushed through an illegal trial, and quickly hung on a cross before Passover weekend.


The disciple-followers of Jesus were ready to quit. Even though He had predicted 5 times in grim detail what awaited Him in Jerusalem, they had missed it. And now, their unrealistic expectations had not been met.


Their heavy investment of almost 3 years appeared wasted. Now they confronted the prospect of facing the mocking of fathers, families and friends as they returned to life in Galilee. As historian NT Wright observed, they faced 2 options: to go home or to find themselves a new Messiah.


But then the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His 10 post-resurrection appearances – including 5 on Easter Sunday – changed everything. He was alive!


And when the promised Holy Spirit came on His followers as Jesus predicted 7 weeks later, the runaway train was gaining traction!


Small communities of believers were meeting first in the Temple, and then in homes to fellowship and share their new life in Christ.


The Gospel exploded – right in the backyard of Judaism – as the Jewish Sanhedrin and High Priest’s office attempted everything to supress it. Later, the Roman Emperor – himself seeking to be known as deity – persecuted the followers of the Lord Jesus, in an effort to eradicate New Testament faith.


But the Gospel of Christ could not be extinguished. The momentum of the runaway train could not be arrested.


The evangelism of the apostolic church created a “blast area” over the Roman Empire. Within a decade, churches were growing in almost every town in Israel. Within a generation, in most major cities in Asia Minor and throughout Europe. The Gospel had been carried to the north coast of Africa and as far east as India.


The explosion moved the tectonic plates of the Roman Empire as the world experienced an unparalleled, massive socio-cultural shift.


But what about the Jewish people who had the Law of Moses imbedded in their cultural DNA? What were they to do with the apostolic claim that the primary purpose of the Law was to point to the Messiah – to this Messiah.


And now that Christ had come, the Law of Moses was complete, it was finished, it had served its God-mandated purpose.

Christ’s Gospel superseded – and now replaced – 15 centuries of Jewish religious practice.


As you can imagine, that truth was embraced by some – the minority – but vehemently opposed by the majority including the Jewish elite. And consequently, waves of persecution followed.


For Jews who truly loved their Lord God, it caused some deep soul-searching and examination of the Scripture. Was this One truly the long-awaited Messiah?


The prophetic markers were clear: Jesus of Nazareth fit the description.


He was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb. He was the final High Priest. He was the One that Isaiah, Zechariah and the prophets had foreseen. He was the greatest Son of David.


And to the objective truth-seeker, the fact of the resurrection of Christ was irrefutable.


The warning was clear and threatening: to attempt to synchronize the Law of Moses and its 613 specific commandments with the Gospel of Christ, was to court disaster.


Eternal, spiritual catastrophe would result.


TAKEAWAY: that’s why a study of the book of Hebrews is so worth the investment of our time and energy. 


It was written to Jewish people approximately 3 decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Some of the recipients were true believers; many were not.


But the basic question they were forced to face was, if Jesus is the Son of God – the promised Jewish Messiah – how can He be ignored? 


What are the consequences of unbelief?


What outcomes await those who choose spiritual blindness, a suppression of God’s eternal truth? For those who lack faith?


And so the ominous warning of the book of Hebrews resonates through the ages: …how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? 


Note: the FaithFactor Bible study podcasts on Hebrews will be available here beginning September 1st.



~graphic from freeimages.com by stevekrh19

About Us

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28 The community at Bethel includes a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Young and old, families and singles, English-speakers and those with a French mother-tongue, various ethnic and religious backgrounds. We reflect the make up of the city of North Bay. More importantly though, we are a group of people who Jesus has saved through his work on the cross. By God's plan of redemption we were all brought into one family as brothers and sisters in Christ, given a mission to reach into our world and make disciples for Him. We hope you will find at Bethel a friendly, loving group of people striving to live for Jesus Christ. Whether you are visiting for the day or trying to find a permanent church home, you are welcome to join us as we together seek out Him.