11 January 2011

Hebrews 2:5-12

"Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters" (v. 11)


Psalm 8 is an amazing psalm, which talks in awesome terms of humanity's role within the created order. The writer to the Hebrews chooses a couple of verses here to highlight this role. The Psalmist asserts God is mindful of us, cares for us, crowns us with glory and honour and puts everything under our feet.

Hebrews is focused on the role of Jesus and the author makes an easy association between the psalmist 'a son of man' and the Gospel 'the Son of Man'. It is a move which Jesus himself may have started. He may have taken a normal term for a human being and changed it to reflect passages such as Daniel 7:13 (translated as "like a human being" in the NRSV) which had a much more apocalyptic and personal flavour. So, a psalm which refers to all humanity, reminds the author of the specific role of Jesus as humanity's representative - as the author and perfecter of our faith.

The author talks of the work of Jesus not in terms of justification or atonement (ie restoring our relationship with God), but in terms of acceptance and ratification. Because Jesus suffered and tasted death for all, God accepts and confirms him as the pioneer of salvation: Christ's obedience even to death is important here (as it is elsewhere such as in Philippians 2).

The surprise is that we are brought into the family relationship - we are accepted as Jesus' brothers and sisters. The one who makes us holy declares us to be part of his family and offers to sing about us before the heavenly assembly. It's an amazing move from "what are human beings that you are mindful of them" (verse 6) to "in the midst of your congregation I will praise you" (verse 12).

To Ponder

Read Psalm 8. What hymns or songs do you know that are based on this psalm?

Jesus brings us into the family, just as Paul had talked about us being adopted. What does it mean to you to be a member of Jesus' family - to have Jesus as our brother?

Yet, this brother is the pioneer of our salvation - he shows us the way. What have we learnt about the way he goes about the task of saving us? Can we follow in his footsteps?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips

Pete Phillips is secretary to the Faith and Order Committee and research director for CODEC at St John's College, Durham. CODEC is exploring Christian communication in the digital age.