Wednesday

“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil...” (v. 14)

Hebrews 2:14-18 Wednesday 14 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 107:33-43


  Background

Evidently some 1st-century Jews had quite a thing about angels!Angels feature often in the Old Testament, where they act as God'sanonymous messengers, enabling him to speak to humans. Theyfunction as narrative devices, rather than as independentcharacters. But by the 1st century, with the growing influence ofother ancient religions (such as Persian Zoroastrianism) they gainthe status of semi-divine beings, with stories of their own. Thedevil, on the other hand, features nowhere in the Old Testament,although Satan features a few times, mainly in Job, as one of the'heavenly beings' (or 'sons of God') whose narrative purpose is totest the faithfulness of God's people. But, as with the risingpopularity of angels, the idea of the 'devil' as a powerfulanti-God supernatural being owes much other ancient religions andto Greek mythology. And the devil enters the thought-world of1st-century Jews (and Christians) as the one who has the power ofdeath and presides over hell, fuelling superstitious fears and thebelief in a dualistic cosmic conflict between good and evil, lightand dark, angels and demons, heaven and hell, Jesus and thedevil.

In this thought-world, Jesus is the divine Son who becomes"flesh and blood" so that he can die and face the Devil on hishome-ground, hell - and destroy the devil. But it is interesting tonote that it is only the Jews ("the descendants of Abraham" (v.16)) who are thus liberated from the devil's power. And thelanguage is, of course, very Jewish - Jesus, as "high priest"offered himself as a "sacrifice of atonement" (v. 17) to succeedwhere Jewish temple worship had failed. The 'flesh and blood' Jesushas overcome the test of the fear of death. And now he helps us toovercome those same fears - with or without the help of 1st-centuryJewish mythology!


To Ponder

  • Ideas about angels and the devil may have helped 1st-centuryJews to understand the good news about Jesus, but are they stillhelpful today? What do you think?
  • For the writer to the Hebrews, it was the death of Jesus andthe destruction of the devil that was of primary importance (as itstill is for many Christians today). Where does the Resurrectionfit into this?
  • Which is more important to you: the idea that Jesus was/is'divine', or that he was/is a 'flesh and blood' human? Why?
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