Tuesday 30 December 2014

Bible Book:

“For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (v. 11)

Hebrews 2:10-18 Tuesday 30 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 96:1-10


The 19th book of the New Testament is not well served by itstitle (which was attached to it from the third century and probablyearlier). 'The Letter to the Hebrews' is not in the form of aletter (as the other epistles are) nor does it seem to have beendirected at Jewish Christians particularly. The idea that it doeswas apparently drawn from its subject matter as this is a bookwhich seeks to interpret what God did in Christ through some of thelanguage and ideas of the Jerusalem temple. Central to this is thedouble image that we meet in verse 17: Jesus is both high priestand sacrificial victim.

Before we reach that point, the (anonymous) writer explores themeaning of the incarnation in different terms with a reflection onthe humanity that Jesus took. The book begins (in a lection that isread in many churches on Christmas Day) with a bold statement abouthow God has chosen to speak through God's Son ("the exact imprintof God's very being [who] sustains all things by his powerful word"(Hebrews 1:3)). Yet this Son is pleased toidentify with many "children" (v. 10) (the Greek uses the same word- sons - and any difference in capitalisation is the decision ofEnglish translators) whose condition he shares.

The condition that the children share is mortality. The writerto the Hebrews understands the incarnation as a cosmic battlebetween God and the power of death, which Christ defeats bysuffering death himself. By this means, the children are made holy- both by being freed from sin and by their association with theperfect Son. It is a complicated and subtle idea; but in the lastverse the writer draws a very practical implication. It means thatwhen God's children are tempted to do wrong, they have a perfectbrother who assists them because he also has experiencedtemptation.

To Ponder

  • Hebrews draws on a series of Old Testament images andquotations to explain why the Son of God became a human being,presumably because these ideas were easily understood by his or herfirst readers. What ideas might we want to use today to explain whyit was 'fitting' that Jesus was mortal?
  • A few days after Christmas, we are already asked to talk aboutdeath. Many people find Christmas a painful time because theyremember and miss loved ones who have died during the year. Howmight the recognition that Jesus shared the pain of death helpthem?
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