Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Letters of Light
Hebrews 3.1 to 5.10
The letter calls Jesus “apostle” (3.1) simply meaning “one sent” by God and high priest. The author compares Jesus to Moses, both of whom were faithful, but then contrasts the two: Moses was servant in God’s house (People of God) while Jesus is Son. Note that the house is the same. In other words, there is continuity; God established His house (People) in the Israelite community from which grew the Christian community. Verse 3.6 sounds what will be the familiar note of perseverance (“hold fast”). The text quotes Psalm 95 (3.7-11) and then offers a “commentary” on the psalm (3.12-19) to warn the readers/listeners not to “harden their hearts” in disobedience (failing to persevere) as did the people in the desert during the Exodus. The commentary concludes by noting that the people (the generation that perished in the desert and did not enter the Promised Land) did not enter into God’s rest (3.18).
The letter then says that the promise of rest remains (4.1), comparing it to God’s own rest after His work of creation 4.4). The author suggests that even when the next generation entered the Promised Land led by Joshua they still did not find genuine rest (4.8). The “sabbath rest…for the People of God” (4.9) comes only through Jesus; it is the Kingdom of God for which Christians hope. Ch 4.12-14 is a reminder that the word of God is powerful and brings judgment as well as salvation.
With the juxtaposition of judgment/salvation fresh, the letter introduces Jesus again as High Priest. It compares him to the Hebrew high priest (4.14) who passed through a curtain into the Holy of Holies in the Temple, but because of His superiority, Jesus passed through the heavens (into the Kingdom). Jesus is consolingly presented in His humanity as One who experienced our weakness and testing; because of Him we have confidence (of salvation) before the merciful throne of God (4.15).
Ch 5.1-3 speaks again of the Hebrew high priest, who offered sacrifice for sin and dealt patiently with people because he could empathize with them. Jesus does the same, but (as we will see) has no need to offer sacrifice for Himself. The high priest (Hebrew and Jesus are chosen by God (5.4), but notice that the letter immediately returns to the superiority of Jesus using Psalm 110 to call Jesus “Son” (5.5). We’ll leave thoughts about Melchizedek (5.6) for later in the letter. Jesus is again presented in His humanity (“flesh, loud cries, tears, fear of death” (5.7). “Obedience, suffering, made perfect” seem to be an odd combination (5.8f). First, recall that the letter is a call to obedient perseverance. Jesus is shown to be the model of that virtue. Obedience in itself includes a note of suffering (to do the will of God rather than my own). Jesus’ suffering reveals Him to be the perfect “responder” to God’s Will, the very source of salvation for those (us) who in turn obey Him (5.9).
Something to consider:
How does it affect you when you hear of Jesus’ weakness, sympathy, testing, prayers, supplications, cries and tears?
Read Hebrews 5.11 through 8.13.