Friday, November 6, 2020
Letters of Light
Hebrews 5.11 to 8.13
This section opens with an admonishment to perseverance and progress; it gets pointed at times (“you have become sluggish; you need milk not solid food; recrucifying the Son of God”). The author wants to move the community forward toward maturity. There is an echo of the psychology that Paul sometimes used in his letters of balancing criticism with praise (6.9-12). Ch 6.13-20 develops the reference to God’s promises confirmed by God’s oath (6.18) which are for us an anchor (6.19- an ancient Christian symbol). The “veil” is the curtain through which the Hebrew high priest passed once a year into the Holy of Holies; the letter speaks of Jesus (as our “forerunner” 6.20) passing through the veil into the very presence of God. Have you noticed the tight structure of Hebrews? Look at 4,16 and see how it introduces 5,1ff and how 6.12 leads into 6.13ff. We see this transition again from 6.20 into 7.1ff.
Hebrews has demonstrated Jesus’ superiority to the angels (Ch 1) and Moses (Ch 3); the letter now shows His superiority to the high priests of old. The argument is: Melchizedek (whose unknown lineage foreshadows the eternity of Christ) blessed Abraham because he was greater than Abraham; M’s superiority is further shown in the fact that A gave a tenth of his goods to M. The priests of the First Covenant descended from Abraham and died. Psalm 110.4 speaks of a new priest in the order of Melchizedek; the letter identifies this priest with Jesus. The priesthood of the First Covenant concluded with the arrival of Jesus, whose priesthood lasts forever. The newness of His priesthood is seen in the fact that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah while the priests of old were from the tribe of Levi. (Hope you got all that. There’s going to be a quiz.) After this packed argument, the sections concludes with some wonderfully hope-filled thoughts. Jesus lives forever to make intercession for us (7.25). He offered His sacrifice once for all (7.25- but it is that very once and for all sacrifice into which we are immersed through the mystery of the Liturgy).
Chapter 8 strives to explain that while there is continuity between the First Covenant and the New Covenant, the New Covenant is on an entirely different, higher plane (Ch 1.1-2). It brings a new relationship between God and God’s People. The author calls the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31.31-34) to witness to this in a lengthy quote (Hebrews 8.8-12) prophesying the New Covenant.
Something to consider:
Jesus, a priest Who shares our weakness (4,15), Who prayed, cried and died (4.17) and Who is holy, innocent, undefiled, higher than the heavens (7.26) and lives forever to make intercession for us (7.25)—What more could we hope for?
Read Hebrews, Chapters 9 and 10