Monday, November 2, 2020
Letters of Light
Hebrews 1.5 to 2.18
So, why all the talk about angels? The theology and spirituality of the First Covenant considered angels to be the most powerful intermediaries between God and humans; the theology and spirituality of the New Covenant recognizes Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen as THE mediator between God and us. The author of Hebrews, then, is at pains to demonstrate this to his readers/listeners who were tending to “drift” from this truth; he does this by quoting no less than 7 Old Testament passages (1.5-13) to show the superiority of Jesus over angels. One reason for the “drifting” was the readers’/listeners’ shock at the weakness of Jesus- He had suffered and experienced death; the author will return to this issue in chapter 2. In 1.5-13 we recognize Jesus named Son (v5), King (v8), Creator (v10), Exalted (Resurrection/Ascension) (v13); the author knows how to pack a wealth into a few lines.
The theme of perseverance opens chapter 2 (v 1). The Lord’s superiority is again affirmed (vss 2f). After all the Scriptural references the author invites the readers/listeners/us to refer to our own experience of the superiority of Jesus over all: they/we have seen “signs, wonders, power, gifts of the Holy Spirit (2.4) which are ours through Jesus. The author is an expert in the Hebrew Scriptures but seems to falter in 2.6 (“Someone has testified somewhere” followed by an Old Testament citation. If the author had Google handy he would have looked up Psalm 8.5-7 and found the actual quote).
2.5-18 shows that Jesus’ suffering and death are not reasons to “drift” from the New Covenant. This section affirms the power of Christ. He is the “Son of Man” Who in His humanity was “for a time a little lower than the angels” but now is “glorious with” all things under His feet” (2.6-8). We do not yet see all things subject to Him because the Kingdom is not yet full, but the Lord of the Kingdom is fully powerful and glorified (2.8f). The image of Jesus “tasting” death for us is striking (2.9). 2.10 calls Jesus our “leader” in bringing us to salvation. This is a reference to Moses who led the People of God to the Promised Land; our life with Christ in this world is a journey to the Promised Land of the Kingdom, Jesus is at the head of the procession leading us there. 2.11-14 emphasize the Lord Jesus’ solidarity with us (truly human). Through His death, Jesus destroyed death and therefore the fear of death (2.14); we affirm this in our Fourth Eucharistic prayer: “He destroyed death and restored life.” Introducing the theme of Christ’s priesthood, Hebrews reminds us that by sharing our humanity, Jesus is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” (2.17) - He knows what it feels like to be us (some translations say “compassionate” a word meaning “to suffer with” us). 2.11 speaks of Jesus being “tested” (some translations say “tried” others “tempted.”). This doesn’t mean “Let’s see how much He can take.” The word in the original language of the letter (Greek) carries the sense of “strengthened” (see 1 Peter 5.10).
Something to consider:
What are some of the “signs, wonders, power and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 2.4) have you experienced?
Read Hebrews 3.1 through 5.10