It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 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, saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” 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, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
The unknown writer of this letter (or sermon as it may have been) witnesses to the fact that Jesus shared the human condition and everything it means to be human, to experience the joys, the wonder, the hopes, the fears, the sorrows, the life and the death. That Jesus shared this reality is a theme that is key to Hebrews. It is Jesus’ life and his death that leads us into our salvation.
Those who were Jewish followers of the way of Jesus in the first century suffered because of their willingness to follow Jesus in the midst of a culture that was hostile to Jesus and his merciful love for all. Suffering is not the goal nor the purpose of God. It is assuredly not the purpose of the follower of Jesus to suffer or to absorb violence for the sake of it. Rather the community of Jesus is called to eliminate the suffering of others whenever and wherever it can.
Like Christians in the middle East, Africa, and Asia today, the early church faced abuse and persecution; but though Jesus, God took this persecution that was a direct response to their public expression of belief and turned it into a tool for producing faith. The author explains the meaning of the life and death of Jesus for our ongoing life of faith expressing the profound belief that death does not have the last word.
Trusting in the love and mercy of God, those who have faith cling to the knowledge that in Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection, God has triumphed over death, even the fear of death itself.
Gracious God, may we who seek to be followers of the way of Jesus in our own time have the strength and the courage to to put our trust in your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. May we cling to the knowledge of your merciful love and grace that always precedes and follows us. As we journey through this season of Lent, remembering the way of Jesus, may we not be so self-absorbed that our hearts ignore the suffering of others. May we do all we can do to eliminate suffering where ever and whenever we can. Amen.