By Amber Noel
A Reading from Hebrews 2:11-18
11 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, 12saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
“I will put my trust in him.”
“Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”
14 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, 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17Therefore 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. 18Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
I grew up in a church that gave candy and prizes to children who memorized Scripture. I frequently won. But somehow I missed Hebrews. As an adult, I was gobsmacked. Jesus had to become something? Wait. Sorry — wasn’t he born perfect? In a sense, yes. But only through a human life, learning, and suffering, did he become our “pioneer,” able to “help” us in this mortal coil, and even to become perfectly “merciful and faithful” (v. 17).
Apparently, Jesus submitted himself to needing time, experience, growth. He needed these things to be like us in all things, and to become what we desperately need: a leader who’s also a merciful brother, who’s not ashamed of his little siblings.
I wonder if Jesus’ priestly empathy has something to do with memory. God doesn’t forget. 40 days in the wilderness rendered someone who would never forget what it felt like to be cold, hungry, thirsty, isolated, or weak. Under my down comforter during the Texas winter storms last week, I thought of people without shelter and felt a pang, said a prayer. How exponential must God’s own remembrance of our suffering be? His zeal that it should be healed?
Unity with us does not render a savior who says, “Well now, that’s okay, kid, don’t worry about holiness or obedience, I know you got it tough.” It renders a savior who gives us dignity; who holds us in a loving human gaze, and vows to walk with us, to rescue us completely from anything that would make suffering our end.
The Lord Christ is not embarrassed of those who are trying to follow him any more than he was on earth of his Father, of his humanity, or of his own chosen, perfecting weakness. During Lent, be encouraged: it’s through time and experience and suffering that he perfects us, too, “that where he is, we may be also.”
Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Argentina (Anglican Church of South America)
The Diocese of Oklahoma