By Pamela Lewis
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, 12 saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
13 And again,
“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, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 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. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
The brief passage from Psalm 22 quoted in these verses reinforces the message that, through Jesus, we have been set apart for God’s service. His Father is our Father, thereby making us his brothers and sisters (who in Greek were called adelphoi, meaning “believers”). Those who have no siblings can take comfort in knowing that they are supernaturally related to Jesus and are beneficiaries of his grace and love. Inasmuch as Jesus was not ashamed to call ordinary people his brothers and sisters, we should not be ashamed to claim Jesus as our brother.
If we forget or do not understand why Jesus was born and lived among flesh-and-blood human beings, we need only to read this author’s explanation: we needed someone who was like us yet greater than we are to confront and destroy the one who is, literally, hell-bent on destroying us. It is not without reason that the word “slavery” is used to describe the condition to which humanity is subjected, as many are enslaved by various demonic forces, be they of their own or of others’ making. The fear of death, too, is included in this enslavement. But through his suffering Jesus became the new high priest, who in the Old Testament was mediator between God and the people. Jesus’ death and resurrection made atonement for the sins of his brothers and sisters and freed them from their sins; this was true then, and is still true today.
Even angels don’t have what we have. It is we, Abraham’s descendants, who need Jesus’ help in just this way: only someone who looked, lived, and was tempted, like a human, yet did not become the devil’s slave, could do the hard and holy job of saving us.
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands – The Church in the Province of the West Indies
The Diocese of New Jersey