Key verse from today's reading: Hebrews 5:9, "After he had been made perfect, he became the source of salvation for everyone who obeys him."
Hebrews is not my favorite book of the Bible.
I think this is because it is a theological work explaining Jesus to a Jewish audience using metaphors with which they would have been comfortable. The image of sacrifice works with a group of people for whom sacrifice explained God's blessing. Not growing up with ritual sacrifice, it seems foreign to me.
|The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt|
Many sacrifices were unblemished. Some were ritualized for specific festivals and others were freewill offerings. They could be for ceremonial reasons or because of transgression of purity or the law.
Sacrifices could be grain or drink offerings or they might involve blood letting of animals.
They involved peace offerings but also atonement for sin.
The author of Hebrews is the first to record Jesus as sinless. Hebrews works as a metaphor of Jesus serving as our sacrifice. In a way this helps us move past the understanding that God requires ritual sacrifice:
"We have been made holy by God's will through the offering of Jesus Christ's body once for all." (Hebrews 10:10, CEB).
This statement shows that we no longer need to sacrifice on the altar. It moves us past the idea that God regularly requires blood. Of course the prophets had been trying to move us in this direction for hundreds of years.
It is this powerful metaphor of the sacrifice of a human being that seems to stick with us and transcend culture. How do we still relate to this image of the blood of Jesus when we don't regularly sacrifice animals? It may be that it touches something fundamental in human beings.
Maybe, Hebrews isn't my favorite because it is a reminder of the darkness of humanity and thus, my own darkness. The darkness that would require blood whether or not God asks it.
After all, Jesus states in the story of healing the paralytic, "Which is easier - to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk?'" (Matthew 9:5, CEB).
Grace is difficult to understand; to perceive; to accept. And so human beings turned to the cross but God counters with resurrection. I don't fully comprehend grace and often seek to earn my own righteousness. The metaphor of the sacrifice of Jesus reminds me that the grace of God is a gift that is unearned.
The gift freely given. No wonder this book is hard.
Breath prayer: Mysterious God, help me to see grace.