Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hebrews 2: Jesus the forerunner

Just starting to read Hebrews one-to-one with someone and spent much of last night thinking through chapter 2, specifically:

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

"What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
    you crowned them with glory and honour
    and put everything under their feet."

In putting everything under them [or him], God left nothing that is not subject to them[or him]. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them [or him]. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

(Hebrews 2:5-9 TNIV)

I started with my ESV which translates as 'him'/'his' (as does the NIV) instead of 'them'/'their' (as TNIV/NRSV) the words in doubt, and I gave myself a right headache trying to understand how the passage made sense. Under the ESV/NIV the quotation is understood to be talking about Jesus, even though it was originally about humanity (no problem their though), and the Hebrews problem was that Jesus did not seem to be ruling the world, with glory and honour. He didn't seem to be ruling because his followers were being persecuted, not vindicated - this was no abstract theological problem for them. How does the author answer this concern of theirs? He says 'But...see Jesus...crowned with glory and honour' - You don't see Jesus crowned with glory and honour...but look he is! It makes no sense!

So although I know no Greek, I have to go with the TNIV/NRSV because they make sense of the argument...the encouragement to these suffering Christians. It really blowed me over last night as I understood it for the first time. The Hebrews problem was that they did not see humanity crowned with glory and honour. They were still subjected to the fear of death (v.15), despite being the new humanity restored to the image of God! The author's encouragement to them is to look at Jesus who came alongside suffering humanity (a point that the author drums home again and again this chapter) but is now no longer in that lowly state but is crowned with glory and honour. In fact, chapter 2 insists, this suffering was necessary for him to be crowned with glory and honour.

This is an encouragement to the Hebrews because they can 'share in Christ' (2:14)! Jesus went as a 'forerunner' (6:20) and we can follow him. But like him we need to suffer first.

This is great, especially for my new Christian friend who is just beginning to realise that the Christian life is not all sweetness and light. Although I dread trying to communicate how humanity's place is as ruler over creation, and how that is good for everyone. Creation may in some ways now make life hard for us in consequence of God's curse, but it does long for humanity to be restored to its right place, in a right spirit. There are few things I fear communicating to 21st century people more than this idea, yet it is so central to the bible, and to the gospel, it cannot be avoided.

PS I realise that I have not covered all that is going on in this passage, and that very little of it is ground-breaking. But I wanted to record the happy time I had last night with God and the author of Hebrews, and my fears over passing it on.


Post a Comment

<< Home