Friday, May 25, 2007

Hebrews 8:1-13

I often question my authority as a child of God to teach others about Jesus, even about writing these devotionals. Today’s reading reminds me of how the disciples stepped out in faith in the years after Jesus’ death. These early church preachers, if you will, had to convince folks that Jesus, that radical carpenter, was the way, the truth and the life. In the case of the Jews (i.e., the Hebrews), this was particularly difficult as the disciples and early church leaders had to somehow connect the ingrained Old Testament laws and stories with the new “radical” teachings of Jesus. The Jews in those days had many reasons to turn away from Judaism, let alone to convert to Christianity. Their land was occupied by a foreign pagan power and it had been many many years since a “true” leader such as Abraham had stepped forward, or at least a leader that they would recognize. (Of course, they did not recognize Jesus as such a prophet as Jesus was too humble and did not stand out at all like they had expected him to.)

The writer of Hebrews uses the language and imagery of Judaism to convince his readers that Jesus is, indeed, God’s chosen One. First, Jesus is described as a high priest of God’s true tabernacle, not a man-made tabernacle. In other interpretations of this passage, the term “tent” is used instead of “tabernacle”. This is a reminder of the long periods of time that the Jews were without a homeland, wandering the desert and living in tents. Secondly, priests are required by the old laws to offer gifts. These verses explain that Jesus has a gift which surpasses any gift any priest could offer – a new covenant. Lastly, the connection is made through the verses of Jeremiah that God will put His laws in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. At that point, all will know God in a way that none of their ancestors could or would have known Him since, going forward, all people are forgiven through the blood of Jesus.

So, the writer of this letter uses God’s grace through forgiveness to illustrate how the Jews can embrace the teachings of Jesus in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures. The story of God’s grace given freely through the blood of Jesus is a message that can be told to any audience since it is through that grace that we are given the authority and even the charge to tell this story.

Vicki Nelson

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