Encouragement

By: 
Suzanne Bowles, PhD

19 Pentecost  Oct. 3, 2021  by Suzanne G. Bowles, Ph.D.

We don’t know who the author of the epistle to the Hebrews is.  It’s not Paul, though there is a long list of other contenders.  One commentary I looked at said, “While it is difficult to rule out many of these candidates, it is equally hard to make a convincing case for any of them.” It is probably a man – though some women have been suggested -- because he uses a masculine pronoun in Greek to refer to himself.  He also knows some of his readers personally.  He is acquainted with Paul’s protégé Timothy.  He also tells us that he did not know or hear the human Jesus personally, but he came to faith in Jesus through the apostles’ teaching, meaning he learned from someone who did know Jesus.

I do find it kind of funny that he says “someone has testified somewhere” as though he’s saying “I heard some guy say this …” Actually what he’s quoting is from Psalm 8:4-6.  He may in fact actually be making a joke inasmuch as the recipients of this epistle were Jewish Christians.  They would have surely recognized this passage from Psalms. These Jewish Christians were probably located in Italy (from internal clues within the letter).  They were under a double whammy.  They were being persecuted by the Romans for their faith in Jesus, but at the same time they were kicked out of Judaism, so they were left to worship in secret, but without any of their familiar and comforting rituals. Many of them, understandably, were discouraged and depressed, and, apparently, some were thinking of abandoning their faith altogether.  It shouldn’t be surprising that the main purpose of this letter is “exhortation,” a fancy word for encouragement.  The writer encourages them and us to be courageous and faithful, to be active in serving the Lord.

This is a timely message for us.  We all know what it is to be discouraged, in our personal lives and in our church life.  I don’t have to detail for you all the reasons why.  We know them well enough.  If that describes you, take heart from this passage.  In fact, read the whole epistle.  There are a number of important points in today’s passage alone, but I want to focus on just one and that is that Jesus calls us “brothers and sisters.”  Why?  Because we have the same Father that He does.  How remarkable is that?  Jesus – the Second Person of the Trinity – tells us so. “For the one who sanctifies [Him] and those who are sanctified [us] all have one Father.”  But wait, there’s more!  “For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, ‘I will proclaim your name [he’s addressing God here] to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’”

Think about that.  Jesus is not ashamed of us (though we might often be ashamed of ourselves).  He calls us brothers and sisters.  What a high honor that is.  Elsewhere in the gospels he calls us “friends” but, brothers and sisters – that’s really a close relationship.  And what are we all supposed to do?  Emulate our brother Jesus and praise God the Father.  You can never go wrong praising Him.  He is infinitely worthy.  Think about this today and in the coming week.  You are a brother or sister to Jesus Himself.  What an honor We need to ponder this and ask ourselves what does our brother Jesus want us to do?  Amen.

 

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