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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Hebrews 1:1–4, 2:5–12

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. . . .

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
   “What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
      or mortals, that you care for them?
   You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
      you have crowned them with glory and honor,
      subjecting all things under their feet.
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 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, saying,
   “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
      in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” (NRSV)

Why do we suffer? Does God want us to suffer? When God made Jesus perfect through his suffering and death, did God do that because suffering seemed the best way to achieve perfection? Did God cause the suffering?

These are deep questions that cause us to wonder about God. We ask them, and have been asking them for centuries, because we want our lives to have meaning and to make sense. But some things don’t make sense and are not fair. Crucifixion, or in other words, death by torture, does not make moral sense. But human beings do create this kind of horror. And when they do, where is God?

If you read this scripture in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Hebrews 2:5 is preceded by the header “Exaltation through Abasement,” as though God chose to abase Jesus in order to make him exalted. A better section title would be “Exaltation in spite of Abasement” or “Exaltation Conquers Abasement.”

Being in Christ, God entered human evil and transformed it, turning death into new life. It was God on the cross, exposing the depths of human evil and pain. It was God who rose again from the dead on Easter morning, showing that evil does not have the last word.

Similarly God enters our experiences of suffering with us, walks with us through them, and carries us out the other side, more whole, rooted in love, and grounded in hope. The Common English Bible titles this section “Jesus Is the Enthroned Human Being.” So while God may have placed all things under human control (Hebrews 2:8), we do not yet see humans in control of everything. Instead we see Jesus, God in Christ, in control and saving us from ourselves on a daily basis (Hebrews 2:9).

Holy God, I know you don’t want me to suffer, and yet human life brings pain and loss and sometimes even an encounter with evil. Help me to heal and pass through my suffering, coming out stronger on the other side. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer
Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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