Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homily 5

Hebrews 2:16 - 3:6

For indeed He does not give aid to the angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,

who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses was also faithful in all His house.

For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house.

For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.

And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward,

but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.


In this passage Paul again emphasizes Christ's humanity, comparing him even to Moses. And he provides some rationale for Christ's decision to be made human-- becaues God has suffered human temptations, "He is able to aid those who are tempted." He also uses a priestly metaphor, that just as the high preist offers sacrifices on behalf of the people, so Christ as a type of the High Priest became human that he might thoroughly know those on whose behalf he offers the heavenly sacrifice.

Paul then goes on to make an analogy of Moses, and herin again bridges Christ's humanity with his God-hood. Moses was faithful to the house of Israel. Christ God built the house of Israel, and therefore has not only the Mosaic honor of good servant within the house, but also the heavenly honor "as a Son over His own house," the house that we ourselves belong to if we hold fast to the end. This last line emphasizes not only the necessity of remaining faithful, but also that inheritance in the house is open to the Gentiles-- it is no longer an inheritance based on blood-line but on faith.


Chrysostom makes a big deal out of Paul's statement that it is the seed of Abraham, not the angels, that is given aid or "taken hold of." Chrysostom takes this to mean that Christ took on not the form of an angel but rather the body of a human.

And he claims that the one reason God became man was "for love to man, that He might have mercy upon us." And rather than appointing a high priest to purify us through sacrifice, God himself became the High Priest.

Chrysostom also notes that Paul emphasizes the Hebrews' role in this salvation, that Christ took hold "of the seed of Abraham," and that the word of salvation was sent first to the Jews. This shows that the Jews "have an advantage in this" without any harm or disparagement to the Gentiles.

By likening Christ to Moses and saying that he is made Apostle and High Priest, Chrysostom says that Paul draws on the Jews' great honor for Moses and for the priesthood. If Moses has honor, then how much greater honor is due the one whose house Moses serves!

The remainder of the homily expands on this notion that Christ God himself underwent temptation and suffering. If God himself suffered, then we must not lose courage when we suffer. It is not here on earth that all receive just and eternal rewards. Rather, we embrace earthly suffering as purification and look ahead. "Yonder," Chrysostom says, "are the crowns, yonder the punishments."