Second Reading: Hebrews 2:9-11

The Big Picture

Popular Translation

9 When we see Jesus, we see “someone who briefly made himself less important than the angels.” But we also see “someone God crowned with honor” because he died on the cross for everyone. This is God’s gift to us.

10 And, this all makes sense about Jesus. God used Jesus to create everything in the universe. And he is the reason everything exists. Jesus saved many people when he suffered and completed God’s plan. 11 When Jesus was on the cross, he was the person who made people holy while God made him holy. This is the reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Literal Translation

9 But, we see Jesus, “(for a) short (time) having been made lower than the angels,” by the passion of (his) death “having been crowned in glory and honor,” so that by the grace of God he might taste death for all.

10 It is fitting for him, on account of whom everything (is) and through whom everything (is), having carried many sons into glory, the founder of their salvation (which was) to be made complete by (his) suffering. 11 For the one making (them) holy and the one being made, all (are) from one (source). Because of the reason which was (already stated before), he is not ashamed to call them brothers.

2:9 “(for a) short (time) having been made lower than the angels” and “having been crowned in glory and honor” came from Psalm 8:5. This short psalm glorifies God for the dominion that humanity has over the earth. The psalm reflected Genesis 1:27 which spoke of people being made “in the image and likeness” of God. The author used the psalm to point to Jesus as the perfect model for humanity.

The letter to the Hebrews was not a “church letter” in the normal sense. It was not a letter sent to a particular church (or group of churches) that addressed particular needs. Instead, the letter to the Hebrews was a teaching, a sermon or speech that instructed its audience. The author of Hebrews advanced the notion that Jesus was the Messiah as the eternal High Priest. Implicit with the title and subject of the letter was the audience: Jewish Christians in turmoil over the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. With the loss of the their spiritual focal point, Jews inside and outside Christianity must have asked the same questions: How do we worship God (and keep the Law about worship)? What is the future of God’s people?

The author offered some unique answers. One of those answers lie in “salvation history.” This concept was uniquely Jewish, for it saw cosmic history as chronological time with a beginning and an end (not as a series of endless cycles of nature). It also saw God as the author of time (in the beginning, everything came from God and, in the end, everything would return to God). Finally, it saw God active within time and history. The faceless God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the “living “God, a God to be personally experienced not made an object in stone as an idol.

The author of Hebrews placed Jesus into the center of salvation history. He was the instrument and reason for the cosmos [2:10]. He came from God yet humbled himself to be born as one of us and to die as we all will [2:9]. Yet, his death would be salvific. Through his suffering and death, he would destroy death and offer everyone a relationship with God [2:9-10]. And, through the same means, he would raise the status of all he saved, for he would call them “brothers.” [2:11]

The author of Hebrews presented us with the “Big Picture.” Jesus came from God at the beginning of time and in the Incarnation. And would return to God through his Resurrection-Ascension and at the end of time when he would destroy all evil and return creation back to his Father. Jesus was the sign that God was at work in the world in a definitive way. As another human being, Jesus gave us a tactile way to experience God. Yet, he transcends our world to become the Savior of all.

How do you see Jesus, as a brother or as the Holy One to be adored? Do you drift between the two images? When do you see him as either? How do you see him as both?