May 26, 2011

Friday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 143, Num. 14:1-10, Heb 13:9-16
Evening - Ps. 130, 138, Is. 54:11, Eph. 6:1-9

Commentary

We are nearly at the end of the letter to the Hebrews.  Tomorrow’s reading will close our study of it for now.  Typical of St. Paul’s work, Hebrews closes with doctrinal references and applies them to the daily life of Christian faith. Verses 9-16 show how Christ, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, relates to Jewish Christians.  They make it clear such Christians must leave Judaism and come into the New Israel, which is the Church.  “Strange," (13:9) means alien, and not in accord with the Gospel of Christ.  “Diverse” means shady and questionable.  The words refer to teachings that encourage people to continue in the Old Testament ceremonies, especially the dietary laws and sacrifices.  Such things have no more use, for the Christian’s heart is established by grace, not with diet and sacrifices (meats) that cannot make us holy.  Strange and diverse doctrines also refer to Gentile teachings that deny the Gospel.  Anything that is not of Christ is a strange and diverse doctrine.  This verse is especially applicable to us today, for many run after anything that appears exciting and new, readily abandoning the way Christians have believed and practiced from the beginning.  This tendency usually leads to apostasy and theological shipwreck.  Verses 10-12 refer back to Christ as the One who makes us holy by His blood, apart from anything we could ever do or offer.

13-16 are the conclusion and point of this section, and also serve to summarise the entire book.   Verse 13 states it well, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp.”  Using the fact that Christ was crucified outside of Jerusalem (13:12), and Moses met God outside the camp, verse 13 says Christianity must also go outside (without) of Judaism.  No more are we to keep the Jewish ceremonies.  Our sacrifices are works of kindness and thanksgiving, not animals (13:14-16).