I love the letter to Hebrews – though it’s not really a letter, and I’m not sure it’s actually to Hebrews…
It’s quite different from Paul’s way of thinking, and goes beyond him in some ways. Where Paul has focused on the drawing of the Gentiles into Israel’s Covenant relationship with God, the writer to the Hebrews stresses how much the new Covenant in Jesus goes beyond all that has been before.
He starts as he means to go on, making it clear that through Jesus God has made himself known in a wholly new way. Jesus is more than a prophet or even an angel; he is the Son of God, and we are to pay him due obedience!
The writer goes on from this beginning from 2:10. For all the majesty of the Son, and for all the clarity and majesty of God’s self-communication through him, he cannot bring humans to salvation without joining in their experience of life and drawing them into his perfect human journey. When the writer uses the language of Jesus ‘becoming perfect’ (here ‘through sufferings’) he’s not speaking of an abstract moral perfection; we believe Jesus always to have had that. But the perfection which has to be achieved through the sufferings of human life is perfection for the particular role of being mediator between God and humanity.
2:14-18 sets out beautifully the necessity of the incarnation. It’s through his full identification with us that God the Son is able to stand with a foot in both worlds – heaven and earth – and unite them as our continuing High Priest. His sacrifice was once for all, but his priesthood is a continuing role and reality.
He is the mediator – the only mediator – between God and us; without him we cannot approach God. Through him, we can enter God’s presence freely and confidently.
We are privileged to be drawn into Israel’s covenant; we are all the more privileged to find that the covenant itself has been transformed in the same moment that it has been opened to us.