Homily preached by Br. Andrew at Blaxland on Sunday 22nd March 2015
5th Sunday in Lent year B
Hebrews 5:9a …having been made perfect,
The writer to the Hebrews is unknown to us, though both Barnabas and Apollos have been suggested, Barnabas because he was a Jew of the priestly Tribe of Levi (Acts 4:36) and Apollos as a man of learning with a thorough knowledge of the scriptures (Acts 18:24).
The Letter was written prior to 70 AD since references are made to the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Letter was written to Jewish Christians to remind them of true and legitimate Christian practises.
Through Prayer to Perfection
Our particular reading concerns the necessary Perfection of a Saviour/ Priest
Was not Christ ‘perfect’ already? In what way was the only Son of God imperfect? For the author writes “and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9NRSV)
In our reading we are given information concerning how someone becomes a High priest, it tells us that they are selected from among men, from among the Tribe of Levi and more specifically from the descendants of Aaron, it wasn’t something one just decided to be. They were called by God, just as Aaron was, ideally so anyway, since by the time of King Herod the Great they were appointed by him rather than elected.
In the same way Jesus didn’t just decide to glorify himself by taking upon himself the Office of High Priest, it was God who gave Him the glory of becoming a High priest because he says. ‘You are a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Hebrews 5:5, c)
Point of order: Jesus was of the Tribe of Judah and the Royal House of David and not of the Tribe of Levi and therefore had no natural right to be elected to the Levitical Priesthood which is why he could not take it upon himself but must be made perfect to become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him before being designated the Great High Priest by God
As I began I was musing over the fact of how or why Christ had to be made perfect. Surely the only Son of God was, is perfect and yet it tells us that While Christ was on earth in his quest for perfection, to become the person he is meant to be he spent time in constant prayer, constant communion with the Father, even in tears, pleading with His Father for the strength and grace to submit his flesh to His final purpose, death on the Cross he learned obedience through his suffering and because of his reverent submission Jesus was heard.
St. Luke tells us that Jesus prayed regularly and records more about Jesus’ prayer practises in his Gospel than any other gospel writer. Prayer is the essence of anyone’s relationship with the Father and so it was the essence of Jesus’ own relationship with His Father.
Through Prayer Jesus became worthy to be called the Son of God, as the Father said at Jesus’ baptism ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased. And again ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ ;’( Mark 1:11b, Hebrews 5:5a NRSV) worthy to become our Great High Priest, our Saviour Priest.
The stages of Jesus’ journey into complete self-knowledge and utterly complete obedience to His Father’s Will are all marked by prayer, right up until the night before he died, and even upon the cross he prayed himself toward complete union with His Father as must we.
We can almost hear that purposeful voice telling his parents that he must be about his Father’s business and then we hear nothing of Jesus again until his baptism where he prays just before the Holy Spirit comes upon him ( Luke 3:21,22) and afterwards in the wilderness. Scripture records that at each important junction in his life and mission Jesus prays. Before choosing the apostles (Luke 6:12-13); before His Transfiguration (Luke 9:28, 29).
Becoming through Prayer.
We celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration some 6 weeks ago, the last Sunday before Lent and between then and now we have been walking with Jesus towards Jerusalem and his death on the Cross. Jesus has been ratified by the Law and the Prophets in the figures of Elijah and Moses, of which he is the fulfilment. He has been transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James and John and once more acclaimed God’s beloved One. Jesus is now most definitely our Great high Priest he has become perfect through Prayer.
Today’s gospel finds us just after where we shall be next Sunday with Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem on the Ass and in language typically Johannine almost back in the clouds of the Mount of Transfiguration. Therefore I shall leave most of it for us to examine at our leisure on Thursday evening.
I want to finish here:
In verses 27 and 28 John quotes Jesus saying:
‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.’
At one and the same time Jesus is perfectly human and perfectly divine and so of course the human being is troubled but now the Integrated, fully self-Actuated Jesus and his Father are about to have a conversation for the sake of the listeners and not for any doubt of Jesus.
What Jesus inaugurates with his death and resurrection, this new Covenant, our At- One- ment with the Trinity brings us back to the Jewish Christians we left earlier who were still not well enough acquainted with the doctrines of the Resurrection that they were in two minds as to perhaps revert to Judaism.
As Jesus, brothers and sisters we owe it to any other believer the ministry of prayer and intercession so that none might be lost to the one Jesus calls the Prince of this world- so in us Jesus ministry of Prayer lives on whenever two or three are gathered together in His name.