Freed From Deaths Grip

Scripture Reading

Since the children share in blood and flesh,
Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one
who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death
had been subject to slavery all their life.
Surely he did not help angels
but rather the descendants of Abraham;
therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.
(Hebrews 2:14-18)

 

Scripture Study

2:14 flesh and blood: A Semitic idiom for “human beings” or “human nature”, with some emphasis on man’s weakness and limitations (Mt 16:17; 1 Cor 15:50). partook of the same: The Son of God assumed our mortal nature in order to die and, through this means, to rob the devil of his claim over our lives (Wis 2:24; 1 Jn 3:8; CCC 635, 2602).

2:15 fear of death: Human nature cowers from pain, privation, and death. This can overpower our desire to love and obey God in the face of suffering. Even Jesus feared death as a man; nevertheless, he gave consent to suffering and death out of a reverential fear of God (5:7). In this respect, he was prefigured by those saints of the OT who preferred persecution and martyrdom to apostasy (11:17–38). Such heroism speaks directly to the original readers, who had already endured hostility for their faith (10:32–39) and were edging closer to shedding their blood (12:4).

2:16 descendants of Abraham: This could be taken in a biological sense, referring to the family of Israel descended from Abraham, or, more likely, in a Christian sense of the family of Jews and Gentiles who together imitate the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:9–13) and inherit the blessings that Yahweh pledged to the patriarch by oath (Gen 22:16–18; Gal 3:6–29). Either way, the point is that Jesus came to rescue, not angels, but fallen men.[1]

Scripture Reflection

The death of Christ, the only one who could atone for man’s sin, wipes out sin and makes death a way to God. “Jesus destroyed the demon”, St Alphonsus writes; “that is, he destroyed his power, for the demon had been lord of death on account of sin, that is, he had power to cause temporal and eternal death to all the children of Adam infected by sin. And this was the victory of the cross—that Jesus, the author of life, by dying obtained Life for us through that death” (Reflections on the Passion, chap. 5, 1).

Christ has freed men not from physical but from spiritual death and therefore from fear of death, because he has given us certainty of future resurrection. Man’s natural fear of death is easily explained by his fear of the unknown and his instinctive aversion to what death involves; but it can also be a sign of excessive attachment to this life.

“To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” St Paul explains (Phil 1:21). “Don’t be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously … when God wills it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Don’t doubt what I say: it will come in the moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God. Welcome be our sister death!” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 739).

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] The Letter to the Hebrews, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 44-45.