Today’s WORD (Text) Hebrews 5:7
7/ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although Hebrews 5 deals with Jesus’ identity as the great High Priest of salvation history who not only offered sacrifices on behalf of others, but he also became a sacrifice, I have excerpted verse seven only to emphasize his suffering. Focusing on Jesus’ prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears, I invite us to see and hear the agonizing and piercing suffering that is caused by a violent death. Jesus cried to the God who was able to save him from death, and he was heard. Although Jesus’ death was unique in the scope of salvation history, violent death is sadly all too common in our everyday contexts. Christians today are challenged in calling attention to Jesus’ death because we are encompassed by so much violence and bloodshed in our world, which compels us to explain why Jesus’ death is more exceptional than the death of others. How and why is Jesus’ death on a crucifix 2,000 years ago more exceptional than the death of eight victims, mostly women of Asian descent in a massage parlor on last night? Is Jesus death on a crucifix more meaningful than the slaying of nine churchgoers, all descendants of enslaved Africans, in an AME church in Charleston, SC in 2017? These questions will make many Christians uncomfortable. While scriptural interpretations of the salvific meaning of Jesus’ death are true to our faith, our world is corrupted by so much meaningless death that we are compelled to get the story right about both Christ’ sacrificial death and his resurrection if we are to lead others to faith in God.
Discuss what makes Jesus’ death exceptional.
Dear God, thank you for loving this world and all its inhabitants so much that you chose to identify with the human condition in the person of Jesus. We repent for the many ways in which human beings violate one another every day, often in ways that are similar to the way your beloved Son was violated on the cross. Help us to move away from inhumanity towards one another in the direction of loving kindness, mercy, and justice toward all people. Teach us the paths of radical love, forgiveness, and compassion. Deliver us from evil, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.
The Passionary Intention
Today, I choose to live my life with passion. Today, I intend to follow Christ more nearly, love more dearly and incarnate God’s grace more clearly by asking myself three questions:
- Where will I follow Christ today?
- To whom shall I demonstrate Jesus’ love and justice today?
- How can I play my part in practicing the presence of Christ, right here, right now?
The Passionary Movement Word and Witness devotion is published weekdays (Monday – Friday). Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies is the author of today’s devotion.
Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Unsplash