Lectionary Commentaries for October 3, 2021
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Mark 10:2-16

Luis Menéndez-Antuña

Some texts in the Bible, both in the Hebrew and New Testament canons, have been called “texts of terror.” Usually, these are texts that scholars consider to be hurtful to contemporary sensibilities. There is no shortage of narratives in the Bible that condone enslavement, rape, warfare, genocide and trickery, to name just a few. Since biblical texts’ influence reaches way beyond their original contexts, their moral world sits at odds with contemporary sensibilities or ethical principles.

Differently put, Scriptureunderstood as the biblical canon that communities of interpretation have historically deemed authoritativewhispers in our ears, and on occasion, we hear disturbing words. The task for the interpreters situated on the other side of history consists of hearing those whispers and making sense of them in both faithful and ethically sound ways. Consider, for instance, those New Testament texts that condone enslavement: no amount of biblical exegesis will erase the historical pain that they have caused, leaving the contemporary interpreter with the task of figuring out their religious message and their relevance. The same goes for the embedded misogyny, ableism, racism, queerphobia, or classism that we experience in these ancient texts as we try, and sometimes struggle, to make them our own. 

Although every text has the potential to become a “text of terror,” Mark 10:2-16 has not traditionally been considered within this category. Asked by the Pharisees whether it is legitimate for a man to dismiss his wife, Jesus advocates for a theology that reinforces the durability of the marital bond. Mark 10:9 has often been interpreted as the indissolubility of marriage in a way that has led different theological traditions to ban the possibility of divorce. And yet, it is undeniable that many believers feel at odds, hurt, targeted, even traumatized by how preaching tackles this text. For many Christians, particularly women, the way this text has informed their respective theological traditions has meant that they have felt forced to stay in abusive relationships or kept in a marital contract that eventually becomes the major obstacle to their personal fulfillment, a deterrent to embodying a more comprehensive Christian belonging.  

Some interpreters are likely to argue that traumatic experiences should not inform the way we apply gospel ethics. On the other hand, I suggest, carefully listening and incorporating the “pain of others” into hermeneutical principles is the way to go, especially for contemporary modes of interpretation that wish to honor the contextuality, the incarnational dimension of the human experience. This consideration does not offer a definitive interpretative outcome as it relates to the text in question, it simply suggests that we should steer clear of creating direct parallels between ancient and contemporary ethical systems and, perhaps more importantly, that texts that advance a specific moral code call for interpretative strategies more attentive to broader ethical principles. 

Nothing in the text compels contemporary interpreters to see Jesus’ teaching as an eternal moral code with universal applicability. Instead, our imaginative crisis in approaching these texts does a disservice to the rich textures of Scripture itself. The Gospel itself offers no shortage of techniques, narratives, arguments, theological positions, and inspirations to move us beyond a Christian rhetoric captive in the jails of moralistic views. 

Think, for instance, how the different gospels approach the same topic. It is true that Mark represents the strictest moral standards. Matthew adds the “porneia” exception, traditionally linked to all kinds of ways as “sexual immorality.” Luke never prohibits divorce per se, but only the combination of separation and remarriage (16: 18). Paul and Revelation seem to harbor anti-sexual drives: for Paul, although more lenient in the ethics of marriage and divorce (for instance, if the non-believer desires to divorce and remarry to skip a burning flesh), marriage continues to be a second-rate plan, at least considering the ideal ascetic standard of celibacy. To induce a monolithic moral code from the text not only speaks against the pain of others but it also further betrays the plurality of views within the canon. 

It is interesting to notice that although passages like this have become the poster child of current conservative ideologies around the family, one does not have to go far to realize that such interpretations have misplaced the gospel ethics. Mark 10:28 has the disciples acknowledging that they have left everything behind, and Jesus responding (10:29) that those who have left their household behind will receive eternal life. This observation does not imply that “marriage” should not be upheld as one vital path to living out the specificities of the Christian identity. Still, it suggests certain irony in proposing the marital bond as one of the unbreakable tenets of the Christian faith, particularly when there are strong tendencies among the early followers that point towards celibacy, asceticism, and other ways of radical discipleship. 

Instead of reading passages like this as a “rule book,” as a set of injunctions and prohibitions on how to experience and codify marriage, this pericope is a test case for our ability to read Scripture otherwise. Some options include interpreting Jesus’ teachings as depicted in Mark alongside the experience of contemporary victims, reading Mark in contrast with the other Synoptics and with Paul’s rather tepid position on marriage. Also, we could frame Jesus’ sayings within Jesus’ practice around marriage and his demands on his closest disciples or appreciate the creative ways in which first-century communities conceptualized the institution. Even, as a final suggestion, we could take inspiration from the fact that Jesus’ strengthening of the Mosaic Law could have resulted in protecting women who could have been dismissed by their husbands, particularly when those women had few options available. 

First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 2:18-24

Lisa Wolfe

This passage depicts an immanent creator trying to make a fitting partner for the original human. The process initially produces animals, who are deemed as unfit partners for the human. Ultimately surgical division of the human creates the first gendered pair, who reunite in the end. Awe at this marvelous tale should dominate our interpretation. Preachers must handle this passage with care, being mindful of its longtime use as a proof text to condemn family structures that stray from male dominance, female submissiveness, or heterosexual pairing.

Translation matters

Understanding this passage in its original language lies at the heart of insightful interpretation. Genesis 2:18-24 exhibits a folksy style, rooted in the author’s use of word play. Most English translations miss this nuance. Key Hebrew words to explore include:

  • ha-adam, “the human” (“the man,” NRSV 2:18-23a)
    This word originates in 2:7, where the deity sculpted ha-adam, “the human” out of ha-adamah, “the earth.” “The earthling from the earth” provides a parallel pun.1 Throughout the Hebrew Bible adam most often indicates humans as a gender-inclusive collective. Yet the term adam has the grammatical gender of masculine, thus translators usually pair it with “he/him” pronouns. When preceded by the definite article ha, “the,” as in 2:7-3:12, ha-adam refers to a particular human. Scholars debate whether this figure should be understood as androgynous or male.2 A non-gendered translation for this original human fits the storyline of 2:18-24, especially 2:21-23, though the re-appearance of ha-adam in 2:25 confuses matters.  
  • ish “man” (“man,” NRSV 2:23b-25)
    This term indicates a male human, though there are times in the Hebrew Bible where it is used generically for a group. In this passage, we first see ish in 2:23b, following the division of ha-adam in 2:21-22. 
  • ishah “woman” (“woman, wife,” NRSV 2:22-24)
    This Hebrew word sounds like its gendered opposite ish, providing poetic balance in 2:23 and illustrating the similarity of the differentiated beings built from ha-adam

On (the) man and humans

Confusion abounds because many translations provide “man” both for haadam in verses 2:18-23a and ish in 2:23b-24. Further complicating matters, in verse 25 ha-adam returns, paired with ishto (“his woman/wife”), even after ‘ish has been created. In 3:17, 21 and 5:1a, 3-5, adam appears without the definite article ha, and therefore it is sometimes translated as a proper name for the male character: “Adam.” Because Hebrew has no uppercase letters, that is an interpretive choice. Traditional English usage of “man,” “men,” and “mankind” as generic terms creates additional difficulty. 

  • ezer kenegdo, “fitting partner” (“helper as his partner,” NRSV 2:18, 20)
    When the term ezer appears in the Hebrew Bible, it usually refers to God. The etiology in 1 Samuel 7:12 memorably illustrates this: Samuel erects a stone monument where God helped Israel, and thus names the place “Ebenezer,” or “stone (eben) of help (ezer).” The joined term in 2:18 and 20, kenegdo consists of ke, “according to”; neged, “facing”; and o, “him”: “a partner corresponding to him.”
  • tsela “side(s)” (“rib[s],” NRSV 2:21, 22)
    The full phrase in 2:21 is “one of his sides.” In 2:22, the Lord God “built the side that he took from the human into a woman.” The term tsela elsewhere refers to a “side” or “chamber” of the sanctuary (Exodus 26:35 and 1 Kings 6:8, NRSV).

Having done this translation work, the passage becomes clearer and more intriguing than its traditional interpretations: The LORD God deemed it “not good” that “the human/adam” be “alone.” The creator thus sought to provide a “fitting partner” by embarking on a trial-and-error process that produced animals, but no ezer kenegdo. Thus the creator turned to surgery accommodated by “deep sleep” to divide the human into ish /“male” and ishah /“female.” The human exclaims “at last,” expressing relief in having a “fitting partner.” These two are made from the same stuff, from the earthling who came out of the earth. Wilda Gafney provides the womanist insight that “[t]hey are as brown as the earth from which they were created.”3 Desire to re-unite the “sides” that had been divided overcomes the ish’s attachment to his family of origin and highlights the value of procreation for ancient Israel. 

Descriptive or prescriptive? 

This entire passage, but especially 2:23-24, has historically been used to prescribe not only male dominance over women, but also heteronormative marriage. Another way to look at this is as a description of the culture of the ancient Near East, particularly the ancient Israelite emphasis on procreation for the sake of the community’s survival and growth. An etiology in 2:24 explains the origin of that culture. Whether that verse also indicates the way things should be for all time is a question left to interpretive communities. 

Preachers of this text should be mindful to provide compassion—and not harm—to those who are single, LGBTQ+, and divorced (especially considering the Revised Common Lectionary’s paired Gospel reading, Mark 10:2-16), as well as their family members. Many of those parishioners will cringe to hear this so-called “clobber passage” read from a place of holy authority.4

 The apparently matrilocal portrayal in 2:24, “a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife,” deviates from the patrilocal norm of the ancient world, in which a woman would leave her family upon marriage, becoming linked to her husband’s family.5 Perhaps this counter-cultural description invites us to read against the grain of the passage in other ways also.


  1. Carol Meyers, Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 76. Also see Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978), 80.
  2. Dexter Callender, “Adam”, n.p. [cited 23 Jun 2021]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.org/en/people/main-articles/adam
  3. Wilda Gafney, Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to the Women of the Torah and the Throne (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017), 21.
  4. For a powerful illustration of this, see “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” Season 2, Episode 1; June 15, 2018.
  5. See Jennie R. Ebeling, “Marriage,” Chapter 4 in Women’s Lives in Biblical Times (New York: T & T Clark, 2010), 81.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Henry T.C. Sun

For this and the next three Sundays, the Revised Common Lectionary offers four readings from what may be the most mysterious book in the Hebrew Bible: the book of Job. Its language is full of difficult-to-understand words; its outline and structural organization are far from obvious; and an entire section of the book (chapters 24-27) appears to be in a state of disarray.

Nonetheless, it is possible to get enough context to understand what is going on in these four passages from Job and to begin the process of theological reflection on these texts.

Canonical and theological context

One of the scholarly consensuses about the book Job is that it’s interrogating the theology behind the Deuteronomic covenant.”1

It seems clear that the book of Job has in its sights a simplistic understanding of the Deuteronomic doctrine of retribution, a doctrine expressed most forcefully in Deuteronomy 28:  “all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God … But if you will not obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments and decrees, which I am commanding you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:2, 15; see also Leviticus 26; Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17:5-8; Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7).  

It would be easy to invert this relationship. In other words, people who are blessed are seen as obedient, because obedience to Yahweh brings blessing as its result. In the same way, people who are cursed are judged as disobedient, because not obeying Yahweh brings cursing as its result.

This inverted relationship seems to be the heart of the speeches by Job’s friends, Eliphaz (Job 4:7-11) and Bildad (Job 8:20-22), and also seems to underlie Job’s demand for an audience with God (see Job 23, next week’s reading).

In other words, the book of Job is challenging one of the core theological convictions of God’s covenant with the ancestors. Job’s story and the book that bears his name will stake the claim that a simplistic view of Deuteronomic reward and retribution is theologically inadequate.

Literary context

The scholarly consensus for the book of Job is that the narrative in chapters 1-2 and 42:7-17 is older and traditional, and provides the framework for the extended poetic conversation in chapters 3:1-42:6.2  Hence, our text for this week provides the omniscient narrator’s understanding of the calamity which befell Job, knowledge available to the narrator and to us readers but not to Job himself or to his friends.

In this context, Job is affirmed to be “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (1:1; see also 1:22 and 2:10). Even Yahweh acknowledges Job’s sinlessness in 1:8 and 2:3!

We readers therefore know even before the friends enter stage left that their accusations of Job’s sinfulness are unfounded.

Job also knows nothing about the deal that God makes with “the Satan” – not the later tempter and devil (see 1 Chronicles 21:1; Zechariah 3:1-2; and the New Testament), but more like the District Attorney (DA) amidst God’s heavenly council.3  

Thus we readers know, but Job does not, that the misfortunes that are to befall him are the consequence of his uprightness, not his disobedience. The heavenly DA can’t accept and doesn’t believe that Job will continue to worship Yahweh if his material blessings and his physical health are taken away from him. Kathryn M. Schifferdecker puts it this way: “God trusts Job to prove the Satan wrong.”4

The passage itself

In context, then, Job 1-2 describes in detail what Job has at the beginning of the heavenly wager and what he will soon lose. Job’s wealth is described in 1:2-3, “There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants.”

Then in 1:14-19 Job learns of the loss of oxen, donkeys, and servants (1:14-15), of sheep and servants (1:16), of camels and servants (1:17), and finally of his sons and daughters (1:18-19).  Job’s response is not what the Satan expected: “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).

Job chapter 2 ups the ante; as if stung by this defeat, the heavenly DA claims that if Job loses his physical health and well-being, Job will “curse [God] to [God’s] face” (2:4-5). And so, with God’s permission, the Satan tries again; he afflicts Job with “loathsome sores” exactly what these sores were, no one knows for sureand despite the urging of his wife, Job maintains the same posture he did at the end of chapter 1: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (2:10).

And in all of this, the narrator affirms, “Job did not sin” (1:22; 2:10).

Theological reflection

The two questions in verses 9 and 10 provide some direction for a theological reflection on this narrative introduction.  

The question, “Do you still persist in your integrity?” challenges us to preserve our faith in God despite the misfortune that may befall us. Instead we are to be secure in the knowledge that such misfortune does not have to be divine retribution for our sins.  In this sense, Job 1-2 foreshadows Jesus’ conversation with his disciples in Luke 13: Were the Galileans slaughtered by Pilate worse sinners than everyone else? What about the people upon whom the tower of Siloam fell? Bad things happen, even to faithful disciples like Job, sometimes for reasons we don’t know or sometimes simply because of random bad luck.

“Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” reflects a similar challenge, except that we knowthough Job doesn’t knowthat his misfortune is not coming from “the hand of God” directly. Job appears to assume that God does what God does, and because God is doing it, it must be OK.

In other words, an existential question is being posed in these chapters: Why have faith? Why obey the Lord? Is faithful obedience just another example of a transactional relationship in which we give our allegiance to God in return for God’s blessing and protection? If blessing isn’t ours, would we still be faithful followers of God? If protection gives way to persecution, would we still be faithful followers of God?5

Finally, we ought not gloss over the fact that Job’s faith, like a simplistic call to forgive, can easily be weaponized against Christians in difficult circumstancesagainst Christian women in abusive marriages; against gay, lesbian, and transgendered Christians suffering a loss of civil rights via state-sanctioned discrimination; against Christians of color who are subject to racist abuse by those with power over them.  

In such contexts, Job’s question can become a toxic and evil weapon when it encourages the acceptancethe normalization, if you willof injustice and abuse. When is “enough” enough, and is there a point at which we can no longer submit to or accept what is happening to us and choose instead to resist, to overthrow, or to leave?

That’s the journey Job leads us on. We’ll see later howif at allthe journey ends.


  1. Richard Beck, http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-book-of-job.html, accessed 15 March 2020.
  2. For example, John F. Hartley, The Book of Job (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), pp 21-24.
  3. For example, Gerhard von Rad, TDNT 2: 73-75, especially page 73 (“He is an official prosecutor and may be reckoned among the bene ha’elohim”); for further discussion, see ABD 5:986-87.
  4. Kathryn M. Schifferdecker, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1421, accessed 15 March 2020.
  5. So, for example, W. Dennis Tucker, Jr., https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3788, accessed 15 March 2020.


Commentary on Psalm 8

Matthew Stith

This psalm of praise is unique in the Psalter in that it is addressed directly to the Lord throughout.

With no asides to the congregation calling them to participate in the psalmist’s praise, no descriptive passages in the third person, nor even any inward conversation on the psalmist’s part (“O my soul”) as are seen in other psalms, Psalm 8 conveys a distinctive sense of intimacy and directness. We are here invited to listen in on and participate directly in the writer’s private prayer, and it is therefore the task of the interpreter to lead the congregation into that prayer as participants, taking up the psalmist’s meditations as their own.

The psalm opens and closes with a well-known evocation of God’s majesty: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” The transcendent glory of God is thus set forth as the defining context of the psalm, so that the other matters it raises must be considered in relationship to God’s overarching lordship. When we turn to the central subject matter of the psalm in verses 3-8, we will see why it is crucial to keep this context in mind.

The other major concern of Psalm 8 is the vocation of humankind in the creation. This vocation is described in terms of “dominion” over the rest of creation, given to human beings by God. There are, therefore, two relationships in view in the psalm, that between humankind and the rest of creation, and that between the Creator and his human creations. Each of these relationships could serve as a focal point for the interpreter of the psalm:

  • The language of dominion, coupled with the catalogue of creation over which this dominion is granted, will remind many readers of the creation narrative in Genesis 1, particularly verses 26-31. This connection opens the possibility of connecting human vocation in general, and our relationship to our fellow creatures in particular, with God’s creative intent. Throughout both texts, it is made clear that whatever dominant position humankind enjoys with respect to the creation, that position is owing to God’s decision, God’s purposes, and God’s actions. Interpretation could therefore focus on how our exercise of this vocation is or is not in harmony with God’s intent, and venture from there into the rich topic of stewardship.
  • While it may indeed have made sense for the newly-created, thus far sinless human beings, bearers of the unsullied image of God, to exercise the office of God’s stewards over creation, the same cannot necessarily be said of humankind after the Fall. Given what humanity has, by its own choice, become, the Psalmist might well wonder why on earth God still chooses to grant us dominion. The magnificence of the starry night sky demonstrates to the Psalmist’s satisfaction that the Creator certainly had other options—if God’s hand framed the very cosmos, there can be no question of God’s being stuck with unwanted stewards. The question “What are human beings that you are mindful of them” (verse 4) is left tantalizingly open for meditation on the nature of God’s mercy, grace, and care for his fallen people.

If the preacher wishes to follow the psalmist in drawing a connection between the two relationships in view in the psalm (Creator-human and human-creation), one possible approach is to suggest that the question of verse 4 must ultimately be answered by both looking back at our creation and looking forward to our final destiny. Human beings were created as bearers of the image of God, and even the very worst of accumulated human sin has not entirely effaced that image. God’s intention for us, in other words, is not to be thwarted by our disobedience. That said, our exercise of our vocation has clearly suffered from our corruption, and the dominion humankind has exercised over the creation has seldom looked like the loving stewardship that God ordained in Eden.

The solution to this conundrum, and therefore the answer to the question of Psalm 8:4, lies in the redeeming work of Christ. In him was revealed humankind as we were intended to be from the beginning, humankind untouched by sin. Thus, he is the pattern for the dominion we are called to exercise, a dominion marked by nurturing love rather than selfish exploitation. And if he is the pattern, he is also the means by which God has chosen to fit us to the pattern, to return us to our intended state and vocation. “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” We are, through Jesus, the adopted children of the household; the objects of God’s grace, love, salvation, and sanctification; and ultimately, through him, the image-bearers and stewards of creation that we were created to be in the first place. This, according to the sovereign will of the one whose name is indeed majestic in all the earth.

Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

David A. deSilva

The “letter” to the Hebrews is best heard as an early Christian sermon. While the author wraps up his sermon with the usual elements of a letter’s closing, he begins not with the more banal “So-and-so, a co-worker of Paul, to the Christians in such-and-such a place,” but rather with one of the most artfully constructed sentences in the New Testament.

He acknowledges God’s utterances throughout history through the prophets, only to prioritize the definitive word that God has spoken in Jesus, referred to throughout this sermon as “Son.” Early Christian preachers like our author drew upon Jewish traditions concerning the figure of Wisdom to articulate who the Son was and what the Son was doing before “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). 

The Son is the radiance that emanates from the light that is God and bears God’s image as clearly as a coin bears the image of the die that stamped it (see Wisdom 7:25, 27). Creation came into being through the Son (see Wisdom), continues to be sustained by the Son (see Wisdom), and is destined for the Son as his inheritance. This same Son invested himself fully in the redemption of alienated human beings, making purification for sin—and the author will not fail to remind his hearers throughout the sermon by what means and at what cost to himself (as, for example, in 2:9, but also at length in 5:8-10; 9:11-10:14). The core of his sermon is his exposition of the person, character, achievement, and model of the Son, Jesus. 

This is a particularly striking way to open the sermon when we consider the pastoral situation that he addresses. These believers have faced down a great deal of shaming and hostility from their neighbors, who disapprove of their withdrawal from the religious and social activities that bind a city and its people together (10:32-34), and the pressure isn’t going away (12:4; 13:3).  The ongoing assaults on the believers’ honor, economic standing, and even their persons are taking their toll on individual commitment. Some have stopped identifying with the Christian group entirely (10:25); the danger exists that others might be “drifting away” (2:1), “turning away” (3:12), and thus “falling short” of attaining the good end that God has promised for those who remain faithful (4:1, 11; 12:15).   

The first place that the author directs the attention of such people is toward the Son, his exalted place in God’s cosmos, and the significance of the message God communicated through him.  He would have them ask: Where is our constant, our central point of reference in the midst of the swirling currents and pressures around us?  Are we thinking enough of Jesus, such that we prioritize how our actions in any situation reflect on him and reflect our esteem or lack of esteem for him? Are we thinking of Jesus enough—keeping his interventions on our behalf past, current, and future—sufficiently in mind to remember in the midst of any and every situation the importance of our connection with him, such that we will speak and do—with all boldness—whatever aligns with allegiance to him? 

The framers of the lectionary may be excused for skipping 1:5-14, a flourish of texts from the Jewish Scriptures marshalled to demonstrate both the fact and the nature of the Son’s superior status vis-à-vis the angels. Indeed, the author seems intent on showing here—as throughout his sermon—how the bits and pieces of the “many and various” words God spoke through the prophets come together in the climactic revelation of the Son. 

Their decision to skip over 2:1-4, however, is unfortunate since it represents his own statement of the “so what” regarding everything he had said to this point. Given the status of the Son, given what is at stake in connection with the salvation he has announced, given God’s own confirmation of that message through God’s Holy Spirit, we are obliged to give this message our full attention. This omission is particularly unfortunate in our current climate, in which we are called endlessly by politicians, pundits, and posts on social media to “pay attention” to so much else, all of which is of significantly less importance, and so much of which seems calculated, alas, to obscure the truth for partisan purposes rather than illumine public discourse for the common good.  

In 2:5-12, the author proclaims his Christ-centered reading of Psalm 8. Modern translations like the NRSV and NIV 2011, in their laudable commitment to inclusive language, heavily obscure what the author of Hebrews sees in this psalm. Yes, the psalm is about “human beings”—about the awesome majesty of God’s creation, our relative insignificance, and yet the dignity that God has bestowed upon us. 

But for this author, the psalm is also about Jesus, “the Son of Man” of whom God is mindful (Psalm 8:5). And so the masculine singular forms of the original psalm take on significance as the author reads here the announcement of Jesus’ temporary abasement below the angels in his incarnation, his subsequent exaltation, and the still-future subjection of all things to him. And thus it is in Jesus, says the author, that God is bringing about the reality of what the psalm declares concerning all human beings: it is the Son who is leading “many sons and daughters” to the glory spoken of in Psalm 8.

But why should it be “fitting” that God should make Jesus “perfect”—that is, fit Jesus for God’s goal for him (as a “merciful high priest,” 2:17) and bring him to the place where he will execute that goal (crossing into “heaven itself,” 9:24)—through sufferings? The lectionary allows us to hear part of the author’s answer in 2:11-12, namely the kinship that God has forged of the Son with the “many sons and daughters” whom God has adopted into God’s family. But the fuller answer comes in 2:14-15, 17-18. God set Jesus on the path to glory through trials and suffering because God knew that the “many sons and daughters” would traverse that path to glory. Thus God prepared Jesus to be a “merciful and reliable high priest” on our behalf (2:17-18) and offered Jesus as a paradigm and proof to those who would have to persevere through trials in the hope of glory.

The author speaks most directly at this point to Christians throughout the globe who are facing significant persecution. In so doing, he speaks to those of us who hold on our Christian confession in relative safety and even prosperity to give thought to the plight of our sisters and brothers beyond our borders—so that, by considering them, we ourselves might be spurred on to love and good works (10:24) and to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3 NIV).