Lectionary Commentaries for August 28, 2022
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 14:1, 7-14

Carolyn J. Sharp

In the parable of the wedding banquet, Jesus teaches the importance of humility as a praxis of righteousness that points to the mighty grace of God. Jesus invites hearers to imagine a transformative web of relations woven in mercy and strengthened not through patronage or obligation but through joyous connection across lines of difference. From the reversals of social and economic power anticipated with jubilation in the Magnificat (1:46–55) to Jesus’ healings of persons living with conditions of impairment (4:41; 5:12–13, 18–25; 6:6–10, 18; 8:26–33, 43–44; 11:14; 13:11–13) and solidarity with tax collectors and other publicly stigmatized sinners (5:27–32; 7:36–50), Luke has signaled that the inbreaking divine realm heralded by Jesus will dismantle worldly hierarchies of social status and economic power. Luke 14:7–14 dramatizes these reversals through an illustration about social dynamics governing the seating of guests at a banquet, a parable found in no other Gospel.1 

“All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (14:11; see Proverbs 25:6–7) expresses the Lukan motif of reversal in a memorable saying that would have encouraged low-status believers negotiating the fraught terrain of scripted social relations in Roman antiquity. Amplifying the significance of this theme in the Third Gospel is a second articulation of the saying in another parable unique to Luke, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (18:14; see also Matthew 23:12). The restorative hospitality characteristic of God’s realm is imaged in compelling terms here and in other Lukan material centered on feasting (for example, 1:53; 5:34; 6:21; 7:36–50; 13:28–30). Some such passages are present in other Gospels, such as the story of the feeding of the five thousand (9:12–17); other traditions, such as the parable of the prodigal son (15:11–32) and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19–31), are unique to Luke. 

The radical hospitality centered in Luke’s theology of feasting should not be understood simply as a glimpse of God’s eschatological banquet. Rather, Jesus’ exhortation to host “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” constitutes a strong political challenge to the finely calibrated reciprocity governing social interactions under Roman imperialism. Countering oppressive social and economic norms is core to the gospel as Luke presents it. Preachers will want to draw their hearers’ attention to many rich possibilities for hearing and enacting this good news in contemporary contexts.

An unusual feature of our Lukan narrative is its emphasis on perceiving. The antagonistic scrutiny to which the scribes and Pharisees subject Jesus yields to Jesus’ gaze, which sees differently. “They were watching him closely” (verse 1) is displaced by “When [Jesus] noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable” (verse 7), underscoring Jesus’ authority as wise teacher and redirecting the implied audience’s attention to what Jesus sees. Teaching spiritual discernment from the pulpit, preachers can urge their congregations to look deeper than superficial markers of social status—to learn to see as God sees. 

In every cultural context, public perceptions influence how someone is interpellated—“hailed,” seen and addressed (literally or figuratively) as a subject, whether implicitly by ideological discourse or actually by other persons they encounter.2 Ideological frameworks render people and groups intelligible by the lights of particular norms, biases, exclusions, and hierarchies of value. Such interpellations, even when declined by dissenting subjects, can produce a variety of effects along a spectrum from harmful to emancipatory. For example, in an oppressive system that attaches moral significance to economic privilege, someone living in poverty or dependent on public assistance might be stigmatized as immoral, lazy, or incompetent.3 But for Luke, those living in economic precarity, the “lowly” (1:52), are interpellated as cherished recipients of God’s favor and succor. Luke’s narratives embolden believers to direct a resistant gaze upon ideologies that diminish the humanity of others. God’s realm is built not on displays of wealth, prestige, or political influence, but on love of the neighbor, even in conditions of conflict (6:27–36).

A reward awaits those who align their living with Gospel values of love and radical inclusivity: courageous followers of Jesus “will be blessed” in “the resurrection of the righteous” (14:14). Preachers can illuminate divine blessing via two passages many believers know and treasure in Luke: the Magnificat and the Beatitudes. In Mary’s song, God’s blessing is hymned as a gift for the one who trusts in God’s Word (1:45). In the Beatitudes, blessedness is the condition of those who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, and who endure hatred, exclusion, insult, and defamation on Jesus’ account (6:20–23). Disciples will be blessed when they honor and serve those in need, remaining alert for the return of the Messiah as they continue steadfast in the work of the Gospel (12:32–44). 

Preachers can exhort their hearers to work creatively and persistently for justice and restoration, these imagined as preparing a magnificent feast for those whose economic precarity, health challenges, or social isolation leave them in acute need of loving community. Moving beyond calculated reciprocity in power relations, believers will be transformed as they pursue the ministry of the Gospel with loving humility, promoting not themselves but the extravagant grace of God.


  1. Concerning the Roman banquet, Barbara E. Reid and Shelly Matthews offer, “The u-shaped, three-sided table, triclinium, was meant to provide equal access to the food, conversation, and entertainment, but in fact, each position at the table was assigned, and all the guests immediately knew their rank in relation to the others” (Luke 10–24, Wisdom commentary 43B [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2021], 421).
  2. The notion of interpellation was brought to influential expression in a 1970 essay by philosopher Louis Althusser.
  3. Important studies of systemic violence include two Pulitzer-winning works of nonfiction, Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (New York: Broadway Books, 2016) and Andrea Elliott’s Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival and Hope in an American City (New York: Random House, 2021).

First Reading

Commentary on Proverbs 25:6-7

Sara M. Koenig

A preacher following the lectionary rarely encounters the book of Proverbs, but it might be even more unusual to choose this text as a homiletical focus. It is brief—only two verses!—and as is typical for the genre of a proverb, is fairly straightforward; my translation is, “Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence; do not stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told ‘Step up here,’ than to be degraded in the presence of a noble.” This is not a text where God acts in strange and puzzling ways, or where God’s people do something bold and courageous. Because I have a personal predilection for more dramatic and narrative texts, this pericope may not be my first choice. 

And yet, this text reiterates the gospel message for the day, as Jesus concludes his parable by saying, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). A similar message is found in the alternate text for this week from Sirach 10:12-18, which speaks specifically against pride and illustrates it with a series of reversals similar to those proclaimed by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary in Luke 2. So, even those preachers who do not choose to exclusively focus on the reading of Proverbs 25:6-7 as their main text for preaching will find content in it that underscores the other texts for the day.  

Additionally, the brevity of this text can be a benefit instead of a detriment. In her discussion of Proverbs, Ellen Davis draws on an analogy from medieval monks who said that each word of the Bible is like a grain of spice, meant to be held in one’s mouth until it yields its full flavor. Davis writes that the brevity of these proverbs are what enables us to carry a single one around with us all day long; focusing on a single one allows us to savor it completely.1 

Kathleen O’Connor uses a different analogy; for her, the book of Proverbs is like a collection of photographs from a family that has been placed in a drawer year after year. These “word pictures or verbal snapshots” are not organized by time or by theme, but each one gives an image of someone wise or foolish in action.2 

In Proverbs 25:6-7, we are invited to consider the picture of a person who wisely does not exalt oneself in the presence of someone who is greater. These two verses contain a phrase echoed numerous times in the book of Proverbs that a particular action is “better…than” (see also Proverbs 12:9; 15:16-17; 16:8, 16, 19, 32; 17:1, 12: 19:1, 22; 21:9, 19; 22:1; 25:25; 27:5, 10; 28:6). Standing in one place and then needing to be told to move to another is not always the very best thing to do; rather, it is better than being degraded. Maybe in another situation (a job interview? when leading people?) it is better to be bold and confident about one’s abilities. In other words, the wisdom contained within any proverb is situational, a snapshot of the best thing to do at that particular time and in that particular context. 

According to the first verse in this chapter (not included in the lectionary selection), this is one of the proverbs of Solomon (himself not exactly a model of humble restraint!) compiled by men of Hezekiah of Judah (Proverbs 25:1). Hezekiah was one of the good kings in Judah because of his willingness to listen to God (see also 2 Kings 18:5, 2 Chronicles 31:20-21). However, Hezekiah also was not without his foibles, especially when he showed the envoys from Babylon everything in his kingdom and responded with callous disregard upon hearing Isaiah’s harsh prophecy about what would happen to his descendants after him (2 Kings 20:12-19). Both Solomon and Hezekiah, apparently responsible for the speaking and gathering of this particular piece of wisdom, were wise at times and foolish in other situations. We can take encouragement that advice for how to live wisely comes from people who were flawed humans and were also willing to listen to God. 

Perhaps this particular message of not overly exalting oneself, is one that gets repeated throughout the lectionary texts for this week because it is a message that needs to be repeated in different times and in different contexts for God’s people. In addition to this message appearing in the lectionary texts today, Jesus elsewhere says that the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 19:30, 20:16; Mark 10:31); James encourages people to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10); and in numerous other places God’s reversals of status are prophesied or described. Though our current world may have new temptations and even new technology by which we can exalt ourselves (such as social media), it seems that God’s people have always needed a reminder to be humble. 

In particular, the problem seems to be the attempts to exalt ourselves, when our egos and our insecurities are driving our actions, when we desperately try to grab on to power and prestige, when we jostle to the front and elbow others out of the way so we can be first. Proverbs 25:6 sets such an attempt “in the king’s presence.” Christians who confess Jesus as the Christ, the anointed King, ought to remember that Jesus’ own exaltation happened after his self-kenosis on the cross. It is not our own strivings and accomplishments that will exalt us, but rather following a king who followed the cruciform path. 


  1. Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2001, p. 92.
  2. Kathleen O’Connor, The Wisdom Literature. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier, INC., 1988, p. 36.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 2:4-13

Michael L. Ruffin

Jeremiah 1 introduced the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah by depicting God’s call upon Jeremiah’s life. The details of that call made it clear that Jeremiah’s preaching ministry would be both powerful in its effects and challenging in its execution. Jeremiah 2, which contains this Sunday’s lectionary text, introduces the content of Jeremiah’s preaching. It presents his first words (at least as far as the order of the book goes). His opening words offer a diagnosis of his listeners’ state before God. The challenge for us and for our listeners is to hear how that diagnosis applies to us. 

As we noted in last week’s commentary, preparing to preach on the book of Jeremiah requires that we decide whether we are going to imagine ourselves and our listeners in the place of the  prophet’s or the book’s original audience. Jeremiah probably delivered the message in our text near the turn of the sixth century, when Egypt and Assyria were still the relevant powers (see 2:18) and Babylon was beginning its ascendency. But the book of Jeremiah was still being formed during the Babylonian exile. So, Jeremiah’s original audience would have heard the passage in a situation where judgment was looming but perhaps still avoidable, while the book’s original audience would have heard the passage after judgment had come and restoration was hoped for. 

The way things were (2:1-3)

The first three verses of Jeremiah 2 are not part of the lectionary text, but they provide an indispensable introduction to it, so the preacher would do well to include them in the text for the sermon.

The audience for Jeremiah’s opening words (the prophet may have actually spoken other words before he spoke these, but we’re dealing with his words in the order the book presents them) is Jerusalem. This means that Jeremiah is preaching to people in Jerusalem. We can imagine Jeremiah delivering these words to people assembled in Jerusalem for a festival or some other worship experience, but the point is that the prophet is addressing the people of God who are identified with Jerusalem, whether before or after its destruction by the Babylonians. For the people listening to Jeremiah deliver these words, Jerusalem is a source of misplaced confidence (see 7:1-15), while for those reading and hearing the book of Jeremiah during the exile, the destroyed city is a source of memory and hope. A later verse further defines the audience as “the house of Jacob” and “all the families of the house of Israel” (verse 4). Whatever place, situation, or state the people are in, the prophet addresses them as God’s people.

Speaking through Jeremiah, the Lord says that the relationship between God and the people was in the beginning exceptionally good. This refers to the wilderness period following the exodus from Egypt. Jeremiah’s perspective on that period aligns with that of Hosea (see Hosea 2:14-15) and differs from the tradition that views the wilderness period as a time when the people failed to prove that they could be faithful to God. 

Jeremiah uses two types of imagery to picture the wilderness relationship between God and the people of Israel. He first uses newlywed imagery. This metaphor compares the relationship of the people to God that of a bride to a groom (verse 2). He next uses first fruits imagery. This metaphor states that Israel was set apart for God in the same way that the first fruits of a harvest were (see Leviticus 23:9-14). Both images underscore the specialness of the early relationship between God and the people.

The way things became (verses 4-6)

But, the Lord says through Jeremiah, things changed. At this point, God frames the issue in terms of “they” and “them”—why did the people’s ancestors go from being a faithful bride to being an unfaithful spouse? Why did the relationship between God and the people break down? God poses the question in terms that would have been used in a divorce proceeding: what has God done that would motivate Israel to become unfaithful? 

The implied answer is “nothing.”

Given all that the Lord has done in bringing the ancestors through the wilderness and in establishing a committed relationship with them, it is shocking that they would go away from the Lord. It is even more shocking that they pursued other gods, even though those supposed gods were in fact nothing. NRSV says that the ancestors “went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves” (verse 5b). The Hebrew word translated “worthless” is hevel, the basic meaning of which is “vapor,” and which can mean things such as “emptiness” (see NASB) or “vanity” (see KJV). In pursuing gods who are nothing, the ancestors became nothing themselves. Pursuit of insubstantial gods produces an insubstantial people. 

The way things are (2:7-13)

The pronouns change with verse seven. Whereas until now the Lord through Jeremiah has been referring to the ancestors as “they” and “them,” the Lord now addresses the listeners as “you” (plural). The change in pronouns has the effect of placing the contemporary hearers of Jeremiah’s words in the time when the people first occupied the land. This move has two effects. First, it makes the past events real and meaningful for the listeners. In this sense, the move is similar to that made in Deuteronomy 5:2-3: “The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” Second, it raises the issue of how Jeremiah’s listeners are responsible for and guilty of the same sins that their forebears committed. The prophet eventually comes right out and states clearly that those who hear Jeremiah’s words—whether they hear him speak them or whether they read them in the book—are indeed culpable (verse 9).

Earlier in the passage Jeremiah implied that the ancestors’ going after other gods was incredible and shocking. Now he says that his listeners’ doing so is obviously ridiculous. Even people who worship non-entities as gods don’t change their gods (verses 10-11), yet Israel has exchanged commitment to the God who has blessed them (and would bless them again) to pursue non-gods who can do nothing for them. They could have “the fountain of living water,” but instead they settle for “cracked cisterns that can hold no water” (verse 13). In doing so, they choose death over life.


As we prepare to preach this text, we might ask ourselves a few questions.

  • How has God blessed us in the past?
  • How is God still blessing us in the present?
  • How and why do we overlook the blessings that result from our relationship with God?
  • What can cause us to look elsewhere than to God for our source of meaning? What can prevent us from realizing we are in danger of doing so?
  • How can we develop a relationship with God that will keep us focused on our commitment to God?


Commentary on Psalm 112

Vanessa Lovelace

A commonly held notion of the psalter is that it only contains hymns or songs of praise or thanksgiving to be used for antiphonal dialogue during worship.1

However, there are several other types of psalms in the collection, to include psalms of lament, royal psalms, and wisdom psalms. Psalm 112 is one among the wisdom psalms and offers wisdom on the virtues of godly living (see also 1, 37, 49, 73, 127, 128, and 133).

Wisdom psalms differ from more familiar psalms in their instruction on the qualities of living a life of righteousness before God rather than one of wickedness. They also are void of any praise or lament addressed to God.2 An example of this is the contrast between Psalm 112 Psalm 111, which many scholars agree should be paired together. Although both psalms share the pattern of an acrostic poem, with every other verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, common language, and a common theme of the virtues of godly living, the former stresses the wisdom of the individual who delights in living according to these instructions while the latter is a thanksgiving psalm in praise of God who is the author of these virtues.

The righteous are happy

Psalm 112, just as Psalm 111, opens with the command to “praise the Lord” or “hallelujah.” The next stanza in Psalm 112:1 contains a formal introduction that consists of a blessing upon the righteous. They are declared happy or blessed (Heb. ’ashre) for their uprightness, which is counted as fear of the Lord. The reference to fearing the Lord is directly associated with wisdom (see Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). Of course, the reader understands this blessedness to mean both obedience to and taking delight in the Lord’s commandments (112:1). More specifically, the godly are blessed because their living conforms to God’s character as described in Psalm 111.

The New Revised and New International Versions among others use the gender inclusive plural pronoun “those” to emphasize that the righteous are both female and male even though the Hebrew text has the masculine singular noun “man” as in “happy is the man” as the subject. Although the text reflects the primarily male patrons of wisdom literature in ancient times, one should not lose sight of the fact that wisdom is personified as a woman, especially as a righteous figure. Thus, we should expect that every man, woman, boy, and girl to live according to God’s righteousness.

The psalmist proclaims that not only are the righteous blessed with might, abundant wealth, and residences of their own, but such graciousness extends also to their descendants (112:2–3). With righteousness comes the responsibility to serve as a light in the darkness to others who live uprightly. The godly also show grace, mercy, and compassion towards one another (112:4). These are attributes of God (see Psalm 111:3–4). The lessons here would resonate with the literature of the other wisdom traditions.

When preparing to preach Psalm 112, one should not be quick to take it to mean that God supports prosperity gospel theology. Prosperity gospel, or the health-and-wealth gospel, preaches that God rewards adherents with wealth according to their faithfulness. Unfortunately, the other side of this teaching is that if you are poor then you are not faithful enough. Read out of context, it would be easy to see how one might conclude from these few verses that God has blessed the righteous with material blessings and good health because they were faithful. However, if we read verse 4 more closely, we find that there is more to virtuous living than being on the receiving end of God’s benefits. The shadow of darkness looms in the background. One possible interpretation is that although their righteousness—their fear of God and delight in God’s commandments—endures forever (112:3), the godly are not without adversity in their lives.

The righteous are just

As the psalmist continues to affirm that the moral character of the righteous reflects the character of God, they are also described as being generous with whatever resources that they possess and practicing justice in their affairs in the courts (112:5). Put another way, they share their blessings and they don’t cheat people. The psalmist states that the righteous stand firm in their positions and thus, they will be remembered forever (112:6). What was inferred in verse 4 is made plain in verse 7. The righteous are not immune from trouble. The psalmist declares that they are able to steel themselves in the face of bad news because they trust in the Lord. Surely, they must have been on the receiving end of bad reports or gossip of such news or the psalmist would not have mentioned them. However, instead of faltering underneath the negative hearsay, their hearts are strong. Moreover, not only will they show courage in the times of trials, but they will also triumph over their enemies (112:8).

The righteous are wise

The true character of godliness according to the psalmist in verse 9, read with verse 3, is living in right relationship with God at all times: “their righteousness endures forever” (NRSV). The righteous are gracious, compassionate, and enjoy power and wealth to the benefit of the poor and disenfranchised, not to lord it over them. Thus, while the righteous walk in the light the wicked are enveloped in darkness. The wicked envy the righteous, but their desires shall come to futility (112:10). Together the characteristics of the righteous do not align with prosperity gospel theology. Wicked people sometimes prosper, and the pious can encounter unmerited suffering. The righteous are wise enough to know that to truly be happy is to practice living according to God’s commandments whether or not they receive material benefits.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Sept. 1, 2019.
  2. For further details on wisdom psalms see my commentary on Psalm 49:1–12 the week of Sunday, August 4, 2019.

Second Reading

Commentary on Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Christopher T. Holmes

Hebrews 13:1–8, 14–15 offers wisdom for churches as they continue to emerge from pandemic lockdowns and for pastors who navigate the shifting landscape of the church in the American context. It would be inadequate to read these exhortations in an overly individualistic way, as if they only entail the cultivation of the ideal self. Instead, from beginning to end, these exhortations are communal in nature. They offer a compelling picture of what the church might look like, in an age when increasingly large numbers of people doubt its relevance. 

The first command is to let “mutual love” remain. In other writings from antiquity, the Greek word philadelphia meant love for one’s brothers or sisters by blood. In the New Testament, however, it refers to a special form of love expressed among members of the Christian community. Christians were known, and sometimes jeered, because of their creation and maintenance of “fictive kinship.” The practice of referring to one another as siblings, not only conveys the theological conviction that members were all children of God, whom they called Father (see Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6); it also reflects the reality that early Christians experienced rejection from their true kin (see Matthew 10:21, Mark 13:12). 

While the command to practice this mutual love is not unique to Hebrews (see Romans 12:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 Peter 1:22, 2 Peter 1:7), it’s important to remember some of the particulars of the writing and the situation it addresses. In Hebrews, mutual love is a shorthand for practices and dispositions that preserve and strengthen the community. As we read in Hebrews 10:24–25, the author hopes the community will stir one another toward love and good deeds. In this sense, mutual love is an important and tangible consequence of continuing to meet together. 

Next, the author commands the community not to neglect or overlook the practice of hospitality. The short reference to the fact that “some have entertained angels without knowing it” recalls specific examples from the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 18:2–15, 19:1–14, Judges 6:11–24, and 13:3–23) and affirms the central place of hospitality in the Bible more generally. Hospitality played a significant role in expanding and connecting early Christian communities. The gospels and the epistles show a concern for extending hospitality to Christian workers. This general practice is given particular nuance in Hebrews. The author envisions the audience as sojourners, like Abraham and the other heroes of faith, seeking the city of God. Showing and receiving hospitality would thus be a vital virtue for such a pilgrim people. 

In verse 3, the author challenges the audience to express solidarity with two groups of people: those who are imprisoned and those who are tortured. According to Hebrews 10:32–34, the audience has demonstrated just this sort of solidarity in the past, and the author exhorts them to continue doing so. Jesus’s parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31–46) praises the practice of visiting those who are in prison. We should, then, understand the command to “remember” those in prison as more than a mental exercise. Since prisons in the ancient world were not state-sponsored, prisoners would have depended on their associates for their basic livelihood.

Verses four through six contain additional commands related to the community’s maintenance and integrity. As Luke Timothy Johnson notes in his commentary, there is a long tradition of treating sexual and economic behavior in tandem, since both point to excessive or disordered desires.1 Such excessive desires, whether for money or sexual relations, have disastrous effects on communal life. 

The author exhorts the audience to honor marriage and to keep the “marriage bed” undefiled. Honor for marriage and the sanctity of the marriage bed are threatened by both fornicators, those who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, and by adulterers, those who break the covenantal bond between husband and wife. Both will be judged by God.

The author commands the audience to practice restraint in another area of life, their economic practices. The author encourages them to adopt a lifestyle that does not include the “love of money,” a vice condemned almost universally by popular philosophers in the ancient world. Love of money can lead to greed and hoarding. The opposite of the love of money, or at least its corresponding virtue, is contentment. Practicing being content with what one has can tamp down the desire to accumulate or earn more. Contentment enables the community to share possessions, as the author will command in 13:16. And for the author, contentment arises from a deep trust in God’s provision, powerfully expressed in the allusion to Deuteronomy 31:6,8 in verse 5 and the quotation of Psalm 118:6 in verse 6.

Next, the author commands the audience to remember their leaders. There are two details about the leaders identified in 13:7. First, they are described as the ones who “spoke the word of God” to the audience. Second, the author commands the audience to “remember” them. Taken together, these details suggest that the “leaders” were active with the community in the past but may not be so in the present. They may very well be what we would call the “founders” or “organizing pastors” of the community. They may have been the ones who taught the “basic teaching about Christ” that led those in the community to repent “from dead works” and to turn in “faith toward God” (6:1). 

The author urges the audience to remember these leaders, not just for their potential role in founding the community, but also for the quality of their lives. They are to consider the “outcome of their way of life, and immediate their faith” (13:7). The leaders are to be respected, remembered, and emulated, not only on the basis of their authority or function in the community but also for their exemplary lives of faith.

The statement about Jesus in verse 8 does not have any grammatical or syntactical connections with the preceding verses. There’s no “thus” or “therefore” introducing the statement about the perpetuity and sameness of Jesus Christ. It may be deduced, though, that Jesus’ permanence is meant as a form of reassurance in the midst of organizational changes. Leaders may come and go, but Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

The curators of the lectionary skip over some fascinating but complicated material about strange teachings, altars, sanctuaries, blood, and city gates (13:9–14). The cultic context of these verses is important, however, for understanding the significance of Hebrews 13:15–16. These verses, and others in Hebrews, imagine the audience members as a band of priests who enter into holy space and perform cultic actions. Their activities, though, do not require the literal use of blood or loss of life. Instead, the author spiritualizes the sacrificial system. Here in 13:15–16, the author names two types of “sacrifices” offered by the band of priests: constant praise, in verse 15, and the doing good and sharing possessions in verse 16. 

The exhortations suggest that a congregation’s vitality should not be measured in the plethora of its programming or the flashiness of its preacher or worship band. Rather, a congregation’s vitality depends on the demonstration of deep love, radical hospitality, solidarity with those on the margins of society, honoring (but not idolizing) marriage, sharing possessions, practicing contentment, and emulating the exemplary behavior of those who have gone before them. 



  1.  Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews, 341.