April 19, the Thirty-Sixth Day of Lent
April 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.
In the past couple of verses, the author of Hebrews has been sharing generalized events that characterize positive events within Israel’s history; these references bring to mind miracles, military conquests, and other times when people lived in faith to accomplish God’ will.
Today, the author references resurrection. This would have called to mind the stories of Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter; miracles where Christ conquered death in the lives of others. If anything could characterize what Israel’s history and God’s story is all about, it would be the concept of people receiving life out of death. Indeed, that is what we are celebrating this week during Holy Week.
However, the text also takes a negative turn here. The author will begin to speak of sufferings and horrible things that people went through. These kinds of events may seem out of place in a passage of Scripture dedicated to speaking of the faith events of others. However, as we will see over the next couple of verses, faith also has place within suffering. Sometimes, people of faith will suffer because of their faith. In these times, their faith will sustain them as they look past their present situation to God’s promises.
That is what the author refers to here. Persecution and suffering would have been common things for Christians living in this era. As this letter was being read in the congregation, it would have called to mind people from their midst who were suffering for Christ at that very moment. Many of these people were imprisoned and tortured; if they would reject Christ and accept the lordship of the Emperor, they would have been released and gained comfort and security. Rather, these people chose to suffer; knowing that Christ’s return would overthrow the oppressive power of Caesar and that Christ had power over death, these people suffered because of their faith that Christ would set wrongs right. Their faith was stronger than any power their tormentors could wield.
We have looked at how faith in God’s people brought about mighty things. For the next couple of days, we will examine how faith functions in times of sufferings. Ponder these questions: When was the last time you suffered, and how did your faith sustain you in that moment? Have you caused suffering in the life of another because of a lack of faith? Now, think of Christ’s sufferings. What do his trials tell us about suffering and faith?
As we journey through Lent together, may our faith be strengthened even in suffering.
“Dear Lord, thank you for the encouraging words of your Scripture. It is good to hear about what can happen by faith through your people, but I must also face the reality that Christians suffer. Please sustain me in times of suffering; use me to sustain others in their times of trial as well. Help us, as your people, to be able to look past our present and focus upon your promises for redemption and healing in the world. Amen.”