Hebrews 11.1-7; Psalm 144; Mark 9.2-13
A bit unusually, the first lesson today is a kind of summary of the first lessons of each day of the preceding week. Chapter 11 appears at a climactic point in the argument of the epistle to the Hebrews. The author urges his readers to persevere. ‘Through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary’ he insists [10.19], echoing the conviction of the Synoptic evangelists that at the death of Jesus on the cross ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two.’ [Luke 23.45; Mark 15.38; Matthew 27.51] But ‘you will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised’ Hebrews continues [10.36] and offers in chapter 11 a kind of précis of the history of the chosen people. Chapter 12 develops the theme by pointing to Jesus himself, ‘who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.’ [12.2]
Careful readers of the New Testament have frequently noted that this understanding of faith is unique to Hebrews. ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for’ [11.1] but that faith isn’t just a state of mind. It is a force, a strength, by which kingdoms can be conquered [11.33] and enemies scattered. [11.35] This faith is both shown by the example of Jesus and imparted by him to those who believe in him. Faith will make those who live by it righteous, accepted by God despite our unworthiness.