18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Benediction and Final Greetings
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25 Grace be with you all.
Over the past few years I have found myself with many opportunities to travel for ministry purposes both within the United States and outside of the country. I have taken most of those trips with my wife but have taken quite a few without her. I don’t really like being gone without my wife, but I have gotten somewhat used to the process of traveling alone and am now fairly comfortable with it. But it wasn’t always that way. When we first started to fly and travel a lot, she always went with me. And while I would prepare lessons that I was going to preach and take care of myself in that way, my wife would take care of all of the travel details. She would set up the tickets and the trip, take care of reservations, carry the needed information, and pretty much handle all of the travel, transportation, and lodging details along the way. Then I suddenly had to go on a trip without her. I had never done that before and was a bit nervous. As I was leaving, though, she handed me a folder and told me that whenever someone asked me for information that it would be in that folder. The first test was at the airport. They asked me for my confirmation number. I didn’t know it but I opened the folder, just grabbed the top paper, handed it to the clerk and asked if that was what they needed. It was and I was in business. That process continued to happen at the car rental place, the hotel, and throughout the week. My wife had thought through everything I would need, and the order in which I would need it, and had completely equipped that folder with everything that would be necessary. I had to go on the trip alone but she had prepared everything and I was able to make it through the entire trip without any problems.
In the book of Hebrews, the author has called his readers to re-focus their hearts and lives on Jesus. He is the superior mediator who has brought about the superior covenant. He is the one that we must all follow. He had blazed the trail for them to travel down and they needed to stay faithful to that path. Even when the going got tough, they needed to keep going. They were on a long and sometimes difficult journey. But as the writer brings his lesson to a close he gives them one final flurry of encouragement. The way might look daunting and maybe even too difficult, but they must avoid that urge to give up and quit because God had equipped them. Regardless of how difficult it seemed, they needn’t worry because God had fully equipped them with everything they would ever need. He would continue to provide for them and makes sure they had everything they would require to complete their journey.
As the writer moves into his final thoughts, he urges the audience to pray for their leaders, a group that would include the author himself. We have a tendency to assume that when someone requests prayer it is because something has gone wrong but that doesn’t always need to be the case, and probably was not the case here. He wants prayer to bolster his desire to live a life that is honorable to God and among God’s people in every way. In fact his “desire” is a little stronger than this translation lets on and could probably be better rendered “We are sure that we have a clear conscience and are firmly determined to live honorably in every way.” Praying for one another shows support and unity and leaders need just as much, if not more prayer from those they lead than the flock needs prayer from their leaders.
The writer is no pie-eyed optimist, however. He knows that it is easy for Christians to agree to pray for someone and then not follow through. Some of us, I’m sure, have been guilty of that. And while it may just be an honest slip of the mind on occasion, we need to be careful with our promises and watch out that we are not becoming hypocritical, saying that we will pray for someone when we have virtually no intention of doing so and make little to no attempt to actually remember to do it. The writer asks them twice to pray for him, urging them to do so, and particularly to pray that he will be able to come encourage them sometime in the near future.
The center of this final greeting, comes in verses 20-21. The author hasn’t made the resurrection of Christ a focal point of his lesson to this point. He has assumed it, though, allowing it to serve as the backdrop to the sacrificial death death of Jesus and his ascending to the heavenly sanctuary to serve as our eternal high priest. Of course, it is the resurrection of Christ that gives meaning and power to the actual crucifixion and makes possible the state of Jesus serving as the superior high priest of the New Covenant. In this great blessing, though, he directly hits upon the resurrection, something that was a core foundational topic for the early church (Heb. 6: 2). In fact in these two verses, Hebrews teaches us seven important aspects about God and his relationship with his people.
First, he is the God of peace. The word “peace” used here means much more than just absence of disharmony. It means wholeness, completeness, harmony, and fulfillment. It is a lasting peace which the world knows nothing of. God is a God of wholeness and harmony and he wants that for his people as well.
Second, he has brought about an eternal covenant with his people that can never be broken because it has been established by the very life force, the blood, of his unique and only Son, Jesus Christ. So many other contracts and covenants are temporary, unreliable, and constantly in need of renewing but not the one with that we have in Christ.
Third, this was all made possible by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is the seminal moment in all of history. It is what vindicated Jesus’ death on the cross and showed him to be the true high priest, and it is the source of the great Christian hope of being resurrected with our savior one day, just as God has promised.
Fourth, Jesus is the Great Shepherd. He is the undisputed head of the body and leaders should always keep that mind. Leaders do have an important role but it must always be in service to the Great Shepherd and the Flock not themselves. This also reminds us, however, that the body of Christ are like a flock of sheep and they do need shepherds to lead them. We need the Great Shepherd and we also need to allow ourselves to be influenced and led by the under-shepherds (Heb. 13:17).
Fifth, through the life of Christ, God has equipped us with everything we need. It is so easy to spend time worrying about whether we will be able to stay faithful, or capable of growing spiritually, or up to the task of evangelizing the lost, or leading in God’s church, or any number of other things to which God has called us. But we must trust our Father. He would not call us to do something that he did not equip us for. Worry is a sign of trusting in ourselves. Peace comes from trusting that God has the power and ability to work through us in whatever situations we might find ourselves.
Sixth, through Jesus Christ, God will work in us so that we can please him. But we must trust in him and rely on the life of Christ. Only then will we walk in the Spirit and be able to please God through our faith in the life of Christ (Rom. 8:5-8; Hebrews 11:6).
Finally, God has done us this to bring glory to himself. When we live the path that God has marked out for us in Christ Jesus, he will equip us to do the most fitting thing that we can ever do with our lives; we can bring glory to God. As we surrender to the Great Shepherd and live the resurrected life of Christ we will find ourselves growing in the desire and ability to bring glory to God in whatever we do (1 Cor. 10:31).
As the letter winds to a close, Hebrews reminds the readers that this has been just a brief letter. It may not seem that way to us, but by the standards of the day, it was a rather short exhortation of this type. There have been several places scattered throughout the lesson in which the author hinted that he might have much more to say were he not trying to be brief, and although we might wish to have those expanded teachings available to us, we must trust that God has given us everything we need to be faithful and grow.
The final greetings display the true heart of Christianity that are built on God’s family and his grace. The greeting that comes from “those from Italy,” likely refers to those that had fled Rome years earlier and had not returned, but were instead living at the location of the author.
It is striking that the final word for them, is not “get it together,” nor is it “obey the Lord and your leaders and stop playing around.” No, the final blessing is that “grace” be upon them. It is God’s grace that is like a stream flowing through the desert that would enable them to continue on and finish the race that God had marked out for them. And it is God’s same grace flowing through our lives that will enable us to finish the race as well.
The journey has been marked out and God has prepared in advance everything that you need to complete it. Are you willing to begin? And if you have already begun are you willing to persevere and trust that no matter how difficult the going might get, that God has provided for you and will ensure that you finish if you just trust him.