The wages of sin is death. In other words, what Adam earned by sinning was death – the passing away of individual human beings. Adam brought death to the human race because he separated his mind and heart from God. God did not create us for death, He created us for life, but that life comes from Him. The highest and most lifegiving source of human life: communion with God – has been severed through the choices of our first parents. Physical death is just one kind of death, there is a kind of emotional death, a kind of spiritual death. We will experience death in various ways during our time on earth – we will also experience life in various ways. God clearly created us for happiness and life, but we are mysteriously drawn to the darkness of sin – tempted – to flirt with death. Death continues to exert power over us even though we’ve been baptised and even though we practice the faith. We continue to experience sorrow and suffering because of our own sin and because of the sins of others.
How does Jesus save us then? What does it mean to be saved? What am I expecting Jesus to change about my life? It is natural to desire happiness in this life, but Jesus doesn’t make any guarantees about that. He does promise us peace though – heavenly peace. That peace comes from him re-establishing communion between us and Our Heavenly Father. The mercy of God removes sin if we ask for it, and heals us from death. The ultimate healing from death happens at our resurrection, but we are also healed from the deaths of sin we’ve experienced. We can receive the peace and communion Jesus wants for us by simply reaching out to Him in faith. Jesus gives an example of how to do that to his disciples in today’s Gospel. He goes off to a solitary place to pray. On the one hand, prayer is an obligation – our duty to express gratitude to our Creator, but it is also the way God strengthens our hearts and teaches us to continue our way back to Him. Prayer isn’t guaranteed to make us happy, but to bring us back into communion with God and give us peace to continue our journey to heaven.
And how does he rule over death? Since he rules over sin from which death has its power, he also rules over death. Sin, at any rate, is the power of death. Then having a sacrifice for sin and being the agent of the sacrifice, he has the power over death.… Through his own death he rendered sin ineffective and held the devil under his power, who is the strength and power of death. For if sin had not had power over humankind, death would not have entered the world.1
“He is able to help those who are tempted” … should be interpreted as follows. As the sinless body of the Lord was subjected to the evil and the temptations of suffering befell it … therefore, having the sinless body, having been tried and having suffered, he has the just and blessed power over evil, can deliver humans who are dying under sin from the temptations that fall on them, and he can defend from the temptations. If the Lord had righteous and blessed power over the audacious evil that tempted his sinless body, he also is able to release those who are subject to sin and temptations and to be the helper of those who are tempted.2
Jesus prayed and did not pray in vain, since he received what he asked for in prayer when he might have done so without prayer. If so, who among us would neglect to pray? Mark says that “in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.” And Luke says, “He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray,’ ” and elsewhere, “And all night he continued in prayer to God.” And John records his prayer, saying, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’ ” The same Evangelist writes that the Lord said that he knew “you hear me always.” All this shows that the one who prays always is always heard.3
- FRAGMENTS ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS 2.14. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 47). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENTS ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS 2.18. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (pp. 50–51). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON PRAYER 13.1. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (pp. 23–24). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.