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READING 1 | READING 2 | GOSPEL

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Jesus learned to obey God

Reading II: Hebrews 5:7-9

  • The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews describes the prayer of Jesus during his passion.
  • It is his reverence that makes Jesus perfect and the source of salvation for all who obey him.
  • Salvation comes through obedience bought with suffering.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor

Scripture in Context

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Introductory

Visual Bible
by Stephen M. Miller

Advanced

Introduction to the New Testament
by Raymond E. Brown

Feasting on the Word

Human high priest vs. divine priest

Hebrews 5 is careful to line out in a somewhat chiastic form a comparison between the human high priest and the divine priest. The human high priest (1) is chosen from among mortals from the priestly clan of Aaron, (2) is put in charge of things pertaining to God on behalf of human beings, (3) offers gifts and sacrifices for sins, (4) deals gently with the ignorant and wayward, (5) is himself subject to weakness, and (6) does not presume to take this honor on himself, but is called by God to serve.   The divine priest (6) does not glorify himself, but is chosen by God, (5) learned obedience through human suffering, (4) relates to the weakness of others, (3) offered up prayers of supplication, (2) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, and (1) is designated a high priest by God according to the taxonomy (taxis; 5:10) of the great high priest Melchizedek.

SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
Christ-Centered Exposition

Jesus learned obedience through suffering

Heb 5:9 tells us that Jesus “was perfected” through suffering—so much so that “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” What does it mean that Jesus was made perfect? Wasn’t he already perfect?

What does it mean that Jesus was made perfect? Wasn’t he already perfect?
Furthermore, what does it mean that Jesus became the source of eternal salvation? We have already seen how suffering played a part in Jesus’s perfection in Hebrews 2:10. The author is echoing the same reality in this verse. Jesus was not made perfect in the sense that his nature was once impoverished and needed to be improved. Rather, he was made perfect in the sense that learning obedience through suffering was a prerequisite for becoming a qualified and sufficient high priest. In being made perfect through suffering and death, Jesus became “the source of eternal salvation.” This simply means that Jesus’s suffering stands as the basis for our salvation. Christ as the source of our salvation is synonymous with Christ as the founder of our salvation (cf. 2:10).

SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
Understanding the Bible Commentary

Submission of Jesus to the will of his Father in the Gethsemane prayer

The struggle referred to during the days of Jesus’ life on earth (lit., “in the days of his flesh”) refers obviously to his experience as he approached his imminent death. Almost certainly the author has in mind the agony of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (see Matt. 26:36ff.), where Jesus prayed that if possible the cup (i.e., his death) might pass from him.  

Jesus' prayers were centered on the avoidance of death. But how then can the author continue by saying that he was heard?
The fact that the prayers and petitions are said to have been directed to the one who could save him from death indicates almost certainly that the prayers were centered on the avoidance of death. But how then can the author continue by saying that he was heard? God always hears the prayers of those who suffer (see Ps. 22:24, a psalm that the early church understood as foreshadowing the passion of Jesus). Yet, it is clear that he does not always answer in the way that might be expected or desired.   In this instance—although it is difficult to believe that this was Jesus’ request—the answer came not in the avoidance of death, but in deliverance from (lit., “out of”) death through the resurrection. Jesus was heard, according to our author, because of his reverent submission (lit., “because of his piety”). This is the counterpart of the submission of Jesus to the will of his Father in the Gethsemane prayer, even where he prays to escape death. Because of his submission to God’s will, the prayer of Jesus was heard in a much greater way than otherwise would have been possible.

SOURCE: Content taken from UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE COMMENTARY SERIES (36 Volumes); W. Ward Gasque, Robert L Hubbard Jr., Robert K Johnston (General Editors); Copyright © 2000. Baker Books. All rights reserved.

Life Recovery Bible

Jesus goes before us

Heb 5:4-10 Like any high priest, Jesus Christ had to be chosen for his role. But Christ was a different priest from the Jewish priests descended from Aaron. Jesus is the final (and eternal) High Priest in the line of Melchizedek (see 7:1-21; Psalm 110:4). To prepare for that unique calling, Jesus, the perfect High Priest (see Hebrews 13:8), had to go through a painful growing and learning process (see Luke 2:52) that culminated in his death on the cross. His success in that process lends us great hope as we pursue recovery. He is the one who goes before us and has prepared the way, and he is with us in every step we take.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible

Christ's perfection

Heb 5:9 Christ was always morally perfect. By obeying, he demonstrated his perfection to us, not to God or to himself.

In the Bible, perfection usually means completeness or maturity.
In the Bible, perfection usually means completeness or maturity. By sharing our experience of suffering, Christ shared our human experience completely. He is now able to offer eternal salvation to those who obey him. See Philippians 2:5–11 for Christ’s attitude as he took on human form.

SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Sermon Writer
EXEGESIS

THE BROAD CONTEXT

THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

HEBREWS 5:5-6. YOU ARE MY SON

HEBREWS 5:7-10. A HIGH PRIEST AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK

SOURCE: Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

READING 1 | READING 2 | GOSPEL

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY

Jesus the Obedient Son

by Michal Hunt

The Second Reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, contains a concise summary of Jesus’ life on earth.  St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote that Jesus “offered his life as a model of saintly existence to be used by earthly beings, he took on the weaknesses of humanity, and what was his purpose in doing this?  That we might truly believe that he became man, although he remained what he was, namely God” (Letter to Euopitus, Anathema, 10).

Summary of Jesus’ life on earth

Hebrews 5:7-9 contains a concise summary of Jesus’ life on earth.  St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote that Jesus

“offered his life as a model of saintly existence to be used by earthly beings; he took on the weaknesses of humanity, and what was his purpose in doing this?  That we might truly believe that he became man, although he remained what he was, namely God” (Letter to Euopitus, Anathema, 10).

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane

Jesus came in the flesh to redeem fallen humanity.  Concerning Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, St. Paul writes:

he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death.  

Paul continues in Heb 5:7 by saying that the Father heard His prayer, and God’s answer was “submit in obedience.”  The Son’s response was “not my will Father but Yours” (Mt 26:42).  Jesus was “heard” (Heb 5:7) because He did not disobey.

In His response, the Son was “made perfect” (Heb 5:8).  By His obedient response, in submission to the Father, Jesus, the new Adam, overcame the sin of the first Adam, whose disobedience brought sin and death into the world (1 Cor 15:45-49CCC# 411504). Being “made perfect,” Jesus Christ became the source of our salvation for all who obey Him (verse 8).

Jesus as the source of our salvation

Jesus became “the source of our salvation” in His perfect obedience to the Father by submitting Himself to death on the Cross as the unblemished sacrifice for the sake of a sinful of humanity.

Concerning this passage, St. Ephraim wrote,

“He became the source of our eternal salvation by replacing Adam, who had been the source of our death through his disobedience.  But as Adam’s death did not reign in those who did not sin, so life reigns in those who do not need to be absolved.  Even though he is a liberal giver of life, life is given to those who obey, not to those who fall away from him” (Ephraim, Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews).

Jesus learned obedience

It is not through this submission that Jesus “learned obedience” (verse 8) as though He didn’t previously know about obedience, but rather that He “experienced” obedience.

It is easy to be “obedient” to one’s superior or to one’s parent when what is required is pleasant.  However, it is something else entirely when obedience means submission to something that one does not want to experience.

St. John Chrysostom advised the faithful:

“If he, though the Son, gains obedience from his sufferings, how much more shall we?  Do you see how many things Paul says about obedience in order to persuade them to obedience?  […]  ‘Though what he suffered’ he continually ‘learned’ to obey God, and he was ‘made perfect’ through sufferings.  This, then, is perfection, and this means we must arrive at perfection.  For not only was he himself saved; but also became an abundant supply of salvation to others” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 8.3).

SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.

READING 1 | READING 2 | GOSPEL

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

Lisa St. Romaine

Lisa St. Romaine offers lector tips. She is married to Philip St. Romain, M.S., D. Min. Her videos are posted on her YouTube channel every Wednesday for Sunday.

SHOW/HIDE LECTOR WORKBOOK GUIDE (BY LAWRENCE MICK)

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First Page: NRSV Bible (used in Canada) with commentary
Second Page: NAB Bible (United States) with proclamation tips

IMPORTANT: Both the Canadian and U.S. lectionaries have been revised since 1997. While most of the Lectionary text has not been altered, there have been some changes.

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Paul Schlachter

Source of eternal salvation

Points to consider

The writer presents a moving portrait of Christ our high priest.  We will hear it again in two weeks when we commemorate the passion and death of Jesus.

We long to pray in union with Christ but we are ashamed by our feelings.  Listen to the prayers and supplications of Jesus, who with loud cries and tears prayed to be saved from death.  Jesus is one with us; can we be one with him?

I hear two words describing Christ before God, reverence and obedience.


Key elements

Climax: What it means to us.  Jesus is the source of eternal salvation.  According to the author, with his excruciating prayer and his life of obedience to God, Jesus has become our way to God.

Is there a better summation of what we are about during Lent than this?

The message for our assembly: Now it is our turn.  If we obey him we will discover the source of eternal salvation.  Is there a better summation of what we are about during Lent than this?

I will challenge myself: To take my time in this short passage, so that my listeners can come closer to the one who came close to us.

SOURCE: LectorWorks.org; Used with permission
Greg Warnusz

Superiority of Jesus

Introduction

Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

When Jews expelled those who believed in Jesus, this letter assured Hebrew Christians that, in Jesus, they have something and someone superior to everything they enjoyed in their ancestral religion. Today the author shows that Jesus, even a suffering Jesus, makes obsolete the mediation of angels, and is a priest superior to the priests of Judaism.

Liturgical Setting

Today’s gospel, John 12:20-33, like last week’s gospel, John 3:14-21, speaks of Jesus’ being lifted up. Today’s contains an even more ominous prediction of his passion, and a detail about Jesus’ prayer to his Father. That may govern the selection of this passage as second reading.


Historical Situation

The issue in these verses is the loss of the ancient Jewish priesthood, and Jesus as superior priest.

The “Hebrews” to whom this letter was first addressed were Jews who, upon accepting Jesus as the fulfillment of their ancestral Jewish hopes, suddenly found themselves cut off from the ancestral Jewish institutions and rituals, because the mainline Jews kicked them out precisely for proclaiming Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. This grieved the Jewish Christians, of course, and to bolster their faith in Christ Jesus (literally, “Jesus the Messiah”), the author shows how they now have, in Jesus, all that they ever had before, and more. The issue in these verses is the loss of the ancient Jewish priesthood, and Jesus as superior priest.

The verses preceding these describe first the priests of ancient Judaism, then Jesus as the priest of the new covenant. They liken Jesus to the class of ancient priests, (sympathetic and patient, neither glorified himself), then distinguish Jesus from the others (the Father called Jesus his Son). Today’s verses expand on that theme of Jesus as God’s Son and at the same time emphasize his human nature (learning obedience through suffering, thus made perfect). They also clinch his superiority as priest to the ancient priests in that Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation” to others, more than the ancients could ever hope to be.


Proclaiming the Passage

Most of the passage is about themes in the life of Jesus. But it switches emphasis at the end, to focus on those (us) who obey him, and receive eternal life through him. Make sure you note that change with your voice. You should give this proclamation a dramatic conclusion, because, for one reason, its conclusion leads directly to the gospel reading that follows.

SOURCE: LectorPrep.org

READING 1 | READING 2 | GOSPEL

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

Catholic Productions

By Grace You Have Been Saved

In the Book of Ephesians, St. Paul gives one of his most famous phrases, “By grace you have been saved.” And, without seeing the context of Paul’s use of this phrase, one can easily conclude that Paul is referring to being saved with regard to “final salvation,” and not being saved with regard to “initial salvation.” (This, of course, does not mean that it is not through grace that we achieve our final salvation, but, rather, that final salvation is outside of the scope of what Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 2:5).

Catholic Answers

Tim Staples — God’s Grace and Good Works

Ephesians 2:8-9: How can we understand the role of God’s grace in our good works? Tim Staples answers a caller on Catholic Answers Live.

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