Uniform 12.07.2014: Angels among Us

Hebrews 1:1-9

One Sunday morning in August 2013, a mysterious appearance at a horrific accident had witnesses seeing angels. College sophomore Katie Lentz’s car collided with that of a drunk driver, and Katie was trapped beneath crumpled sheet metal. Emergency workers struggled to remove her from the car so she could be airlifted to a hospital, but they were making little progress as her vital signs plummeted.

And then the angel appeared. A priest in black was suddenly there to pray over Katie. No one recognized the man, and as soon as he left, the entire situation turned around. The workers removed Katie from the vehicle and got her to a medical facility. Though she was seriously injured, doctors were able to operate and save her life.

A few days later, Reverend Patrick Dowling came forward and identified himself as the priest who had prayed for Katie. Deacon Dan Joyce (head of communications for the local county diocese) released a statement saying that Dowling was “pleased that he was able to help by performing his ministry and noted that that he was just one of many who responded to assist the victim at the accident.”

Is Dowling an angel or a priest? Or is he both? In our culture, some people revere angels as spiritual beings. Some collect figurines and paintings of angels as a source of comfort in their homes. Some dismiss angels in favor of Jesus Christ. But perhaps the best approach lies somewhere in the middle. In our lesson text, Hebrews 1:1-9, the speaker doesn’t dispute the existence of angels. He shows that Jesus is superior to them. But it is clear that angels exist, and their purpose is to be servants of Christ who are like “winds” and “flames of fire” (v. 7).

When a miraculous event is later explained with facts, it’s tempting to feel disappointed. Maybe, instead of feeling let down and assuming that God no longer does miracles in our world, we can choose to see the miraculous in the acts of regular people. After all, it’s not every day that a person stops, enters a life-or-death situation, and shares the gentle wind of God’s peace with others.

Sources: Melanie Eversley, “‘Angel’ Priest Visits Missouri Accident Scene,” USA Today, 13 August 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/07/angel-crash-missouri/2630227/?csp=fbfanpage; Billy Hallowell, “Mystery Priest…Identified,” The Blaze, 12 August 2013, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/08/12/mystery-priest-who-showed-up-at-crash-scene-then-vanished-is-identified/ (both accessed 24 November 2014).


1. What is your opinion of angels? Do you think they are real and active in our world? If so, how? If not, why?
2. Have you or someone you know felt as if you encountered an angel? What happened? What other miracles have you witnessed?
3. Why do you think the author of Hebrews felt the need to put angels in their rightful place under Christ?
4. What is the purpose of an angel?
5. Do you think it’s possible for you to be one of God’s “angels” as you touch the life of someone else? What can you do this holiday season—and throughout the year—to point people to Jesus Christ, who is the “reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Heb 1:3)?

Reference Shelf

1:2c-3b. The Son as agent in creation.

Here terms and functions, previously ascribed in Judaism to divine wisdom (Job 28:23-28; Prov 8; Sir 24:3-24; Wis 7:1-8:1), are applied to the Son. Thus he is God’s agent in bringing the worlds (literally the ages) into being, and in the ongoing work of sustaining the universe. We find the selfsame functions ascribed by Philo (the Alexandrian Jewish rabbi and older contemporary of the apostle Paul) to God’s word (lovgo). In most respects Philo’s logos is but wisdom (sofiva) in another guise.

Like wisdom in Jewish writings (cf. Wis 7:25f.), so the Son in Hebrews is described as God’s reflection. Like the word in Philo (cf. On Planting 18) he is the exact imprint. The language of the divine wisdom/word is applied to the Son somewhat obliquely, however. Thus, unlike Paul in 1 Cor 1:24, 30, Hebrews does not directly describe Jesus as God’s wisdom. Nor, unlike the prologue of John’s Gospel, is he identified with the preexistent logos who became flesh.

The closest parallel in the NT to these verses is Col 1:15-20. It is possible that both Colossians and Hebrews are drawing upon an early Christian hymn or confession. If so, Hebrews does not use it to stress the Son’s preexistence so much as to assert his preeminence. Above all, the prologue is concerned to affirm the sovereignty of Christ in his postexistence.

1:3c-4. The Son as agent of salvation.

Unique to Hebrews is the analogy which it draws between the death and ascension of Jesus and the actions of the Levitical high priest on the Day of Atonement (see Lev 16 and ATONEMENT, DAY OF). Thus the cross is likened to the sacrificial offering which was the essential prerequisite for entry into the shrine’s inner sanctum, and heaven becomes that inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies in which Jesus is now situated.

This theme, which is to be developed at length in 4:14-10:18, is announced at the very outset: When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v. 3). The motif of session (sitting at the right hand of God) alludes to Ps 110:1, one of the most widely cited OT texts in the NT. It is used throughout this homily (1:13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2) to affirm that Jesus is now in heaven, seated at God’s right hand. A psalm which originally celebrated the enthronement of a Davidic king as God’s son and viceroy is seen to find its fulfilment in the exalted Christ.


Marie E. Isaacs, “Hebrews” in Mercer Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Watson E. Mills, et al (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995).

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