Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
In many ways the book of Hebrews does not resemble other epistles in the New Testament, but one way that it does, is in its closing greeting and appeals found in the final eight verses. The author of Hebrews makes a personal request for prayer and expresses a desire to see them again (13:18-19). These words reveal a personal relationship between the author and those receiving the letter; he loves them and wants to be with them in person. Another component that is shared with other epistles is the benediction, or pronouncement of blessing, in verses 20-21. We find benedictions, for example, in Rom 15:13, 1 Th 5:23 and 2 Th 3:16. The author of Hebrews cares for the people to whom he writes, and he wants this blessing to ring in their ears at the end of an epistle loaded with rich doctrine.
In this benediction we find some of the themes from earlier in Hebrews reiterated. “To whom be glory forever” hearkens back to chapter 1 verse 3 where Jesus is described as “the radiance of the glory of God.” “Working in us what is pleasing” repeats the idea of acceptable worship in the lives of God’s people described in chapter 12:28 through 13:17. “The blood of the eternal covenant” is a clear nod to chapters 8-10, where he describes the greater sacrifice and greater covenant inaugurated by the greater mediator, Jesus Christ, who entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. … This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” (Heb 9:12,20)
This Sunday being the day that much of Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, we will focus on two of the benediction’s elements that are unique in Hebrews – shepherd and resurrection. This is the only time in the epistle where Jesus is called “shepherd.” We learn that this “great shepherd of the sheep” (a title derived from Isaiah 63:11) is “brought again from the dead;” this is the only explicit reference to Jesus’s resurrection in the epistle. The resurrection, though not a prominent theme in Hebrews, is certainly presupposed in the background of many texts (see for examples: 2:14-15, 4:1, 11, 14, 5:7, 7:3, 16, 9:28, 10:20, 11:6-19, 12:2, 18-29). Let us rejoice for our Shepherd is alive. He is risen indeed!