About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Jesus The High Priest (ch. 4:14-5:10)

 

Once again in verse 14 the writer admonishes his readers ďto hold firmly to the faith they profess.Ē  Words donít necessarily mean a lot at times.  We can profess faith, but do we act out our faith?  We say that we trust Jesus, but do our actions show this trust?  Why do we need to hold strongly to our faith?  The answer is that Jesus is our high priest and He has gone "through the heavens."  He now stands before God on our behalf, interceding for us as high priest. This can be seen clearly in Romans 8:34 where it says that Jesus intercedes for us.

 

Note here in verse 14 the words "gone through the heavens."  Some translations may have "heaven" singular instead of "heavens" plural.  The Greek has the plural "heavens."  To me, this suggests the ascension of Jesus into heaven to sit at God's right hand of authority.  The author seems to be saying that in order for Jesus to get back to heaven He had to pass through the heavens.  Whether this is symbolic language or not is debatable.  

 

We see again in verse 14 that the author is encouraging these people to hold on to their faith, as if it were possible to lose it.  As I've been saying throughout this commentary, this is yet another verse that tells me that the recipients of this letter were Jewish believers and not Jewish non-believers as some suggest.         

 

In verse 15 we see that Jesus was tempted in every way that we can possibly be tempted.  There is no temptation that He has not been tempted with.  This may be hard to picture, but Jesus was tempted in every way, yes, the Son of God was tempted into a life of immorality.  He was tempted to cheat and to lie.  He was tempted to kill and to steal, yet He did not give into any these temptations and sin.  This means that even though He is God, He understands with all certainty our temptations that come across our paths on a daily basis.  "Jesus can sympathize with us," as the writer says.  The Greek word translated as "sympathize" means "to suffer with," as in, "to suffer with another."   

 

Concerning Jesus' temptations and His pre-ministry life we just do not know much about His life.  Think about this.  While being a teenage boy, and, if he was tempted like any other teenage boy, He would have struggled with lustful feelings over the girls in his town.  You may not want to view Jesus with such temptations, but this verse says He did.  Of course, He did not yield to them.  I think, and it's only speculation, the Bible is silent on Jesus humanness during His pre-ministry years because we would put too much emphasis on His humanity and neglect His divinity

 

In verse 16 the writer tells us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence."  The important point to note here is that the confidence that we have should not be based in our own human effort.  Such confidence has no place in our attempt to come to the throne of God.  Our confidence is in Jesus and what He has done on our behalf.  This is the only way in which we can stand before the God of this universe.  This will always be the only way in which we will ever be allowed to stand before God, both now and forever into eternity.  It is a privilege to be able to stand in a spiritual sense now, and in reality later, before our God.

 

We, in our time of need, can be assured that our God will hear us as we stand before Him.  We can be confident of this fact.  We donít have to shrink back and not ask for His help and grace when we need it.  He is there for us. 

 

The author says in verse 16 that we can receive both mercy and grace.  In this instance mercy means God can help us even though we don't deserve the help.  Grace, in this verse, does not mean unmerited favour, as the word "mercy" means.  As in many cases in the Bible, grace here means God's divine ability given to us to overcome the temptations we are faced with. 

 

Chapter 5, verses 1 through 3 continues on to explain that "every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins."  This is the duty of a high priest as seen in Old Testament days.  Although these high priests came from a certain Jewish tribe and a certain Jewish family, they were all regular men, like you and I.  Because of this these priests can "deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray."  The word "ignorant" in this verse refers to being uneducated in the ways of God.  The high priest is subject to the same short comings of the people they represent before God.  Therefore, when it comes to sacrifices, he is sacrificing for his own sins as well as the sins of the people.

 

I need to make further comment on the word "ignorant" in verse 2.  We should understand that all of the Old Testament sacrifices were offered for sings of ignorance.  That is to say, sins that you commit that you do not know that you are committing them.  The verses to point that out are these; Leviticus 4:2, 22, 27, 5:15 to 18, 22:14, and Numbers 15:22 to 31.  The following passages are those passages that state there is no sacrifice for willful sins.  That is to say, sins you know that you commit.  They are; Deuteronomy 1:43, 17:12 and 13, 18:20, and Psalm 51.          

 

Verse 4 says that the job of being a high priest is a calling.  One is called of God.  He does not choose to be a high priest.  This calling is a serious calling, one that is not taken lightly.  In the same way the author says in verse 5, "Christ did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest."  God called Jesus to be a high priest, therefore, the writer quotes, "You are a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek."   Melchizedek is only found in two passages of the Old Testament.  They are in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110.   The name Melchizedek means "King of righteousness."  He was a Canaanite king; the King of Salem, that later became Jerusalem .  He worshipped the Most High God, the same God that Abraham worshipped.      

 

The author relates Jesus to Melchizedek in the since that Jesus will be a high priest forever.  If forever means forever, then throughout eternity Jesus will be our high priest, representing us to God.   I donít fully understand why we would need a high priest in eternity, but the fact remains that this calling is an eternal calling.  For all eternity we will see Jesus as high priest and we will be ever reminded of the great sacrifice He made for us. 

 

The author also quotes Psalm 2:7 in verse 6 that says that "You are my son, today I have become your father."  I won't get into the context of this Psalm here.  You can read that in my commentary on Psalm 2.  The point to be made here is that the eternal high priest that Jesus is, is also the very Son of God.

 

Verse 7 is interesting.  It tells us that "While on earth, Jesus offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tearsÖ"  There is a difference between general prayers and petitions, or supplications as some translate it.  Petitions are more need based.  You are petitioning God for something that you need, or something that someone else needs.  The actual Greek word used in Hebrews 5:7 has connections with the Greek word that would be used to "hold out an olive branch,"  thus, we get the phrase "holding out an olive branch" when attempting to deal with someone, to make peace with someone in order to receive something from that person.

 

We see Jesus pictured here with much emotion.  He cries out with loud cries and tears.  The writer says that He was crying out to the one who could save Him from death.  Well, in one sense of the word Jesus did not get saved from death.  He suffered death in all of its aspects, yet, He did not stay dead, and therefore God heard His prayer. 

 

Jesus offered up prayers and petitions, plural.  That is to say that He made more than one prayer and petition.  Some people suggest that prayers specifically the author has in mind here are found in John 17 - Jesus' prayer for unity, and, His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  That beings said, I'm pretty sure Jesus spent many hours of serious prayer and petition that are not recorded.

 

Note the words "reverent submission" in verse 8.  The word "reverent" is actually one of the two Greek words that are translated as "fear" in other places in the New Testament.            

 

Verse 8 says, "Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered."  Does this mean that Jesus was disobedient?  I donít think so, but we do know that He was tempted to be disobedient.  Therefore, through His sufferings, He learned what it meant to obey.  He was tempted to disobey during times of sufferings, and take the easy road, but He didnít.  Thus He learned the lesson of obedience.

 

When it comes to suffering, whether with Jesus or with us, it increases our trust in our God, and suffering did this for Jesus as it does for us.  In today's modern prosperity gospel world, we think we should not suffer, and if we do, we must be out of God's will.  This is simply unbiblical.  If it were Biblical, then the Apostle Paul was out of the will of God, and I certainly don't believe that.  

 

Remember in chapter 2:10 we talked about Jesus being made perfect, meaning, being made complete.  It was not that Jesus wasn't perfect or complete.  It was that His sufferings completed His mission on earth.  When Jesus said "It is finished" on the cross, He was made perfect.  That is to say, He and His earthy ministry was complete.

 

In verse 9 the author says that because of Jesus' perfection, His complete trust in His Father, He became the source of eternal salvation.  In short, Jesus' obedience, that was perfected or complete, is the source of our salvation.      

 

Verse 9 says that eternal salvation is given to all who obey Him.  What obedience is required by this verse?   It is the obedience of faith that leads to salvation.  It is responding to Godís command for us to trust Him for all things, including our salvation.  This is the obedience required here.  Any subsequent obedience, after the first obedience of faith for salvation, secondary obedience of faith is also very important.   Obedience is one mark of a mature Christian.    

 

Verse 10 closes this section.  It speaks to Jesus, being in the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus was not a high priest in the order of Aaron and the priests after him.  Melchizedek lived long before the Law of Moses was given.  Little is said about him in the Bible, but he does appear to be a very special priest that had nothing to do with the Law of Moses.  In fact, he was not from the family of Abraham.  He was not a Jew.  Jews did not exist in his day.  He was a Canaanite priest.  He was a priest for all men, you might say, not just for the Jews.  Jesus also, was and is a high priest, not just for the Jews, but for all peoples of the world.    

 

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