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Jesus the Great High Priest April 19, 2015

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Hebrews 4:14-5:10.

Summary: The author begins by exhorting his readers to take care that they secretly subject themselves to the Gospel message and solemnly declare it – since Jesus Christ, the God-man, has passed through the ethereal regions and now appears in the presence of God as their intercessor. Indeed, Jesus Christ:

  • can suffer with them in terms of their afflictions and temptations
  • was tried in all things in like manner – yet He did not sin.

Therefore, they should draw near to God, who exercises grace to them, so that He can – through Jesus Christ – deliver them from their afflictions and temptations.

The author then presents the following general description of a great priest:

  • he must participate in common human nature with the rest of mankind
  • God designates him to be in their stead regarding things that pertain to worshiping Him – including the whole priestly work for sacrifices for sin
  • he must quietly bear with those who sin unintentionally and have turned to their own ways, since he participates in common human nature
  • he must offer up sacrifices for himself – along with the daily sacrifice in the temple and the great annual sacrifice – since he sins in many things
  • God must designate him as the holder of this office – just as He set apart Aaron for this office.

Now God also set apart Jesus Christ for this office; the author supports this point by quoting from Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4. While Jesus Christ lived on this earth, He offered up Himself as a real propitiatory sacrifice to God. Now at that time, He was totally possessed by a strong and vehement conflict of mind; yet He knew that God could deliver Him from death, and God did deliver Him from death because His offering stemmed from holy fear. Even though Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He had to pass through terrible things. Thus, He suffered them; He was then consecrated and became the source of permanent salvation for believers. The author concludes by asserting that God set apart Jesus Christ for the office of the great priest without ceremony – just as He set apart Melchizedek for this office.

Thoughts: In verses 1-4 of chapter 5, the author presents the sufficient qualifications for a high priest. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 3 of chapter 5:

He ought to offer sacrifices for his own sins, for two reasons. First, because of the condition in which he was in. He sinned in many things and would have ruined his office if he had not offered up sacrifices for himself. It was absolutely necessary that sacrifices should be offered up for him and for his sin, and yet no one else could do this for him, so he had to do it himself. Second, there was God’s command. He had to do this because God had ordained it.

By definition, all of the high priests in Israel – with the exception of Jesus – were sinful. For example, we see in Exodus 32 that the first high priest, Aaron, acquiesced in the wishes of the Israelites by making a golden calf that they could worship. Also, we see in 1 Samuel 2 that Eli failed to prevent his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, from repeatedly abusing their roles as priests. In addition, we see in Matthew 26 that Caiaphas was consumed with hatred of Jesus Christ and unjustly condemned Him to death. While at least some of the high priests in Israel managed to fulfill the duties of their office to some extent, they failed to address the inherent sinfulness of their nation. God’s people needed a high priest who could fulfill all of the duties of that office – setting the stage for Jesus Christ in that regard.

In verse 7 of chapter 5, we see that Christ prayed fervently during His time on earth. Owen offers some insights on this point in his commentary:

Luke 22:44 declares, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground…” Christ was totally possessed by an “agony” or “anguish,” that is, a strong and vehement conflict of mind, in and about dreadful and terrible things, which has been called a “dread of utter ruin” by the commentator Nemes, and, as “a dread of evil to come upon us from outside” by Aquinas. Jesus prayed “more earnestly” with more vehement anguish of mind, spirit, and body.

Owen makes a solid point about the “vehement conflict of mind” that Christ experienced during His time on earth. The above-mentioned passage from Luke includes the famous prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where He asks God the Father that if it is possible, then God should allow Him to avoid His impending suffering. At that moment, it could be argued that Jesus’ human nature eagerly desires to avoid His impending suffering and wonders if God would grant that desire; now Jesus’ divine nature – being omniscient – knows that God will not grant that desire. Perhaps it could be argued that this “vehement conflict of mind” also appears on Golgotha when Christ asks God the Father why He has forsaken Him; His divine nature knows why He must be cut off from God the Father, yet His human nature fails to comprehend this truth. If it is God’s will, I hope to learn more in the next life about the internal struggles of Christ in this life.

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