Today’s reading for study: Hebrews 5
Today we are in Hebrews chapter 5. This chapter is a little more straightforward by vitally important. It begins by establishing certain basic principles.
- Every Old Covenant high priest is taken from among men.
- The Priest is man’s representative before God.
- The role of the priest is to offer sacrifices for sins.
And that is just the first sentence.
The priest is able to deal patiently with the faithful because he is like them. He offers sacrifices for himself and the people. Being high priest is an honor conveyed upon a person by God. The author then points out that it this is the same as with Jesus Christ. He who is made high priest by God and can offer sacrifices for us because he is like us in every way (except sin).
The author of Hebrews then makes two important points.
First, Jesus is a high priest “according to the order of Melchizedek”. Recall Melchizedek offered a sacrifice of Bread and Wine when Abraham won a victory in battle. Even BEFORE the establishment of the Jewish faith that Melchizedek was called, “a priest of God most high”. Recall that we saw Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek thereby acknowledging his office of High Priest. The parallels to Jesus are easily spotted. Mainly, Jesus is a high priest from before the foundation of Judaism. His high priesthood pre-existed the establishment of the Jewish faith and is, therefore, greater than it.
Melchizedek offering of Bread and Wine helps us understand the offering of Bread and Wine that Jesus made at the last supper. As established at the beginning of the chapter a High Priest’s role is to offer sacrifice. We know that Jesus' sacrifice is made on the cross. Therefore the Bread and Wine of the Last Supper must be connected to the sacrifice of the Cross. This is a reason why we should take Jesus literally when he said, “This is my body. … This is my blood.”
Also, Melchizedek offers the Bread and Wine after Abraham wins a great battle. Likewise, Jesus offers Bread and Wine after winning the greatest battle there is, the battle over sin and death. Some people might be perplexed by this, noting that the Last Supper and the offering of Bread and Wine were before the Crucifixion. Remember, God stands outside of time. When Jesus, as high priest, offered the Bread and Wine at the Last Supper he was offering a sacrifice. That sacrifice was his own successful sacrifice that he would make the next day on Calvary and complete with the resurrection and ascension.
The second important point that the author makes is this:
Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him. Hebrews 5:8-9
That’s a blockbuster theological statement … Jesus was “being made perfect”. We must read this with the correct understanding of Jesus dual nature, one Divine, and one human. Jesus in his Divine nature was always totally perfect. Jesus was also perfect in his human nature – so far as any mortal man can be perfect. However, all mortal men can be perfected by being glorified by God. Notice how Jesus is made perfect, his human nature is perfected by learning obedience and through suffering. This is a partial explanation for why suffering continues to exist in the world even after Jesus has paid the price for all our sins. Suffering is not meaningless. It perfects us. It purges the false gods of pleasure, avarice, gluttony, etc from us. Suffering purifies and perfects us just as it did the Lord. In fact, as I have discussed before because we are so radically connected to Jesus that our suffering was felt by him on the cross. Thus, our suffering is part of the suffering that Jesus used to redeem creation. Thus again, our suffering – if borne well as Jesus bore his suffering on the cross and offered up to Jesus – is meritorious and actually helps to bring about salvation.
Tomorrow: Hebrews 6