1Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness;3and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.4And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
6as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
7In the days of his flesh, Jesus* offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Summary— In this passage, the writer to the Hebrews persuades us that we have it better now than Old Testament Israel had it then because our High Priest is better than their high priests were. Notice how the writer works through a list of facts about Old Covenant high priests in verses 1-4, and then works backwards through that list in verses 5-10, this time showing the superiority of Jesus— Verse 1 corresponds to verse 10: some men were chosen to be high priests, and Jesus has been chosen to be The High Priest. Verse 1b corresponds to verse 9b: High priests offered sacrifices (plural, meaning temporary), whereas Jesus became the source of eternal salvation. Verse 3 corresponds to verses 8-9a: High priests were sinners, and so had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, whereas Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect. Finally, verse 4 corresponds to verses 5-6: High priests did not ordain themselves, but where indirectly ordained by God according to Aaronic standards, and Jesus did not ordain Himself, but was directly ordained by God according to Melchizedekian standards.
Insight— Genesis gives us a genealogy for every one of its righteous characters, except one: Melchizedek. He’s a mysterious figure. As far as the record goes, he has no father. Yet God made him a priest—and not just any priest, but the priest of Salem (then future Jerusalem), and what’s more, a priest superior to the alternative Levitical priests, since Levi was less than Abraham (being in his loins) and Abraham was less than Melchizedek (paying tithe to him). And so Melchizedek is the proto-pattern of God’s breaking into a closed system to fix it. He thereby lends his name to the order of priesthood to which Jesus would be ordained. Jesus was not of Levi—He was of Judah—but according to the order of Melchizedek God ordained Him the new and final and ultimate High Priest, who always lives to make intercession for us.
Q: What is one of the reasons that Jesus is better than Old Testament high priests?
A: Jesus did not have to offer sacrifice for His own sin.
Discussion— What does the writer to the Hebrews mean when he says that Jesus “learned obedience”? Must learning obedience involve a movement from disobedience to obedience?
Prayer— O God, we sin, and so we cannot approach you except through the mediation of another. For long years, Your people approached You through the mediation of weak men who offered sacrifices not only for the sins of the people, but also for their own sins. Since Your people would otherwise have had no access to You, this was glorious. But now, gracious Lord, we—Your people—approach You through the mediation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, and this is more glorious. Grant that we might always avail ourselves of His ministry for us at Your right hand, even as we are now availing ourselves by praying through Him. AMEN.
Contributed by Scott Cline