Our priest in heaven
Jesus, an elite high priest1 People choose a high priest as their spiritual ambassador. This priest, on their behalf, takes gifts to God. The priest also offers sacrifices to God, to atone for sins of the people. 2 The priest shows genuine compassion for the people. Even for those who keep making bad decisions that drive them away from God. The priest gets them. That’s because he struggles with spiritual weakness, too. 3 In fact, the high priest has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, just as he does for everyone else. 4 No one decides to become a high priest. God makes that decision. He invites people into the honor of that assignment, just as he did Aaron, the first high priest. 5 Christ didn’t decide to become high priest. He didn’t pick that honor for himself. God did. Christ was chosen by the one who told him,
“You are my Son.
As of today, I’m your Father.”
“You are forever a priest,
in the elite class of Melchizedek.”
Grow up, you milk-sucking babies11 We’ve got a lot to say on this subject, but you’re making it hard. You don’t seem to pay attention. You’re catching on at the pace of a slug. 12 Hey. By now you should be teachers. Instead, you need someone teaching you. Not just any teacher. You need remedial tutors to review the most basic parts of what God revealed to us. Doggone if you aren’t spiritual babies who still need to suck milk. You can’t chew solid food yet. 13 If you’re not up on the teaching about how to live devoted to God, you’re just a kid who drinks milk. 14 Solid food goes to grownups who have the education and the sense to tell the difference between right and wrong.
The writer quotes Psalm 2:7.
Psalm 110:4. It’s unclear what’s so special about Melchizedek. He was a king of Salem, possibly an early abbreviated name for Jerusalem. He lived in the time of Abraham. And he was “a priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). That means God had a priest in Jerusalem perhaps a millennium before Solomon built the first Jewish Temple there. God had a priest at the start of the Jewish people, during the lifetime of Abraham, father of the Jews. Perhaps the writer of Hebrews meant to say Jesus is the priest God had waiting for us all along. And this priest, like Melchizedek, is a king.
More literally, “He was heard because of his godly fear.” Scholars debate what the writer meant by “godly fear.” The Greek word, eulabeia, can mean: reverence, piety, dread, caution. Bible versions vary: piety (New American Standard Bible), reverent submission (New Revised Standard Version), reverence (English Standard Version).
The writer of Hebrews seems to be on track to compare Jesus to everyone and his brother: angels, Moses, and now high priests in general. Why do you think he’s doing this?
Jesus and the Father show up here as two distinct beings. The writer quotes God the Father as telling Jesus, “You are my Son…I’m your Father” (5:5). Yet Jesus stunned Jewish leaders of his day, perhaps a few decades before this writer wrote Hebrews, when he said, “The Father and I are one and the same” (John 10:30). What’s your reaction to that apparent conflict? Pick one or add your own.
- I don’t get it, but I believe it.
- No wonder it took 300 years for the church to realize they couldn’t figure it out.
- It’s a mystery. One of many.
- Somebody messed up my Bible.
The Hebrews writer promotes Jesus above angels, Moses, and high priests. Oddly, he doesn’t seem to promote him above a mysterious king and priest named Melchizedek. We could call him Mel, but his name is pronounced mel-KIZZ-uh-deck. The writer merely puts Jesus “In the elite class of Melchizedek” (5:6). No one seems to know why, or much about Melchizedek. What little we know of him shows up in a story of Abraham giving him 10 percent of the plunder he captured in a battle (Genesis 14:18). Any guesses why the writer of Hebrews would put Jesus in the same priestly class as Melchizedek?
Jesus, in this letter, sometimes comes across as painfully human—perhaps more human than many would like. How do you react to reading 5:7? “When Jesus was here in the flesh, he prayed with deep emotion. When he told God he didn’t want to die and he asked God to save him, he cried. He was loud.”
LIFE APPLICATION. Coming on strong midway through this chapter, the writer suddenly sounds like he’s getting in the face of his readers: “You don’t seem to pay attention. You’re catching on at the pace of a slug” (5:11). Ouch. How do you react to that? And how do you think your congregation would react to hearing something like 5:11-14 from the minister?