Hebrews 5: The Priesthood of Jesus
In Hebrews 4, the writer calls Jesus the Great High Priest. Remember many of these 2nd generation Christians were being tempted to return to the familiar and comfortable religion of their fathers, the Jewish religion with its temple, sacrifices, rituals and feasts.
The Priesthood of Jesus is one of the central themes of Hebrews and we now come to a section which will stress the superiority of Christ’s eternal priesthood in heaven. Again remember the principle and purpose of comparison: comparison provides contrast which in turn provides clarity. The writer wants us see Jesus clearly with great clarity and know He is Who He says He is – the Son of God who became a man and lived a perfect life without sin, though tempted in every way we were.
The qualifications for priest in the order or Aaron were:
- A priest must be born a man, in order to represent man. This is why the Son of God laid aside His glory as God and humbled Himself to become a man.
- A priest must offer sacrifices to deal with the sins which separate man for God. Jesus, the Son of God, offered Himself
- A priest must himself be beset with weakness and be tempted in every way in order to understand the weakness of man.
- The priest must be appointed by God.
The writer then tells us Jesus, the Son of God, was designated to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. The writer tells us he has much to say about this priesthood of Melchizedek, but it will be hard for some to understand because they are slow to learn, (dull of hearing), Immature.
The verses, Hebrews 5: 7-11 takes us back to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ arrest. This section contains a truth we need to understand in order to discover how Jesus, our Great High Priest came to understand our pressures and weakness, having never sinned.
We also encounter another danger, which I believe is rampant among professing Christians. We saw the first danger was drifting, neglecting so great a salvation. This led to a second danger we will surely fall into, if we do not stop the drifting: doubt which cause rebellion, not believing God’s Word. The example was of the generation who spent 40 years in the wilderness because they did not believe they could overcome the giants. We know it is with the heart one believes and the Lord said those Israelites who He led out of Egypt had hearts which were always going astray. They hardened their hearts when they heard God’s Word. As a result they could not enter into God’s rest. This creates the danger we read in verse 11, we become‘slow to learn’ (NIV) while the KJV describes this danger as being ‘dull of hearing’. Spiritually sluggishness, not progressing in our maturity. The Sword of the Spirit, the discerner of the thoughts and intentions of our heart is dull, having not been sharpened by being careful to pay attention to Word of God, meditating on it day and night doing whatsoever it tells us to do. We have not learned to use the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. This person is a ‘babe in Christ.’ Have you ever noticed how we talk to babies? We use baby talk. But what every parent, grandparent and adult wants is for the baby to grow up. In fact, sometimes when someone is acting in an immature way- we say to them, “Quit acting like a baby.” God, Our Father, wants us all to grow up.
It is the whole goal of God’s work in the human heart that we should enter into God’s rest. This means ceasing from our self-efforts and activities and trust in the ability of Christ in me. And as our Great High Priest we are told Jesus understands our weakness, and sympathizes with us. How can He if He never sinned? How can He know what is it to be ashamed, guilty, fearful and in despair? Jesus was God. He had no sinful nature.
This is why the writer takes us back to the Garden of Gethsemane. We are told ‘he (Jesus) learned obedience through suffering.’ Some of life’s hardest lessons we have learned through suffering, haven’t we?
It is there in the Garden we see a Jesus we have not seen anywhere else in the Gospels. He goes into the garden having left the Last Supper, knowing Judas has gone out to betray Him. He leaves the other disciples behind and asks Peter, James and John to come with Him. We read here in Hebrews 5, “…He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death.”
There is no other place in Scripture where His prayers are described in this manner. Does Jesus doubt His purpose? We know Jesus had said He had come to seek and save the lost. He had told the disciples He was going to die, to be crucified and one of the 12 would betray Him. This was the purpose for which He came. Now deep in the Garden in the middle of the night with three of his disciples who had been with Him since the day He called them to leave their nets and He would make them fisher of men, they would hear his loud cries.
We read in Matthew 26, “He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed.” (KJV) Jesus said to them: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death. Stay here and watch with me.” This was a Jesus they had not seen. This was a man who was distressed and deeply troubled. He prays with such intensity, He will sweat drops of blood. Jesus asked His disciples to watch and pray with Him. He is never more than man, than He is here in these dark moments. He is asking others for help. He falls on his knees then on His face. (Ever been there? Fell on your knees, then on your face, crying out to the Lord, desperate? In despair, depression and misery? Worried, Anxious? Ashamed and sorrowful? )
Are you shocked at this Jesus, the same one who set his face like flint and would not be deterred from His trip to Calvary? Jesus asks His Father not once, not twice, but three times: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Was He afraid of the physical pain He would have to endure? Many brave men have faced death and pain. I am sure there was some dread of the pain. However, what we see in our Lord’s prayers are a man who wants desperately to know from His God is this necessary? Are there options? He is sensing the defilement which will separate Him from His Father. He who knew no sin would become sin. All of the sins of the world- the filth, the depravity, produced emotions He had never known or experienced- guilt, shame, and despair. The same emotions the first Adam suffered when he sinned. What is happening here is Jesus, Son of God, the God-Man is learning obedience to the will of God through suffering. Something we mere humans experience.
No help was available from Peter, James and John, they fell asleep. Not one of them could help Him. You may have loved ones, who will be faithful to pray for you in your times of trouble. But I can assure you – no one knows what you are feeling in your darkest moments but you- and the Lord Jesus. There comes a time when no other human, no matter how much they love you can help you. Your help comes from the Lord. Jesus was experiencing on this night, betrayal by one who had been with Him for over three years. Judas would soon be leading the soldiers to arrest Him. His three closest disciples and friends had fallen asleep at a time He had so desperately needed them. He would see the disciples scatter and run like scared children.
Jesus doesn’t understand my troubles you say? Oh yes He does! More so than you can ever know. Having never sinned, having never been separated from His Father, having never experienced His wrath- and now He would experience it to a degree we will never know. You can be sure- He understands. And He sympathizes. Obedience is easy when it is not costly. But as the cost of obedience goes up- so does the degree of difficulty of obedience. Jesus was facing the most costly obedience anyone has ever faced. His task was to pay for all of the sins of the world for all time, every single, filthy, depraved sin. Jesus would experience the full wrath of God. The awfulness of this was multiplied even further than we can imagine by the fact He had never sinned. He did not deserve what He received- so that I could receive what I did not deserve! Amazing Grace! How can it be- a King would die for me!
Jesus knows what it means to obey God when everything in you does not want to obey God. He learned obedience as a man through suffering. In Hebrews 12, we are told –“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We are told in Luke’s account of these dark moments, the Father sent an angel to minister to the Lord. The end result is the Lord endured to the end and in doing so was perfected and became the author of our salvation. Now do you understand why the writer told us earlier of the danger of neglecting so great a salvation?
Now this another we must consider in this exchange. God the Father. How can this be-God the Father could so love me and be so kind to me to allow His Only Son to not just die, but suffer for me. It was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relived. My chains are gone, I‘ve been set free- My God and Savior has ransomed me.
The writer then tells us He, Jesus, is called by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. He tells his readers,’ of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.’ The writer is telling us he has much to say about his subject of priesthood, but it will be difficult to make them understand because they are dull of hearing. It was like trying to teach algebra to a 3 year old.
“By this time, you should be teachers, but you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The KJV states it this way: “But solid food is for those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of us have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We have senses by which we live in this physical world. Sense of smell, touch, hearing, taste and sight. I believe we have the equivalent in the spiritual realm, by which we discern good from evil, right from wrong. As is often said in the physical world, it is an ‘acquired taste.’
Acquire means to obtain for one’s self. To learn or develop a skill. Acquired taste refers to developing a taste for something which one probably did not like at first-i.e., coffee, sushi, tobacco or alcohol.
A baby cannot eat meat, but an adult can enjoy milk. But those who partake of milk only are unskilled in the discernment of good and evil.
Constant use. Spiritual maturity comes not merely by hearing God’s Word but by putting it into practice.
“Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory , just as by the Spirit of the Lord. “(2 Cor. 3) This is how our minds are transformed. James tells us: We cannot just be hearers of the Word only we must be doers. Or else we deceive ourselves. We are like a man who looks in a mirror and then goes away forgetting what he looks like. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1: 23-25)
Now you realize Jesus knows it is not always easy to do what God commands us to do. He knows this from experience.
Charles Stanley has developed some life principles based on Scripture. Listen to these which apply here:
*We learn more in valley experiences than on our mountain tops.
*Fight all your battles on your knees in prayer and you will win every time.
*Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.
* Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
Why do we study the Word each day and come together each week to attend a class? Why do we call it Sunday School? Because a school is where you are educated and equipped. The Lord has given gifts to each of us who are His children. “ He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying(building up) of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we no longer be children tossed to and fro carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head- Christ…” (Ephesians4:11-15)
“ My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek of her hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord. And find the knowledge of God, For the Lord gives wisdom for the upright From His Mouth come knowledge and understanding;..” Proverbs 2: 1-6
“When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul,” (Proverbs 2:10) Here is a person acquiring a taste for the Word of God.
The result: “Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil.” (Proverbs 2:10) Wisdom for living life, for making decision is ours for asking. It is found in God’s Word which comes from His mouth. Wisdom reveals itself in what it produces. Look at our society and what is has produced and you will see an utter lack of Godly wisdom.
Have you acquired a taste for the Word of God? Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? Jesus said blessed are those who do, for they will be filled. Satisfied. Jesus said come and taste and see that it is good.
Acquired wisdom comes from God’s Word- His very mouth. So be wise and do the following:
- Ask, seek and knock.
- Meditate on the Word of God day and night.
- Obey the principles of Scripture.
- Observe the faithfulness of God. He is a Promise Keeper.
- Heed godly counsel.
- Associate with wise people.
Oswald Chambers says ‘all our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.”