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Hebrews 5

Overview

  • The author says:
  • Every high priest is picked from among the people to represent everyone else in front of God so that he can offer up what is needed to rebuild the bridge between mankind and the Almighty.
  • The high priest isn’t haughty because he’s just like the people he was picked out of. He can empathize with people making bad decisions and doing stupid stuff, because he too has weaknesses.
  • That’s why, when the high priest makes sacrifices for the people’s sins, he makes a personal sacrifice for his own sins first.
  • He knows he’s not in the position of high priest because he’s better than everyone else, he’s just there because he was picked to represent.
  • Similarly, Jesus, too, was chosen from among the people.  Remember how God said, “You’re my boy, and today I’m your pop.”
  • It was also written that the ultimate chosen one wouldn’t be from the typical line of priests, but from a unique “order” of priests, one that has only one other person in it—that ancient dude, Melchizedek who was both a priest and a king.
  • When Jesus was here on earth, he too cried out passionately to God, in tears, and begged God for things like escape from death—which he didn’t get initially (as proved by his death on the cross), but he did get eventually (as proved by the resurrection), because he truly submitted himself to God.
  • Even though Jesus was the closest possible relation to God (his son!), he too had to become fully capable of representing our weaknesses by suffering himself.
  • When Jesus had had the full human experience, he could then perfectly represent us before God as a high priest—the kind who is both a king and a priest, like Mel.
  • I’ve got lots of material on this subject of Jesus as high priest, but seriously people, I feel like you’re not getting it because you’re not even trying to understand.
  • You’re Jews, so you know the Old Testament, and you’re Christians, so you know Jesus. By now you should know all of this stuff and how it all connects together. You should be teaching this topic, not being taught about it.
  • Yet we keep going over these basic beliefs. You keep needing to be spoon-fed “baby food” theology. You should be consuming “Big Mac” theology by now.
  • This baby food teaching is for those who just need to know the basics about what it takes to be right with God.
  • Big Mac teaching is what you should be woofing down now, because by now you should be skilled at determining what’s right and wrong for yourselves. You should be mature enough to see what’s good and bad and make the right decisions yourselves.

Historical Context

High Priest

By the original regulation, the Jewish high priest was to be of the family of Aaron (Exodus 29:9), though in later times the office was frequently conferred on others. In the time of the Romans it had become venal, and the Mosaic regulation was disregarded (2 Macc. 4:7; Josephus, Ant. xv. 3. 1). The office was no longer held for life, so that there were several persons at one time given the title of high priest.2

The high priest was at the head of religious affairs, and was the ordinary judge of all that pertained to religion, and even of the general justice of the Hebrew commonwealth. Only the high priest had the privilege of entering the most holy place once a year, on the great day of atonement, to make expiation for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). He was to be the son of one who had married a virgin, and was to be free from any corporeal defect (Leviticus 21:13).2

The “dress” of the high priest was much more costly and magnificent than that of the regular order of priests (Exodus 39:1-7). He wore a robe of blue, with the borders embroidered with pomegranates in purple and scarlet; an “ephod” made of cotton, with crimson, purple, and blue, and ornamented with gold worn over the robe, without sleeves, and divided below the arm-pits into two parts or halves, of which one was in front covering the breast, and the other behind covering the back. In the ephod was a breastplate. The breastplate was ten inches square, and was made double, so as to answer the purpose of a pouch or bag. It was adorned with twelve precious stones, each one having the name of one of the tribes of Israel.2

Observations

  • “He is able to deal gently with…” is an idea that comes from the Greek word, metriopathein, which means “to show moderate emotions.” The Stoic philosophers held that emotions should be absolutely crushed and that “apathy” was the only fit condition for a philosopher. The Peripatetics on the other hand—the school of Aristotle—held that the philosopher should not aim at apathy, because no man can be absolutely passionless without doing extreme violence to nature; but that he should acquire metriopathy, that is a spirit of “moderated emotion” and self-control. The word metriopathein is found both in Philo’s and Josephus’ First Century writings. In common usage it meant “moderate compassion;” since the Stoics held “pity” to be not only a weakness but a vice. The Stoic notion of apathy would have utterly disqualified any one for true priesthood. Jesus showed emotions such as pity, sorrow, and anger; and he did so and could do so, “without sin.”5
  • There was no succession of priests from Melchizedek and thus no ‘order.’ Jesus, however, was a priest of this kind—not like Aaron and his successors.1
  • We learn from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Essenes were expecting two Messiahs, one royal and one priestly. Jesus fulfilled both offices. In fact, the author of Hebrews shows that he fulfills all three Old Testament anointed offices: prophet, priest and king.4
  • Melchizedek is alluded to because he is the only person in the Old Testament who is called both priest and king, and who adequately fulfills the theological requirements of this rabbinical argument.4
  • “Prayers and petitions” in Greek are words often used to denote the same thing. The former means petitions which arise from a sense of need, from the Greek word “deomai” which means, “to want, to need;” the latter refers usually to supplication for protection, and is applicable to one who under a sense of guilt flees to an altar with the symbols of supplication in his hand. Suppliants in such cases often carried an olive-branch as an emblem of the peace which they sought.The particular idea in the Greek word used here, hiketēria, is petition for “protection, help,” or “shelter,” and this idea accords well with the design of the passage. The Lord Jesus prayed as one who had “need,” and as one who desired “protection, shelter,” or “help.”2
  • It is notable that God didn’t save Jesus from the cross (death) when he prayed for help, though God did eventually save him from death, after the fact, through the resurrection. Here is seen God’s method of answering prayers in some instances, in which he sends not a lighter load but a stronger heart to bear it.3
  • “Made perfect” here means being made “complete.” This means through suffering Jesus is suited in all respects to redeem people. Sufferings were necessary to the “completeness” or the “finish” of his character.The word “perfect” means “mature” or “fully equipped for the assigned task.” The perfection or maturity of both Jesus and His followers is a central concept in Hebrews.4
  • This section gives four marks of spiritual immaturity: 1) laziness (dullness) toward the Word (v. 11), 2) inability to teach the Word to others (v. 12), 3) a diet of only elementary truths in the Word (vv. 12-13), and 4) lack of skill in applying the Word (v. 14).1
  • It is plain that spiritual maturity is not simply a matter of time. Many who have been Christians many years may be in the condition of these Hebrew Christians. True spiritual growth is the result of prayer, study, meditation, faithfulness, diligence, exercise, and the successful struggle against temptations.3
  • The phrase “to know good and evil” is borrowed from Hebrew (Genesis 2:17, &c), and is used to describe the first dawn of intelligence (Isaiah 7:15-16).5

Discussion

  •  Why was it so difficult for Jewish people to accept the truth that Jesus was the high priest? Do we, today, have any of those same issues? What prevents us, or our culture, from seeing Jesus as the ultimate representative, uniquely qualified to make atonement for our sins?
  • Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, even dreading, and wishing fervently, not to have to deal with his own death. We often think of our emotions as bad things, or distractions, or being able to mislead us somehow. What does Jesus’ experience with emotions teach us about our own? How should we properly view our emotions?
  • How is suffering related to maturity, both of Jesus and believers?
  • The author of Hebrews thought his audience should be more mature in their faith because of their history with the Old Testament and their tenure in Christianity. He expressly states that he shouldn’t be teaching them, but that they should be teaching others by now. What stage of maturity do you think you are (milk or meat)? What advantages of information do you have that should enable you to teach others? Are you teaching others?  Do you feel capable? What, if anything, are you missing?

References

  1. Constable’s commentary
  2. Barnes’ commentary
  3. Coffman’s commentary
  4. Utley’s commentary
  5. Cambridge commentary
  6. Gill’s commentary
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