Do we truly appreciate the work of Jesus as our High Priest? Reading through Hebrews 5, the writer is comparing the role of the Jewish high priest and then beginning to look closely at the high priestly ministry of Jesus. A keyword for the book of Hebrews is “better” and shows Jesus to be far greater than the Old Testament system of approaching God through an earthly mediator. Consider a few points from Hebrews 5 about the greatness of Jesus, our High Priest:
He is greater in His appointment (Heb. 5:1; 5:3-6). The Jewish high priest was appointed by God (in the last days of the high priesthood, it was a political appointment used by the Roman government to try to keep the Jews under their thumb). The priestly role in appointment was to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. Aaron’s lineage was chosen and appointed by God, but there was something wholly different about Jesus in the fact that God called Him, “Son” (Heb. 1:5-9), a word which has implications for Jesus’s priestly appointment, but more in the choice of Jesus to be God’s chosen king. We have Jesus to serve, not only as our King, but also as our Mediator and intercessor.
He is greater in His compassion (Heb. 5:1-2; 4:14-16). Can you imagine being in the role of an Old Testament priest and seeing a person come day after day with sacrifices because of their sins? It might be easy to become callused to a person who couldn’t get their act together or to realizing that this work of sacrifice would go on perpetually! Thus, “compassion” was a necessary ingredient in the work of the earthly priests (Heb. 5:2). Yet, consider the greatness of Jesus as seen at the end of chapter 4:14-16. He is a perfect High Priest, who was not weak like we are, but sympathizes with us in a perfect way so we can boldly approach God’s throne of grace when we need it! What a great High Priest!
He is greater in His humility (Heb. 5:7-9). The priesthood demanded that humility before God be observed daily, with dire consequences for selfish shows of pride or presumption (see Lev. 10:1-ff). Jesus obeyed perfectly even when it meant suffering and hurting for the work of God. The perfect obedience He learned makes Him far and away greater than any earthly High Priest. Because of His humility, God appointed Him as a perpetual High Priest (Heb. 5:9-10). We will never find another who is greater but is more humble. How wonderful to model our lives as priests after Him! AB