FRIDAY, JUNE 1
SCRIPTURE: HEBREWS 5
At the end of the previous chapter, the writer made what would have been a startling statement to those first century believers who had come out of Judaism. The writer stated that Jesus was better than the High Priest. In Jewish thought, the High Priest held the highest office and was the epitome of the Levitical system. It would have been most difficult for anyone with a strong Jewish background to think of anyone more important than the High Priest. But Jesus is better.
The topic of the High Priest is continued in the chapter before us today. As we get started we will find the author making the claim that Jesus is better than Aaron. We have already read where Jesus is better than Moses. Now we encounter the truth of Jesus’ supremacy over Aaron.
We are reminded that the High Priest was chosen from among men. His original and primary responsibility would have been to represent the people before God. The Old Testament prophet’s responsibility was to represent God before the people. But the High Priest was to take the people before God.
In verse 1, we read where he was responsible for offering gifts and sacrifices. The concept of “gifts” is a reference to the peace offerings that were given as a means of holding back the wrath of God and allowing sinful humanity to approach Him. The “sacrifices” is a reference to the sin and guilt offerings which would have been characterized by the shedding of blood.
In verse 2 we read why the High Priest could be effective. Because he was a man, he could have understanding of other men (people) and their tendency toward ignorance and waywardness. After all, he would have struggled with the same issues. Because of that, the gifts and sacrifices he offered were not just for the people of Israel. They were for him as well.
This was such an important responsibility that God chose the first High Priest and developed a system of selecting the High Priests to come. As verse 4 reminds us, Aaron was selected first. After that, Eleazar, Aaron’s son was made the High Priest. From that point, the selection was to be made from a direct hereditary succession from Aaron. And that actually was followed pretty well for a long time.
By the time you get to the New Testament, however, things had changed. The Roman Caesar and/or his local proconsul had started selecting the High Priest. That in turn made the position more political than spiritual which created part of the mess that Jesus walked into. Once the Roman government started doing that, they did it at will. This was opposed to the Old Testament system that allowed for the role of the High Priest to be a life-long responsibility.
In verse 5, we see where Jesus who is our Great High Priest did not select Himself for that position. But instead God made that decision. The heredity issue was resolved in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. And in verse 7, there is the appointment to the office of Great High Priest like Melchizedek. The writer of Hebrews will have much more to say about the mysterious Melchizedek in the pages to come.
Because I am now out of space, I need to jump to verse 9 where we read that Jesus “was made perfect”. We have to be most careful here. We should not read into that that Jesus was not perfect beforehand. He was always and will always be perfect. The concept of perfection here refers to the fact that Jesus perfectly completed His goal or task. Finally His temptations and His sufferings even to the point of His sacrificial death makes Him the perfect Great High Priest.