Hebrews 5: 1 – 3
We have come to read and understand from the inspired author of the Book of Hebrews that Jesus is a better High Priest in comparison to the High Priests that existed from history. The first High Priest that was appointed was Aaron and it was an instruction from God to Moses after Korah, Dathan and Abiram offered a strange sacrifice and died. Leviticus 16 spelt out the instruction given to Moses by God. This new High Priest can only come to the Holiest of All just once a year. He cannot go there out of his own volition but by instruction as he offers the sacrifice for the covering of Sin, on behalf of himself and the children of Israel.
His (the writer’s) audience would have problems understanding his presentation because they were already in the know when it comes to issues concerning Judaism and the Old Testament history. He had succeeded in convincing them that Jesus is God, Jesus is greater than Angels and of course greater than Moses whom they revered. He is going to further convince those who have not made a commitment to the message of the Gospel that Jesus is indeed greater than Aaron who was appointed by God. At this point, he is still writing to the Jews who had heard the message and had not yet moved over from Judaism to this new way.
He had encouraged that they held fast to their profession of Jesus as Lord and Christ, who was tempted in every respect but because He could not Sin, He didn’t Sin; and that they could walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give – mercy and also accept the help He is offering.
Going back to the custom of the Jews, it was a common thing for them to ask who their High Priest was from each other. The general idea is to ask, “How are your sins pardoned”. The High Priest then was the intermediary between God and His people. He presented the sacrifice for the sins of the people and himself so that their sins can be covered (atoned for) until the following year. It became a taboo if you didn’t have a High Priest who could represent you before God.
So what qualified anyone to be a High Priest?
HE HAS TO BE APPOINTED BY GOD.
The writer of this great book specified and explained to his audience that first and foremost the High Priest must be a man, a human being. He must be selected from among men so that he can represent them and himself before God because after the fall, we couldn’t approach God. This person must also be appointed by God; the criterion for selection is only known to God so that no one can boast about the fact that they had one or two features and that’s the reason why they were selected by God.
There would have been a question mark had it been God did not take on the form of MAN. We wouldn’t have been able to trace back history and besides many would have walked out on the thing called SALVATION. God became flesh and dwelt amongst men. Imagine also if the Savior had come as a woman, no one would eventually believe the message of Salvation.
Whoever became the High Priest was God’s choice, just as whoever becomes a Christian today is God’s choice because Jesus said, “you have not chosen me, but I decided to choose you”, and the greatest Apostle ever will wrap it up by saying that Salvation is a gift, not because we qualify but that whilst we were His enemies, He loved us and decided to give us the gift of Salvation and therefore no one could or can boast about the fact that they are saved.
HE HAS TO BE SYMPATHETIC.
The appointed High Priest should be one who is sympathetic. I am very careful about the word sympathetic because sometimes sympathy can be negative. Sympathy is support in the form of shared feelings or opinion.
In the context in which this word was used, the High Priest is mindful of the fact that he is human and also has sins that needs to be atoned for and must see himself as such and never above the people he is representing before God. He is therefore able to deal gently with those who have erred by being wayward or are ignorant only. Those who broke the Law were put to death viz a viz the story of the woman caught in adultery; she was going to be stoned to death. In other words, there was a limit to the sins that could be covered in the Old Testament and by the High Priest.
There is always a difference between Sympathy and Apathy, in fact they are at the extreme of each other. On the one hand, the one who is sympathetic would care and consider the person or victim with a purpose of bringing that person out or helping out; sympathy draws you sometimes into the same problem and before you know it, you become a victim too. Apathy on the other hand, puts the one who is apathetic in a situation where they are lethargic or unconcerned and therefore are not able to provide help for the victim in question.
I would put Jesus in-between the two words because of the Greek word that was used for COMPASSION formed from two compound words, which means to be moderate in passion. Jesus feels what we are going through but provides a way out for us in Salvation so that we don’t remain overwhelmed by the sympathy of others. So then you will read that Jesus was moved with compassion when He came in contact with the sick, the lame or the ignorant and the more reason He provides a way out.
HE OFFERS THE SACRIFICE.
The duty of the High Priest in the Old Testament was to offer sacrifices for the atonement of the sins of the people. This means that he had to observe and offer the right sacrifice based on the instruction given to him by the One who chose him – the right animal without blemish. Any mistake made means that his life is gone.
The sacrifice he offered was on behalf of the people and himself for that particular year only. Which means he couldn’t enter into the Holiest of All until the following year when they need to offer sacrifices for atonement. In comparison to Jesus, not only did He become the High Priest, He also became the sacrifice because He went into the Holiest of All without the blood of any animal. He became the provision, He became the animal that must be killed and sacrificed and His blood was also used or poured on the mercy seat. He became the intermediary between human beings and God.
John Calvin was absolutely spot-on when he highlighted that “it was necessary for Jesus to become a real man, for as we are very far from God, we stand in a manner before Him in the person of our High Priest, which could never have being were He not one of us.”
We will find out from the next edition if indeed Jesus had these qualifications!