JESUS - THE PEOPLEíS PRIEST
So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his fatherís place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on the linen garments, the holy garments,33 and make atonement for the holy sanctuary; and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. (Leviticus 16:32-33).
You have heard the expression that "clothes make the man." I suppose that there is some truth to this. Certain things come to mind when you see the uniform of a police officer or a soldier or a fire fighter. This was also true of the high priest.
Within the religion of the Jews, there was no more exalted position that could be held among men than that of high priest. And the most important task of the high priest took place on Yom Kippur ó the Day of Atonement.
On this day, he would be arrayed in a white linen robe over which he wore a blue robe, a breastplate with 12 stones, and a golden frontlet. On this day, he would enter into the innermost part of the temple and make a sacrifice for the sins of the nation. On this day, he was the official representative of the people before their God.
We have already seen the message in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is better.
Now we come to a new aspect with regards to the truth that Jesus is better. It is that Jesus is a better priest than Aaron.
THE CREDENTIALS OF THE PRIEST
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2 he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; 3 and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself. (Hebrews 5:1-3).
The writer closed the previous chapter with the statement that we have a high priest in the person of Jesus. The Jew would immediately object, "Hold it right there! It takes certain rigid qualifications to be a priest. Not just anyone can take that title to himself."
The writer anticipates this objection and so, he pauses to examine three particular aspects of the high priest. Then, in verses 6-10, he goes back over those same aspects in reverse order, applying them to Jesus. This type of reverse parallelism is known as a CHIASM. It can be charted like this:
The OLD office of High Priest (5:1).
The NEW office of High Priest (5:9-10).
Solidarity of the Priest with the People (5:2-3).
Solidarity of Christ with the People (5:7-8).
Humility of the High Priest (5:4).
Humility of Christ (5:5-6).
The main function of a priest was not to teach or preach. His main function was to act as a mediator between men and God.
Now, the fact that men need a mediator to approach God implies that there is something wrong with men. After all, man was originally created in the image of God.
What is the problem? Why canít men approach God without the benefit of a mediator? It is because of sin. Sin places a barrier between men and God. And it takes the work of a mediator to overcome the barrier of sin.
Jesus is a MEDIATING priest. He has crossed the gap between God and man. He has provided a reconciliation so that the enmity which once separated God and man has been put away.
He is the peopleís priest. If you ever want to know God, you need a priest. And the best priest I know is Jesus.
Jesus is not only a mediating priest; He is also a GENTLE priest. The reason that He is gentle is because He knows what it is like to be vulnerable.
The best kind of comforter is one who has gone through the pain and anguish and who can empathize with you. He understands because He has been there.
Never let your hair be cut by a bald barber. He canít identify with your needs. But Jesus has identified with you.
THE CALLING OF THE PRIEST
And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.
So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee";6 just as He says also in another passage, "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:4-6).
We have seen that Jesus is a mediating priest and a gentle priest. Now we see that He is also an APPOINTED priest. You see, no priest was ever a self-made man. Aaron did not say to himself one day, "I think that I shall go to priest school and obtain a degree in Priesthood and become a priest." It did not even help that he had an "in" with his brother Moses. The only way that Aaron became a priest was because God chose him to be a priest.
Jesus is like that. He was chosen by the Father to be a priest to the world. He did not act on His own initiative. His life was one of obedience to the Father.
Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19).
"I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (John 5:30).
The authority that Jesus acted upon was not His own authority. The miracles which He brought about were not by His own power. The message which He preached was not independently His own. Everything that He did was from a higher authority. Everything that He did was from the Father and the Spirit. When He was baptized by John, He did not say, "Look everyone, Iím the Son of God!" Instead, it was the Fatherís voice from heaven who made this announcement. Jesus ALWAYS acted from the authority of God.
We are called to act the same way. We act on the authority of Jesus. The message the we proclaim is not one of our own invention. The authority of the church is vested in its head - the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus has often been portrayed as though He was some sort of revolutionary or rebel. But this is not true. Jesus was ALWAYS submissive to proper authority. He paid taxes. He obeyed the laws of the land. And only when those who were in authority went directly against the higher authority of the Father did Jesus turn again the lower authority to submit to that higher authority.
You need to know this because you are called to follow the same example. Christians are people who are called to obey authority.
THE SUFFERING OF THE PRIEST
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and suplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. (Hebrews 5:7).
We have seen that Jesus is a mediating priest, a gentle priest and an appointed priest. He is also a SUFFERING priest. When we think of the suffering of Jesus, was are drawn to the pain of His beatings during the trials, the crown of thorns and the scourging and later the torture of the crucifixion with the nails in His hands and feet.
But the suffering which is viewed in this verse is different. It is not the suffering upon the cross. I want to suggest that it is the suffering that preceded the cross. It is the agony of Gethsemane.
Do you remember the prayer that Jesus prayed in Gethsemane? He asked that the cup of death might be taken away. He asked that He might be saved from death. This tells me something about the death of Christ. It was no easy thing. It was experienced with real pain and affliction. It brought a cry from the lips of the Savior that all of the whips and beatings had been unable to solicit: "MY GOD! MY GOD! WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!"
There is one kind of crying out that just wants attention. But there is another kind when you put your hand on a hot stove or when you are nailed to a cross. It is a cry of pain. Jesus cried out with that kind of cry. And because He did, He will listen when you cry out. He can help because He first has hurt.
There is a lesson here. It is that you have to hurt before you can help. It is difficult for me to counsel people who are on drugs because Iíve never been on drugs. There are certain areas in which I have never been tempted. But someone who has fought those battles and who has overcome is able to give good counsel.
It has been said that the Christian army is the only one that shoots its own wounded. We dare not do that because it is only those who have been wounded who can help us find wellness. The pattern started with Jesus. He was wounded so that we can be well. He was the wounded healer.
If you are having problems, donít waste them. They are brought into your life for a reason. You are becoming a partaker in the sufferings of Jesus. Now you can use those hurts to heal others.
THE OBEDIENCE OF THE PRIEST
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, 10 being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:8-10).
We have seen that Jesus is a mediating, a gentle, an appointed and a suffering priest. He is also an OBEDIENT priest. A lot of people have a problem being under authority. We are a nation of rebels. And Jesus has been characterized as a rebel and a revolutionary.
But that misses the point that He was one who was obedient to authority. The only question was which authority.
Notice also that He was not only UNDER authority, He also LEARNED obedience to that authority: Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered (5:8).
Did you ever stop to think that God never knew what it meant to be obedient? It is impossible to be obedient until there is a higher authority which you are required to be obedient to. Only in the incarnation was the Lord ever placed under authority.
And because He has been obedient to authority, we are also called to be obedient. That obedience begins when we obey the gospel. You might hear me say that and think, "John, I know that we are supposed to HEAR the gospel and that we are supposed to BELIEVE the gospel, but where does the Bible ever say that we are to OBEY the gospel?"
Paul speaks of how Jesus shall return dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
In the same way, Peter warns that it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of Christ? (2 Peter 4:17).
The same principle is taught here. The writer to the Hebrews states that, having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation" (5:9).
Jesus was a perfect priest. This isnít speaking of His character. It is looking at His perfect life and His perfect work. That work had its perfection or its completion in His atoning death on the cross. The work of Jesus was perfect and complete. It accomplished exactly what it was designed to accomplish.
Jesus was a successful priest. He did what He set out to accomplish. We have described Jesus as a mediating, a gentle, an appointed, a suffering and an obedient priest. But all of that wouldnít help me at all if He were not also a SUCCESSFUL priest. lf a man can only identify with my problems and care for me, but is powerless to help me, it doesn t do much good.
This is the God of Rabbi David Kurshner. He reasoned that if God is both a good God and an all-powerful God, then bad things would never happen. He concluded that God is good but that He is not all-powerful. His God is over-worked and under-paid and would like to help us out with our problems but just isnít up to the task. Jesus just didnít do His best. He succeeded at what He set out to do. The cross WORKED!
But notice that it only works to those who obey Him. Does this mean that obedience in necessary to obtain eternal life? Yes, it does! Eternal life is given to those who obey the command of God ó specifically, the command to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"