“I’ll believe it when I see it!” We have heard this proclamation said of others to us. We have probably said it ourselves from time to time. We say this, (or at least think it), when we don’t trust government politicians or certain businesses to follow through with what they have promised. We say this about friends or family members who have failed to follow through in life or have personally broken promises to us. Once trust is broken it is hard to trust again. Right?
Hebrews is assumed to be written by Paul or someone trained by Paul. The Hebrew Christians who received this letter were sorely tempted to return to the religion of their fathers. After all, any Jew could travel to Jerusalem and see the temple and the priests ministering at the altar. Here was something real, visible, concrete. When a person is going through persecution, as these Hebrew Christians were, it is much easier to walk by sight than by faith. But we’re not like that, are we?
Some of us have doubted the Lord under much less provocation than these people were enduring. So, let’s go over the basics today. The central theme of Hebrews is the priesthood of Jesus Christ, what He is now doing in heaven on behalf of His people. Is the high priestly ministry of Christ superior to that of Aaron (Old Testament days of Moses) and his successors? Yes, it is, and the writer proves his assertion by presenting four arguments.
Jesus Christ Has a Superior Title (Heb. 4:14–16)
The name “Jesus” means “Savior” and identifies His humanity and His ministry on earth. “Son of God” affirms His deity and the fact that He is God. In His unique person, Jesus Christ unites Deity and humanity, so that He can bring people to God and bring to people all that God has for them. Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God in the heavens as our Advocate the Father! He is the One and Only High Priest who brings us freely to the throne room of God on our behalf. That’s why Jesus is Savior and Lord, God’s Son, called to be perfect sacrifice for our sins and then…
“God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
Jesus Christ Has a Superior Ordination (5:1, 4–6)
What is unique about Jesus is that He was, is and is to come, called of God to be our Advocate, Savior, High Priest, and Lord forever! Old Testament high priest were called for a certain time period but Jesus is forever and forever will be our High Priest, Savior of all our sins.
FUN FACT: Melchizedek is mentioned in only two places in the entire Old Testament—Genesis 14:17–24 and Psalm 110:4. His name means “King of Righteousness,” and he was also “King of Salem [peace].” But the fascinating thing about Melchizedek is that he was both a priest and a king! King Uzziah wanted to be both a priest and a king, and God judged him. Only in Jesus Christ and in pre-law Melchizedek were these two offices combined. Jesus Christ is a High Priest on a throne! The reason Jesus Christ can be “a priest forever” is that He belongs to the “order of Melchizedek.” Well, that’s cool!
Jesus Christ Reveals a Superior Sympathy (5:2, 7–8)
it is the spiritually minded person with a clean heart who sympathizes with a sinner and seeks to help him (see Gal. 6:1). Because we are so sinful, we have a hard time helping other sinners, but because Jesus is perfect, He is able to meet our needs after we sin. Our Lord was prepared for His high priestly ministry during His days of ministry on earth (Heb. 5:7–8). The phrase “while He lived on earth” means “when He was on earth in a human body.”
From birth to death, our Lord experienced the sinless infirmities of human nature. He knew what it was to grow and mature (Luke 2:52). He experienced hunger and thirst, as well as weariness (John 4:6–8, 31). He also faced temptations to sin (Matt. 4:1–11) and persecutions from the hands of sinful men. “But there was no sin in Him” so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.
Jesus Christ Offered a Superior Sacrifice (5:3, 9–10)
This topic has already been touched on, and the writer of Hebrews discussed it in detail in Hebrews 9—10. Two important matters are involved.
The first is that Jesus Christ did not need to offer any sacrifices for Himself. On the annual day of Atonement, the high priest first had to sacrifice for himself; and then he could offer the sacrifices for his nation (Lev. 16). Since Jesus is the sinless Son of God, there was no need for Him to sacrifice for Himself. He was in perfect fellowship with the Father and needed no cleansing.
The second matter is that our Lord’s sacrifice was once and for all, whereas the Old Testament sacrifices had to be repeated. Furthermore, those sacrifices could only cover sins; they could never cleanse sins. It required the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God for sin to be cleansed and removed—forever!
Jesus is the sinless, eternal Son of God, and because He offered a perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ is the “author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). No Old Testament priest could offer eternal salvation to anyone, but that is EXACTLY what we have in Jesus!
Now, we can read this passage with “solid food” knowledge of just who Jesus was, is and is to come with knowing what He has done and is doing for us now. We do not have to see him physically to know, trust and believe in Him.
Jesus—Perfect Savior, Loving Lord of lords and Powerful King of kings!
Isn’t it obvious?
Hebrews 5, The Message
1-3 Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it’s like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the peoples’.
4-6 No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.”
7-10 While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him.
11-14 I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.
Hebrews 6:1-3, The Message
So come on, let’s leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on “salvation by self-help” and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. But there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!
Make me what you want me to be. Continue to help me grow in knowledge of you, realizing the full extent of your love for me. This knowledge and understanding helps me to point others to you. Growing in your love helps me to love like you do. Growing in obedience to you generates extreme trust and propels my growing faith in you. I do not have to see you to know you are here with me. Thank you for your Presence in my life. Continue to mature me so I will bear the fruits of your Holy Spirit.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen