Hebrews 4:14–5:10. The High Priest As Counselor.
Key Notes: Criteria of the priest. Attitude of the counselor. The priest as leader in ISrael. Tempted as we are. Learning obedience.
So far in Hebrews, Jesus is greater than prophets or angels or Moses. The Priesthood of Jesus is the major theme of Heb.3:1–10:39. His priesthood is greater than the Levi's. It is not a theme we resonate with, because we have repudiated priests and priest-craft. But we have much to learn.
4:14–16 “Since we have a great high priest” implies that the author has made that statement before. The idea was introduced in 2:17:
“Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.”
He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been tempted as we are. We are encouraged to pray with His life and experience in mind. [The author has given us his application up front and now goes on to elaborate his case.] The next text lists eight characteristics of the ideal priest and we can see how Jesus meets and completes them. We have a definition of a priest and compare it to Christ (in parenthesis) using the words of the text.
5:1–4 A priest is:
*chosen from among men ("in the days of his flesh" 5:7)
*appointed to act on behalf of men ("help in time of need" 4:16)
*in relation to God ("draw near to the throne of grace" 4:16)
*to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins ("Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins" 10:12)
*able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward ("able to sympathize with our weakness" 4:15)
*beset by weakness ("learned obedience through what He suffered" 5:8)
*obliged to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as those of the people ("but He has no need to offer sacrifices daily, first for His own sins and then for those of the people" 7:27)
*not taking the honor on himself but is called by God ("appointed by Him who said to Him, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee'...a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek." (5:5–6).
The middle portion of the description of the priest contains a valuable insight." He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since him himself is beset by weakness." "Deal gently" is the Greek word "metriopatheia". It stands between the emotions of detachment (Gr."apatheia"), and passion (Gr."pathos") . It is a middle feeling. Jesus is able to work with us as a counselor would. He is not bored with our problem nor is He overwhelmed by it, but knowing what it feels like to be a human being; having been through it, He is able to be gentle. He is not put off by our anger, nor dismayed at our sloth. He can tell the difference between honesty and self-deception. This informs us about how a human counselor should behave. He has been through it and can be gentle.
We see Jesus in converation with the woman at the well (Jn.4)l, the woman who came to Simon's party (Lk.7:36–40), the woman taken in adultery, (Jn.8:1-), and notably, Peter after his denial. (Jn.21:15-). He deals gently with the weak and the wayward. However, He is tough with Nicodemus (Jn.3) and rough on the scribes and Pharisees (Matt..23), so we know He is neither simple nor rigid in His dealing with people. The subject is worthy of elaboration.
The Old Testament priest was a central figure in the life of Israel. Judges and prophets came and went, but the priest was a continuing presence. The priest blew the horn that initiated the festivals. His personal holiness was critical. (Lev.21:6, 8). He decided who was clean and who was unclean. He attended to the sacrifices which gave the people forgiveness and fellowship with God. He cared for the tabernacle altar fire,the incense burning, lighting lamps and making sacred bread as well as carrying out the variety of sacrifices prescribed by the Law. He taught the people the Law of God and judged them accordingly. (Deut.19:17). He was like a father to Israel.
5:4–6 Two points magnify Jesus’ unique appointment as High Priest.
“Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” (Psa.2:7)
Peter says “this day” was Jesus’ resurrection day (Acts 13;33–37), when, as Paul says, He was “designated Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the Dead.” (Rom.1:4). No other priest could claim a unique credential like a prophesied resurrection.
The second point is Jesus’ appointment as a special priest not from the tribe of Levi, but according to the order of Melchizedek. (Psa.110:4). This appointment will be expanded in Heb.7.
5:7–10 “Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered and being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”
“…in every respect...tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (4:15).
It is beyond our comprehension that Jesus should be tempted in all these ways and Scripture says no more about it.
He was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin 4:15.
Did Jesus sin? What do the witnesses say?
Peter: "He committed no sin; no was guile was found on His lips." (I Pet 2:22)
John: "In Him there is no sin". (I Jn. 3:5)
Paul. "He...knew no sin". (II Cor. 5:21)
Judas: "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood". (Matt. 27:4).
Could Jesus sin?
Many say that He could not. But if He could not sin, then temptation is not temptation. It is unnerving to think that He could, but dangerous to think that He could not. If He could not, then He is not truly human and He cannot help us with our temptations.
Jesus was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin. The passage refers undoubtedly to the Gethsemane crisis when the fear of pain, torture, death and separation from God was nearly overwhelming.
We also know the temptations in the wilderness where the Flesh, the World and the Devil were incitements, and the need to survive, the need to be recognized and the need to reach the goal were driving forces. (Lk 4:1–13). None of these seem to cover the bases of all the ways we are tempted.
Other times that Jesus might have been tempted:
The Pharisees tried to goad Him into errors. Matt.22:15
Disciples just did not understand Him. Matt 16:8
Peter defied His going to the cross. Matt 16:22
His family thought He was mad. Mk 3:21
The difference between Jesus' temptations (which we really cannot fathom) and ours is that He never gave consent. We give in easily, sometimes quickly. We do not have any idea of the force of His temptation because we are almost never stretched to the breaking point. It is beyond our comprehension that Jesus should be tempted in all the ways we are and Scripture says no more about it.
Yet "He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him".(Heb.5:8). Jesus had to mature as a person, learn in the school of obedience from His parents and the Father, passing successive tests until all was accomplished. The strong crying and tears were undoubtedly in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know that the answer God gave Him then was negative.
An analogy to Christ’s being made perfect is the Damascus blade. An ordinary cavalry saber forged by the blacksmith will serve the needs of most warriors. The Damascus blade has had special work done by a master craftsman. The master heats and hammers the red-hot steel blade again and again, folding the metal on itself repeatedly so that the pattern of the folding is left on the blade. The product supposedly cannot be duplicated by modern craftsmen. The Damascus blade has legendary properties: cutting a silk scarf in mid-air, breaking other swords, even splitting rock. Jesus’ life was like that. He was hammered, heated, pounded over and over, so that He was made like a Damascus blade through trials, accomplishing breath-taking feats of power and courage.
He “learned obedience” by obeying. (5:8). He in turn demands our obedience (5:9). He “offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears and He was heard for His godly fear” (5:7). "So we can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.” (4:16)
Lord, teach us obedience, as you learned obedience.
Lord, deal gently with us. We appeal to your sympathy for us, the weak and wayward
Teach me to pray: Lord, You have been tempted like me.
I do not know what to do. Help me out of this. ICor.10:13_