For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in
relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant
and wayward, distance he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this, he is
obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no
one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest but was appointed by him
who said to him:
“You are my Son,
Today I have begotten you,
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and
tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his
reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And
being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
In this section, the writer of Hebrews compares Jesus, our high priest, to the Old Testament priesthood
of Aaron. While Aaron himself was a man of dubious character, his priesthood was appointed by God.
It is in that sense that Jesus is now a high priest according to the order of Aaron. But in truth, Jesus
‘priesthood’ is of a higher order than Aaron, which the author is building towards; the order of
Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:10, 7). After a long digression, the author will take this up (see chapters 6 and 7).
Aaron had to have three qualifications to be able to serve as a high priest:
Chosen from among men
“For every high priest chosen from among men ” (Hebrews 5:1). It had to be someone who could have
compassion on those he represented because he himself is a man and is weak. In this regard, Aaron
was the perfect representative. That is why the Lord Jesus was made a man so he could sympathize
with our weaknesses. There are only two matters in which he is not like us: his virgin birth and his
sinless life. He was not like any human ever born in that he had no human father. He thus fulfilled the
great prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, as recorded in Matthew 1:18-23. And Scripture is clear that while living
in the body, he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). This is known as his active obedience, the fact that while
in the body, he perfectly obeyed the Law. He did so on our behalf so that his perfect righteousness could
be applied to our account.
By his Incarnation, he has been totally identified with our weakness. There was no indignity or weakness
his brethren suffered that he has not suffered as well. That is why He is forever known as the Son of
Man. In times past the Church has had difficulty with this doctrine that Messiah is fully Man, choosing
to focus rather on his deity. Yet while He is fully God, He is, at the same time, fully human as well.
Have something to offer
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God specifies the many offerings Israel was required to offer
on behalf of the Israelites. There were sin offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings that were to
be offered. There had been thousands of lambs through the centuries, and they all demonstrated how
serious sin is. They all show that only death can expiate and deal with sin effectively. But all of these
offerings foreshadowed the offering up of Messiah Himself. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than
when God required Abraham to offer up his own son, Isaac. When Isaac asked his father, “Where is
the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:7), Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a
burnt offering.” This portrayed perfectly what the Father said to the Son; “Son, you must lay down your
life for the world.”
That is why Hebrews shows us that the Son became a man and lived among us. From the beginning of
his earthly life, He knew He came to die. When John the Baptist saw him after his forty days in the
wilderness, He called him the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus
Himself said, “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down willingly.” “But as it is, he has appeared once
and for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”(Hebrews 9:26).
Must not be self-appointed
“No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.” Messiah did not take
upon himself this honor; God appointed him to this office. This should bring amazing comfort to us. We
would have thought God would blame us for our failures and weakness, but because of his mercy, instead
of judging us, He provides us with the perfect high priest. Remember the phrase; “merciful and faithful high
priest” that appeared earlier in the letter (Hebrews 2:17). This means He is merciful to me while faithful to
God. He will never fall down on the job the Father has given him to maintain the interests of the weakest
before Him. No matter how weak they are, they will always have someone pleading their case before the
court of Heaven. My peace with God, therefore, does not depend on my faithfulness to God; it does not
even depend on Christ’s faithfulness to me, but on His faithfulness to Him Who appointed Him! What an
anchor for the soul.
Introduces Melchizedek (5:6-10)
This is wonderful, but it is not all there is. The author uses Psalm 110 to introduce a further fullness of Jesus
as our high priest. Jesus is not only a priest after the Aaronic order—his priesthood is of a higher order, the
order of Melchizedek! He begins to explain this but suddenly realizes he can’t. It is not because he is unable
to explain it, but due to the condition of his hearers and their inability to understand what he is saying to
them. We’ll take that up in the next blog.