Tenth Lesson on Hebrews

"Immediately after the Author tells us to that Jesus is our High Priest, he has to defend this claim.  Is Jesus qualified to be our Great High Priest?  What are the qualifications necessary to be a High Priest?"

Read Hebrews 5:1-10

Last lesson we learned that Jesus is our great High Priest.  The Author taught us that because Jesus is our great High Priest we can, with confidence, draw close to God’s throne of grace.  However, we as modern readers did not consider a critical question.

In order to be a High Priest in the Jewish faith you must have certain qualifications.  We didn’t recognize that Jesus might be lacking these qualifications.

A good first century Jew knew the qualifications necessary to be a High Priest and would have immediately challenged the Author's claims of Jesus’ priesthood. 

Immediately after the Author tells us to that Jesus is our High Priest, he has to defend this claim.  Because very quickly the Jews would say, “Wait! But Jesus doesn’t have the qualifications to be a High Priest!”

So, is Jesus qualified to be our Great High Priest?  What're the qualifications necessary to be a High Priest?

First Qualification - Chosen by God from men.

Verse 4 tells us that no one appoints himself to be High Priest.  God must choose them.

Read Exodus 28:1

Aaron (Moses’ Brother) was the first High Priest.  Almost all of the High Priest’s would be chosen from his descendants.  In verse 5 and verse 10 we can clearly see that the Author believed that Jesus was chosen.  Jesus was “appointed” and “designated” by God.

Where else in scripture can we see evidence of God choosing Jesus? 

  • In John 8:54 Jesus tells us that it is the Father who glorifies Him.
  • In Revelation 13:8 we learn that Jesus was chosen before even the foundations of the earth.

In addition to these scriptures and many others, we know that Jesus’ title of Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one”.  While this title was typically given to the Kings that God chose, it has the connotation of one who is called out and chosen.

Second Qualification: Empathetic with man

Verse 2 tells us that the High Priest needs to be a man in order to be able to understand and empathize with the struggles other men deal with.  In our next lesson we will talk in depth about the complete importance of Christ coming as a man.

But for now, let's briefly understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. 

  • Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone because of the situation they are in.
  • Empathy is when you can relate to a person because you've had the same experience as them.

Christ is a great High Priest because He was tempted in every way that we are.  However, He did not sin.  This is what the Author is speaking about in verse 2 of Chapter 5.  We know from Hebrews 4:15 that the Author knew that Christ was sinless.  So when the Author describes Christ’s “weakness” in chapter 5 He is talking about Christ’s humanity.  Christ’s ability to be tempted.

The High Priest’s major responsibility was intercession (speaking in favor) for the people.  Jesus has empathy for us because He knows how hard it is to resist temptation.  This is an ideal high priest.

Because Christ is a man and understands what it's like to be man, then we can really trust Him when He offers us peace (like in John 14:27).

Third Qualification: Offers sacrifices for man

Verse 1 reminds us of one of the things we learned in our last lesson.  The High Priest is responsible for offering the sacrifices that atone for man’s sin.  The unimaginable thing is that our Great High Priest offered himself, the only pure and holy sacrifice, for our atonement.

In verse 8 when we read that Christ learned obedience through suffering, we should not misread this to think that Christ was “taught a lesson by the pain.”  Christ’s character was not lacking in any way.  He was perfect and sinless.

Instead we should understand this to mean that Christ, at the time of His sacrifice, was obedient to the Father’s will in the greatest way possible.  He was actively obedient to God’s plan that was set before the foundations of the earth.

From eternity past to the day that the crowd seized Christ from the garden, He was obedient to the Father.  But in the moment that He was nailed to the Cross, in the moment that He began to take God’s wrath, he demonstrated greater obedience than ever before.

In the same way, when we read verse 9, we shouldn’t think that Christ was less than perfect before He was the “source of eternal salvation for everyone.”  Instead, after He gave himself, as the sacrifice for the atonement of all, He fulfilled the law of the Old Covenant. 

In that time Christ became the perfect High Priest because of the accomplishment of His task.

Jesus fulfills these three qualifications set forward from scripture.  However, to the first century Jew, this three point list of qualifications would seem to be lacking a fourth item.

In His day, a Rabi (teacher) could only speak or teach if they had the proper authority.  And the authority of a Rabi or a Priest was based on the authority of their teachers, their school, or their priesthood.

Traditionally, the High Priest was supposed to be from the tribe of Levi.  This was the tribe that all Priests came from.  On top of that, the High Priest was supposed to be a descendant of Aaron, the first High Priest.  Almost all High Priest’s came from Aaron’s line.  ALL previous and legitimate High Priests were from the tribe of Levi.

So what tribe Jesus was from?


It was prophesied that the Messiah would be from David’s descendants.  Both David and Jesus were from the tribe of Judah.  So, how can Jesus be our Great High Priest if He isn’t from the Priestly tribe.  Where does his Authority come from?

The Author of the Book of Hebrews knew that his audience would ask this question.

Read Verses 9 and 10

The Author of Hebrew informs the readers that Jesus is from the Order of Melchizedek; or, in other words,  Jesus and Melchizedek get their authority from the same place.

So who is Melchizedek?  To understand the Author we will have to study a strange account from scripture.

Read Genesis 14:17-20

The account of Melchizedek in Genesis does not contain much detail.  Fortunately, the Author of Hebrews explains himself more full in chapter 7:1-4.

Read Hebrews 7:1-4

From the details that we do have, it's clear that Melchizedek has authority.  His name means that he is the King of Righteousness.  His title says that he is King of Peace.  Interestingly, Abraham tithes to Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of everything he owned.  This shows Abraham’s submission to Melchizedek’s authority.

This practice of tithing was established later in the Old Testament for all of the Jews.  The other 11 tribes would tithe in order to sacrifice to God, but also to provide for the priestly tribe of Levi.  Because Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and Abraham is the father of all Jews, by transference, the Levites tithed to Melchizedek.

The Jews held great respect for Abraham.  Even though there aren’t many details about Melchizedek, because Abraham recognized his authority, the Jews would have recognized it as well.  The Author argues that Jesus’ and Melchizedek’s authority come from the same place.  So where does Melchizedek’s authority come from?

Read Hebrews 7 verse 3

Unlike the tribe of Levi, Melchizedek does NOT get his authority from his lineage or his priesthood.  There is NO record of Melchizedek’s family line.  In fact there is no record of the beginning or end of Melchizedek’s life, or of his authority.  Based solely on the record of scripture, Melchizedek’s authority should continue forever.

The Author of Hebrews isn’t trying to convince anyone that Melchizedek is God.  He isn’t trying to make us think that Christ and Melchizedek are the same person.  He is simply making the point that you do not have to have a priestly lineage to have the authority of God behind you.  Melchizedek had authority because he was a righteous peaceful king.  That’s just who he was.

Even though Christ isn’t a Levite, He has authority because He is the Son of God.  He has authority because He is God’s “anointed one”.  He has authority because that’s just who He is.  There's no beginning or end to the eternal authority of Christ.

Are there examples of how Christ demonstrated His authority while he was on earth?

  • In Matthew 5 we see Jesus repeat this phrase over and over: “You have heard it said…but I say. . . ”  Jesus is quoting Old Testament Law.  These are the things that the crowds have “heard” before.  When Jesus says “But I say to you…” He is adding onto scripture.  Adding on to the Law given to Moses.  Who has the authority to add to scripture?
  • In John 2 Jesus comes into the temple and starts flipping over merchant’s tables.  He takes a rope and by whipping drives the merchants out of the temple.  The people ask Him plainly.  “Show us a sign, so that we may know that you have the authority to do this.”  Who has the authority to over turn the temple, the dwelling place of God?

Christ has the authority.

In light of all Christ did, in light of His continual place of authority in heaven; it's ridiculous to ask the question, “Does Christ have the authority to be High Priest?”  Of course He does!

He is the eternal Word of God.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through Christ.

There is no beginning or end to the eternal authority of Christ!

So why don’t you submit to Him?

Why do you daily disrespect the God-Man who deserves all glory, honor, and praise? 

Take this moment now to dedicate yourself to Christ.  Submit to His authority and revel in this great High Priest that is perfectly able to intercede for you before God the Father.

In closing,

  • submit to the authority of Christ
  • give Jesus glory, honor, and praise
  • place your faith in our Great High Priest’s ability to atone for your sins.

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