Hebrews 5:1-10

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras

Many Christians have the impression that the clergy have a higher calling than other workers. By the Middle Ages, “religious” life — as a monk or nun — was widely considered holier than ordinary life, until Martin Luther challenged this thinking.

Your pastor is not perfect, but many assume she should be close, right? That is why when we hear of pastors or priests fall from grace we are so shocked by their behavior. They were the closest thing to Jesus we could see. We just expected more.

The author of the epistle to Hebrews explains that although the high priest enjoyed high status among Jews, he was weak like any Jew. “He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3 and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people” (v.2-3).

In ancient Israel, the high priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins in addition to those made for the sins of the people. No one is immune from sin. When you confess your sins, you receive absolution. Since your pastor is a human being, she is a sinner in need of God’s grace. I need to confess my sin, too. I need to receive absolution. You noticed recently when we confess our sins, I confess my sin, too, and you offer me forgiveness. Your pastor provides you the means of grace, also she needs to receive Holy Communion, and needs your prayer.

The author of the epistle explains that the role of the high priest was to be mediator between God and people. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest offered sacrifices on behalf of his people’s sins. He also offered prayers and supplications asking God to forgive his people. He also drew near to people on God’s behalf in order to offer them guidance and assistance. He was able to sympathize with his people because he was a sinner just like them. If your pastor were 100% perfect, then she cannot sympathize with your weaknesses. Congregation is often-overlook the fact that pastors are, in fact, both human and sinful just like the people they are trying to lead.

Jesus Christ is the only person and high priest without any sin. The author of the epistle to Hebrews states that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). The author in chapter 5 distinguishes between high priests and Jesus. The high priest is guilty of sin but Jesus without sin. However, Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses not because he is a sinner but because of his obedience and suffering. Christ’s compassion came from his profound experience of vulnerability through suffering. “In every respect” he has been tested as we are. Jesus becomes like his sisters and brothers in every respect so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest. Our Savior Jesus Christ has passed through all suffering and shame, and he knows our weaknesses very well.

God appointed Jesus to be the high priest for our salvation. He acts as a mediator between God and us. For Jesus to be high priest and mediator, he had to share in the experiences of those he represents-- hence he had to suffer.

The human high priest was a sinner and disobeyed God. “In actuality, the history of the high priesthood was an inglorious one, the office having become highly politicized, especially in the Maccabean and Roman periods that led into the time of Jesus. Opposition to the corrupt priesthood was one of the factors that led to the formation of the dissident ديسيدنت Qumran community, locus of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”[1]

Jesus Christ learned to be obedient through his suffering. Jesus Become the source of salvation for all who obey him, following his own perfection (v.9). You are invited to draw near the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ with confidence knowing that he understands your weaknesses and your needs. Jesus is a sympathetic priest who is ready to forgive you your sin. He also sympathizes with people who live in the shadow of death and sorrow. No one can understand you as much as Jesus does.

 

[1] Scott Shauf, “Commentary On Hebrews 5: 1-10,” Working Preacher, accessed October 21, 2018, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1414.