The Book of Hebrews
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
And he says in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
In chapter 5, the writer continued to reinforce the humanness of Jesus and why He was the true priest and ultimate sacrifice for them. In his human weakness, as he suffered he cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion, He asked God to take this cup and spare Him this agony. But it is this human experience that perfected Jesus as our high priest.
Perhaps these 1st century Hebrew converts were struggling with seeing Jesus as savior because they believed he was just a rabbi religious teacher who walked the earth. Perhaps they were looking for a savior much loftier and nothing like themselves. But Jesus the Savior, keeping the integrity of God’s word, fulfilled the Old Testament requirements for priesthood as was given to the Hebrew’s forefathers. The writer knew that the modern day Hebrews couldn’t deny the historical truth regarding the priesthood that began with Aaron in the Old Testament, and so he proceeded to make that connection for them between their own scriptures and the reality of Jesus’ fulfillment of it.
Melchizedeck is oftentimes a troubling name or word for Bible readers because it is not often used and does not appear to have any significance in the story that God is telling throughout scripture. Melchizedeck first shows up in Genesis 14 visiting with Abram. He is King of Salem (the future Jerusalem) in Canaan, but also a priest; hence the title which means King-Priest—a very rare occurrence. During his visit with Abraham, he acknowledges Abraham’s God as his God and Abram returns the honor. Some scholars believe that this Melchizedek character was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ rule as King and Priest of Jerusalem during His earthly reign after the creation of the new earth, and forever in our lives. King David also makes reference to him in Psalm 110 as a priest forever. As seen in this letter, the writer used the same terminology to demonstrate Jesus’ qualification for both roles as King and Priest in our lives.
The writer again showed frustration, expressing that he had so much to tell them about the implications of Jesus’ King-Priest role, but could not because they were not spiritually ready to understand. They were still struggling with the basic issues of salvation. The milk of the scriptures referred to teaching that led to salvation. The meat of the scriptures referred to teaching that brought about change towards righteousness in a saved person. In essence, once they were in relationship with Jesus, we had only just begun the transformation that could took place in their lives and could not stay there if they wanted to partake in all that Christ had for them. Transformation is a process that is lifelong and it occurs when we continue to do those things that help us to grow in faith. One of those things is studying and understanding the “meat” of the Word. This writer was concerned that his readers were unable to discern good from evil because they had not begun that journey towards righteousness–or in his words: “having their senses trained.”
Question to ponder:
- Are you ready for the meat part of your spiritual journey?