Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our passage this week from Hebrews 5:1-10 is a very full reading. It talks about many different concepts. At the center of the passage we find that Jesus is the high priest appointed by God for us.
I’d like to make a few observations about the work of a priest. In general, priests in a wide variety of religions have two jobs. They almost always offer some sort of sacrifice to a deity. This offering is normally intended to please the deity or at least ward off anger, thus providing some safe access to the deity, or at least to life in this world, for the worshiper.
The Bible describes priests from the early days of Israel’s history. In the opening parts of the Bible, the head of a household seems to serve as the priest. That’s the person who we find making offerings. At a point a bit later, the leader of a larger group of people ends up making offerings and, still later, the work of the priesthood is assigned to the descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses.
These priests received their appointment because of their lineage. Because they were descendants of Aaron, they were priests. What is special about Jesus is that he was not a descendant of Aaron. He was appointed as a priest by God, not by law. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus’ appointment is from God, not of any human lineage or merit, but because of his position as God the Son.
What did Jesus do as a priest? Hebrews 5:1 speaks of the work of the priest to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. In Israel people would sometimes bring offerings indicating their willingness to be in fellowship with God and His people. These were received and distributed as appropriate by the priests. Some of the offerings were grain offerings, of which a portion might be burned as an offering and the rest eaten. The priest was at the center of this work. Without the work of the priest, the worshiper would not be able to approach God in accord with the Law of Moses.
The other job of the priest is to offer sacrifices. This is the means appointed by God to work forgiveness of sins. Since all humans are shown as guilty of sin, everyone needs to make the offerings appointed by God. Without the work of the priest, nobody can be released from sin.
What’s so significant about Jesus’ work in this? When Jesus offers a gift, he offers himself as the redeemer of the world. When Jesus offers a sacrifice for sin, he offers himself as the perfect man, an adequate sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jesus serves both as the priest and as the offering. This is the great good news of the entire book of Hebrews, and especially this chapter. Jesus has given himself for your sin and mine. He is the perfect priest.
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