14We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the Son of God. This is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. 15Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! 16So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved grace, and we will find help.
1Every high priest is appointed to help others by offering gifts and sacrifices to God because of their sins. 2A high priest has weaknesses of his own, and he feels sorry for foolish and sinful people. 3 This is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of others. 4 But no one can have the honor of being a high priest simply by wanting to be one. Only God can choose a priest, and God is the one who chose Aaron.
5 This is how it was with Christ. He became a high priest, but not just because he wanted the honor of being one. It was God who told him,
“You are my Son, because today
I have become your Father!”
6 In another place, God says,
“You are a priest forever
just like Melchizedek.”
7 God had the power to save Jesus from death. And while Jesus was on earth, he begged God with loud crying and tears to save him. He truly worshiped God, and God listened to his prayers. 8Jesus is God's own Son, but still he had to suffer before he could learn what it really means to obey God. 9Suffering made Jesus perfect, and now he can save forever all who obey him. 10This is because God chose him to be a high priest like Melchizedek.
Jewish worship from the earliest times was mediated by a priest, set apart to offer gifts and sacrifices on their behalf. When Jesus is referred to as our “great high priest,” what we are meant to understand is that he is our representative before God. And when he’s called a high priest ‘like Melchizedek’ Jewish readers would know this meant he was also a king (from Genesis 14:18).
As Christians we are used to the idea that we can “come bravely before the throne of our merciful God” (4:16) expecting to find kindness and help. For Jews the idea would have been revolutionary. Before the temple curtain was torn in two as Jesus took his last breath (Matthew 27:51), the “holy of holies” was strictly out of bounds for the average worshipper. Approaching God was a dangerous matter, and stories abound of those whose over-familiarity saw them pay with their lives – see for example the case of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3, struck dead for disrespecting God by burning incense on an unauthorized source of fire.
There are a number of ways in which having Jesus as our high priest changes absolutely everything about how we relate to God. First, he knows our human weakness, because he has experienced it. Second, he is perfect and sinless, and therefore his sacrifice on our behalf is good enough for God. Third, God listens to him like no one else. With him pleading our cause, we can be sure the judgment will be in our favour.
All this is quite extraordinary. Let’s not take it for granted.
Almighty God, thank you that I can come into your presence without fear of judgment or death. Thank you for Jesus who has made that possible. Help me understand how amazing this is. You are holy and good and worthy of my total awe and respect. In Jesus’ name, Amen.