Wednesday, April 20, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 18

To start at the beginning, click here.

A Better Priest than Aaron

In the first section of Hebrews, the Writer measured the Son against all previous messengers ("angels") and found the Son far superior. Because of this superiority, we need to pay greater attention to His message.

In the next section, he measured the Son against Moses and found the Son superior. Consequently, it is important all the more to not harden our hearts in the manner of those who first heard Moses. Moses led God's people to promised land. Jesus brings us to the very Sabbath rest of God.

Now the Writer measures the Son against the priesthood:

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins; he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.

And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

You are My Son, Today I have begotten You;

just as He says also in another passage,

You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:1-10, NASB 95)

This is a clever and important bit of introductory work on the part of the Writer. The Jewish priesthood consists very specifically of the descendants of Aaron. It is a Biblical position that carries on to this day in the synagogues. Jews who have last names like Cohen--from the Hebrew COHAIN meaning "priest"-- are known to be descendants of Aaron and have special status.

But Jesus is not a descendant of Aaron. He is, rather, of the tribe of Judah. He has claims to be Israel's king, but no claim to be her priest. Society was setup on a very strict separation of the two. But the Writer of Hebrews has the goal of lifting the Son above all important institutions of Judaism. He connects Psalm 2 that connects the Son to the throne and he then quotes psalm 110 that connects the throne with a different priestly order--and the Son becomes the Priest-King.

It is clear that the designation of priest came after Jesus' death and resurrection--and it is also clear that this priesthood is forever.

So over the next lessons, I will explore the ways and means of this new priesthood.

Test everything, cling to what is good.

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