Let us, then hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God – Jesus, the Son of God (Hebrews 4 v 14)
Here we see the start of a discussion which shows Jesus as our high priest.
Aaron and subsequent high priests on the Day of Atonement would go through the curtain in the temple into the Most Holy Place out of sight of the people watching. In the same way Jesus ascended through the heavens out of the sight of his disciples – his work of atonement complete.
In verse 6 of chapter 5 the writer quotes from Psalm 110 v 4;
You will be a priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.
We will look at this in more detail when we get to Chapter 7, but the background for this is that Melchizedek was King of Salem (which means Peace, and is a shortened reference to what we now know as Jerusalem) at the time of Abraham.
The name Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness”. His role was to be the chief representative of the rule of God, a position which was given to David and his sons as King and then to Jesus. We can see why the nation of Israel suffered or prospered depending on whether the King of the time was fulfilling his role as God’s representative as the people tended to follow what the King did.
They were not High Priests in the same way as Aaron or subsequent High Priests. They were “King Priests” with responsibility for overseeing the work of the temple and the High Priests. They were not allowed to perform the tasks ordained for the High Priests who were expected to follow strict rules on cleanliness sacrifice.
Jesus as our High Priest is shown to be worthy of his position though his obedience to God.
Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. (v15)
Because of what Jesus did, we can therefore have confidence in approaching God’s throne and receive his grace and mercy when we need it (see v 16)
The high priests were chosen both by God and their fellow men. They were weak too and had to offer sacrifices for their own sin as well as their fellow men. Jesus did not sin; he did not have to die or offer sacrifices for his own sin (note that while on earth he obeyed the rules set out to Moses and Aaron for the annual sacrifices and feasts) he offered himself as sacrifice for us..
While on earth he suffered all the temptations we do and called out to God in prayer for God to save him from the consequences of this death (v7) He was not so much afraid of the physical death, but the unbearable pain of taking on the sin of the world and asked God to take this from him.
While initially it may appear that God did not answer that prayer, Jesus had to go through with it; we see that Jesus prayer was answered by the resurrection. If it had been merely a sacrifice for our sin, Jesus would have remained buried but he was saved from this death by his resurrection
Through His obedience and suffering therefore;
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.
At this point the writer of Hebrews decides to explain a few other basic points before continuing so we will stop here too for now..
Quotes from the Good News Bible