INTRODUCTION TO OCTOBER LESSONS
Sooner or later in life we need someone to represent us. When purchasing a home, we might need a Realtor. When executing a will, we might need a lawyer. When making arrangements for a funeral, we might need a funeral director. The Bible calls the representative between God and people a priest. In this unit students will learn of the character, calling, office, covenant, and sacrifice of Jesus our high priest.
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Unit: Hebrews (Part 2)
Theme: High Priest
Lesson Text: Hebrews 2:5-18; 4:14-16
Supplemental Text: Psalm 8
Aim: Approach God’s throne of grace with confidence that Jesus is sympathetic and merciful toward you.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_Oct3_2021
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By Mark Scott
Catholic scholar Henri Nouwen called us to be wounded healers who demonstrate real compassion. He said compassion is not pity or sympathy or charity. True compassion is entering into another person’s problems. Compassion means taking on the burdens of others and standing in their shoes. Jesus demonstrated real compassion as our merciful and faithful high priest.
The writer of Hebrews argued that Jesus was superior to angels (1:5–2:4). We might be tempted to say, “Well, duh.” But in the early days, some may have pushed back against that argument. Some in the Qumran community taught that the coming age would be ruled by the angel Michael and his subordinates. The Hebrew writer made it clear that the merciful and faithful high priest would rule, but that rule would be very different from the typical monarchial style.
The Merciful and Faithful High Priest Understood Subjection
Jesus would be able to subject the world to himself because he subjected himself to the world. He understood subjection (i.e., to line up behind or yield to). Angels are God’s servants. But angels do not enter into the human sphere. In fact, Jesus taught that they always behold the face of the Father (Matthew 18:10).
Angels are not the epitome of God’s creation. That honor is reserved for humankind. The writer quotes lines from Psalm 8. God was mindful of (remembered) humans because of their exalted state. The phrase son of man may here be metonymy (a type of figure of speech) for humankind. Even though humans are lower than the angels, they have dignity and worth. In fact, they will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Humans became cocreators with God and stewards of all creation. The world is subject to them even though that is not evident at the present time. Jesus became fully exalted and totally human.
The Merciful and Faithful High Priest Gave Himself in Substitution
The writer does something quite significant with Psalm 8. While the psalm celebrates the dignity and worth of humankind, the writer gives it a Christocentric twist. We may not see everything in subjection to humankind as it will be someday (Romans 8:18-25), but because Jesus subjected himself to the human condition through the incarnation, we do see him. As the ultimate God-man, Jesus was made lower than the angels.
Jesus has now been exalted with glory and honor, but when he came to earth, he suffered death. That death was vicarious. It was for others. He “tasted death” (an idiom meaning “died in place of”) for everyone. This was called atonement in verse 17.
To get sons and daughters (people) to glory (God), someone had to blaze a trail. Jesus was that trailblazer. He was not only the Creator (for whom and through whom everything exists), he was the pioneer (leader or founder) of salvation. Jesus’ sacrifice made people perfect (complete in God) through his salvific experience on the cross. This ultimate sacrifice did not come about without suffering.
The Merciful and Faithful High Priest Engendered a Solidarity with His People
The solidarity that priests have with people is their humanness. The significance of the use of Psalm 8 is that Jesus was (and is) human. Jesus shared in the human condition; he was (and is) part of the human family. Even though we have, through sin, embarrassed ourselves, he was not embarrassed to call us brothers and sisters.
The writer collects phrases from Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18 to further this solidarity. Jesus not only experienced life as a human, he also experienced death as humans do. But Jesus’ death was not the same as others. His death held power. His death destroyed death and the influence of death’s chief enemy, the devil. In addition to this, the people (with whom he held solidarity) were liberated from their fear of death.
Jesus did not have to become an angel because angels did not need saving. He was made like humans because they did need saving. Jesus experienced the full weight of what it meant to be human. His humanity and suffering qualified him to be a high priest. His death paid the punishment for sin. His temptations gave him compassion for those tempted.
The Merciful and Faithful High Priest Was Sinless
Jesus’ lack of sin was the striking difference between him and other high priests. High priests had to atone for their own sins when they went to the tabernacle or temple. Jesus had no sin. Jesus never caved in to sin. While he can empathize with our weaknesses, he never surrendered to them (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5). This allows believers to do two things: to hold firmly to the faith and to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.
Dr. Mark Scott serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin, Mo. He retired in May after more than 30 years as professor of New Testament with Ozark Christian College in Joplin.
The image is a portion of the painting “Christ Wearing the Crown of Thorns, Supported by Angels,” by Annibale Carracci, circa 1586; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.