Then He Sat Down
Jesus is the Son whom God appointed as our merciful and faithful High Priest after his suffering, death, and resurrection. A key theme in the Letter to the Hebrews is the elevation of Jesus to the office of the High Priest because of his obedience “unto death.” In his sufferings, he was “perfected,” and in his resurrection, God vindicated his sacrifice when he “sat down” at the “right hand of the Majesty on High.” There, he now intercedes on behalf of his “brethren.” The stress is not on his status as the Royal Son, as true as that is, but instead on his priestly position and ministry.
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The description of him “sitting down” contrasts his priesthood with the Aaronic high priest who NEVER sat down in the Holy of Holies. The Levitical priests only stood in the inner sanctum for brief periods, and only on the annual Day of Atonement. But the “Son” sat down in the Greater Sanctuary where he remains to this day in the very presence of God ministering for the Assembly.
The Letter builds its case on a series of comparisons between the past revelations of God and his definitive “Word” that He has spoken in Jesus. Hebrews does not denigrate the past words “spoken in the prophets.” They did indeed originate from God, but they were partial, promissory, and incomplete.
The Letter employs the comparisons to stress the superiority of the complete “Word” that God is now “speaking” in His Son. Though the Law was mediated by mighty angels and accompanied by “scorching fire and gloom and mist and tempest,” the word unveiled in Jesus is vastly superior in all respects to its predecessors.
Jesus of Nazareth “became superior to the angels, having inherited a more distinguished name.” To “inherit” means a change in condition and status. The Letter validates this proposition by combining two Old Testament passages:
- (Hebrews 1:5) - “For to which of the angels said he at any time: You are my Son, I, this day, have begotten you, and again, I will become his father, and he shall become my Son?” - (Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14).
The clause, “this day,” translates the emphatic Greek adverb sémeron. It points to a specific time when Jesus was appointed by Yahweh. At no point did God ever say this to any angel.
The opening paragraph concludes by comparing the “Son” to the angels, using a passage from the Psalms that becomes one of the Letter’s chief proof texts - “But to which of the angels has he said at any time: Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool?” - (Psalm 110:1).
The first comparison concludes with an exhortation not to abandon the things believers have received from the “Son.” Since his “Word” is supreme, to disregard it will result in far worse punishment than any of the penalties under the Mosaic Law - (Hebrews 2:1-4).
PERFECTING THE SON
All things have been subjected beneath the Son, and God “left to him nothing un-subjected.” While we do not yet see all things subjected to humanity…:
- “We do see Jesus made some little less than angels; by reason of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, to the end, that by the grace of God, on behalf of everyone, he should taste of death.”
Moreover, we are told WHEN his exaltation occurred – When he “tasted death.” But first, God determined to “perfect” him “through suffering.” His need to attain “perfection” points to a change in his status. His “suffering” refers to the death by which he “paralyzed him who held the dominion of death, the Devil.”
To accomplish victory over Satan and death, Jesus “was obliged in every way to be made like his brethren so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” The Greek verb rendered “become” denotes a “becoming” (ginomai), in this case, a change in rank, condition, and status - (Hebrews 2:14-18).
Next, the Letter compares Jesus to Moses. Once again, it emphasizes his present elevated status as a High Priest. The Great Lawgiver was more honored than all the other prophets, and unlike them, God spoke to him face-to-face - (Numbers 12:7-8, Hebrews 3:1-6).
As our “Apostle,” God sent Jesus to deliver His final “Word.” As our “High Priest,” he intercedes for us before His Father. The description of him as “one who is faithful,” and the reference to Moses as one such “also in all his house,” allude to a passage in the Book of Numbers - “My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house.”
Since the “Son” is superior to the angels, and since disobedience to his “Word” incurs even greater punishment than disobedience to any word mediated by angels or Moses, logically, he is of superior rank than even Moses, the greatest of all the prophets.
The keywords in the passage are “faithful,” “priest,” and “house.” They allude to the prophecy when God promised to “raise up a FAITHFUL PRIEST; according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured HOUSE.” Jesus is that “faithful priest” who now fulfills the promise - (1 Samuel 2:35).
But there is a difference. Jesus is worthy of more honor than Moses, just as the one who “prepares” the house is worthy of more honor than the house. The “Son” is linked with the “Builder,” namely, God, and he is set over the “house.” But Moses was a “servant” in it.
Moses was an “attendant” in the house “for a testimony.” As the faithful “attendant,” he was the witness to the word that one day would come. Thus, the Law given by angels was preparatory for the superior “word spoken in the Son.”
In the “days of his flesh,” Jesus offered up supplications to the one who was able to save him from death. Though God hearkened to him because of his devoutness, and “even though he was a Son, yet he learned obedience from what things he suffered.” In this way, he was “made perfect” or “complete” - (Matthew 26:36-46).
Once again, Hebrews presents the “Son” as one who was “made perfect” by his sufferings, and he also “became to all those who obey him the author of everlasting salvation.” His exalted status is based on his past obedience and death.
His disciples have “a mighty consolation…an anchor of the soul, both secure and firm,” because their “forerunner” entered the interior of the “Sanctuary” through the “veil.” Thus, he “became the High Priest forever according to the rank of Melchizedek,” a position he did not hold prior to his death- (Hebrews 6:18-20, Psalm 110:4).
As our “High Priest,” he “became the surety of a covenant” that is better than anything provided under the Aaronic priesthood. His appointment as “High Priest” occurred when he “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” following his death and resurrection.
As the High Priest after the “rank of Melchizedek,” he attained “a more distinguished public ministry” than any of the Levitical priests, and he became the “mediator of the better covenant” that is based on “better promises.”
TABERNACLE, COVENANT, SACRIFICE
Jesus “approached as High Priest… through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,” ONE NOT MADE-BY-HAND. Moreover, “through his own blood, he entered once for all, having discovered everlasting redemption.”
The reference to “blood” stresses the reality of his death. He died a genuine human death. Through the “blood of the Christ, who offered himself unspotted to God through an everlasting spirit,” and the resulting “New Covenant” now purifies our conscience from dead works so we can render divine service to God - (Hebrews 8:1-13).
The “blood of Christ” means that he was able to enter the greater Tabernacle “once-for-all.” In contrast to the “first covenant” with its repeated animal sacrifices, it was necessary that the heavenly counterpart of the Tabernacle be established “with better sacrifices than these,” namely, the death of the “Son.” The result was his entry “into heaven itself” where he now is “manifested before the face of God for us.”
Because of his superior sacrifice, Jesus has no need to “offer himself often,” unlike the Aaronic priests with their repeated animal sacrifices. Instead, “once-for-all, upon a conjunction of the ages, for a setting aside of sin through means of his sacrifice,” he offered himself. Thus, “having been offered once for all for the bearing of the sins of many,” he also will appear a second time “apart from sin.”
Believers are made holy “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once-for-all.” Unlike every other priest who must “stand daily publicly ministering and continually offering the same sacrifices,” Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins forevermore,” after which, he “sat down on the right hand of God.”
By his “one offering,” he achieved the “purification of sin” and “perfected forevermore those who are being made holy,” and he became our “faithful high priest” who intercedes for us.
His “perfection” was accomplished through his obedience, suffering, and death. God vindicated his sacrifice by raising him from the dead and SEATING HIM at His “right hand.” Thus, the Letter to the Hebrews bases the present priestly status of the Son on the historical events of his obedience, death, and resurrection.