Merciful High Priest
Having established his priestly qualifications, the Letter to the Hebrews proceeds to present Jesus as the High Priest who intercedes faithfully and sympathetically for his people. He participated fully in the nature and sufferings common to all men, therefore, his priestly intercession for his “brethren” is marked by his compassion for them. The “Son” experienced the same death that is common to all men and women, and in doing so, he qualified for the priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek.” But what set him apart from other men was his sinlessness.
The phrase in the following passage, “flesh and blood,” is a Semitic expression that refers to human mortality - man in his weakened mortal state. Since believers are subject to death, Jesus “partook” of the same fate.
- “<Seeing therefore |the children| have received a fellowship of blood and flesh> ||he also|| |in like manner| took partnership in the same,– in order that |through death|– he might paralyse him that held the dominion of death, that is, the Adversary,––And might release these– as many as |by fear of death| were all their lifetime liable ||to bondage||. For |not surely of messengers| is he laying hold, but |of Abraham’s seed| he is laying hold. Whence he was obliged ||in every way|| |unto the brethren| to be made like| that he might become a merciful and faithful high–priest |in the things pertaining unto God|– for the making of propitiation for the sins of the people. For <in that |he| suffered |when tested|> he is able |unto them who are being tested| ||to give succour||.” - (Hebrews 2:14-18 – The Emphasized Bible).
THE TYRANNY OF DEATH
The Devil had the “dominion” of death or kratos (Strong’s - #G2904). In Greek, it is a strong term that denotes “hold, power, force, dominion.” The English term “tyranny” best captures the sense intended by the Letter.
Paradoxically, through his own death, he invalidated this “tyranny.” And now, Jesus is “laying hold of” the “seed of Abraham.” The clause alludes to a passage in the Book of Isaiah:
- “But thou, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, thou whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away;” - (Isaiah 41:8-9 – The Emphasized Bible).
Because he endured the same trials and sufferings as his “brethren,” he is well-equipped and prepared to help them when they are “tested.” Under discussion is not so much humanity in general, but the followers of Jesus in particular, which explains the use of the term, the “seed of Abraham.”
SOLIDARITY WITH MEN
The Son was obliged to be made like his brethren “in every way.” For him to become the “merciful and faithful High Priest,” it was necessary for him to have the same nature and experiences as his “brethren” whether positive or negative.
And solidarity with humanity is mandatory for the office of the High Priest since he represents men before God, and therefore, he must be one with them. And under the Levitical system, FAITHFULNESS by the priest was vital to the proper performance of his priestly service - (1 Samuel 2:35, Hebrews 8:3).
As our High Priest, Jesus expiates the sins of his people (hilaskesthai – Strong’s #G2433). Here, the noun “sins” is in the accusative case since it is the direct object of the verb hilaskesthai.
This is to say, what our High Priest “expiates” are the sins that separate us from God. More specifically, he removes the uncleanness, the stain caused by sin that leaves men unclean and defenseless in the presence of God. Thus, Christ “achieved the purification of sin.”
The passage presents four reasons why it was necessary for him to receive the same sentence of death as humanity.
First, to experience death on behalf of others. Second, to bring God’s “many sons to glory.” Third, to achieve victory over the Devil and liberate believers from the tyranny and fear of death. And fourth, to qualify him as our faithful and compassionate High Priest.
Unlike Adam, Jesus did not trespass the commandment of God, therefore, he was without “blemish.” But in all other respects, he was as human as the next man. Because he suffered as all men do, only “apart from sin,” he is now qualified to be our “faithful and sympathetic High Priest.”