Well-Qualified High Priest
The priesthood of Jesus is a key subject in the Letter to the Hebrews. He became the “merciful and faithful High Priest” who now intercedes for “his brethren” from the presence of God. This subject was anticipated in the Letter’s opening paragraph, including the uniqueness of his priesthood, when the Author declared that he “achieved the purification of sins,” and then afterward, he “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.”
In his death, the Son of God removed the stain of sin that defiled his people, and by his sacrifice, he accomplished “once for all” what the animal sacrifices described in the Book of Leviticus were always incapable of performing.
As a direct consequence, God exalted him to “sit” at his “right hand” where he now intercedes for his church as the “High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
|[Photo by Manuel Rheinschmidt on Unsplash]|
And in Chapter 2, the Letter begins to present the qualifications of the “Son” for the priesthood by citing the eighth Psalm which looks back to the creation of Adam and celebrates the “crowning of man with glory and honor.”
- (Hebrews 2:5-9) - “For |not unto messengers| hath he subjected the coming habitable earth of which we are speaking; But one somewhere hath borne witness, saying— What is man, that thou shouldst make mention of him? Or the son of man, that thou shouldst put him in charge? Thou hast made him less, some little, than messengers, With glory and honour, hast thou crowned him,— [And hast set him over the works of thy hands]; |All things| hast thou subjected beneath his feet. For <in subjecting [to him] the all things> |Nothing| left he to him unsubjected; But |now, not yet| do we see to him the all things subjected;— But ||Jesus, made some little less than messengers|| we do behold: |By reason of the suffering of death| crowned with glory and honour, To the end that, by favour of God, |in behalf of every one| he might taste of death.” - [Passage from The Emphasized Bible, including marks of emphasis].
CROWNED WITH GLORY
The preceding passage refers either to Adam’s loss of the original glory he received at the creation, or to God’s plan for humanity to become endued with glory, a plan that was thwarted, at least for the moment, by Adam’s disobedience.
Originally, the eighth Psalm was not about the Messiah but the divinely intended rule of man over the creation. The role of humanity in the “coming HABITABLE EARTH” is to fulfill the original mandate to “take dominion over the earth.” This “habitable earth” was referred to in the first chapter, and it will appear again later in the Letter. The redemption accomplished by the “Son” includes the entire creation, for he is “heir of all things” - (“But |whensoever he again introduceth the first-begotten into the habitable earth| he saith— AND LET ALL GOD’S MESSENGERS WORSHIP HIM!” – Hebrews 1:6).
Prior to the work of Christ, humanity failed to fulfill that role. “But now, NOT YET do we see all things subjected to HIM.” The term rendered “not yet” indicates that the envisioned subjection of the creation remains unfinished, and the singular pronoun rendered “him” here refers to mankind, or perhaps Adam.
But this “subjection” will be achieved by the Son “whom God has appointed heir of all things.” But for now, believers see Jesus “sitting” at God’s right hand.
Like Adam, Jesus was “made a little lower than the angels.” This statement confirms that the “Son” was a complete and genuine human being, he partook of the same nature as Adam. But unlike the first man, Jesus has been “crowned with glory and honor” BECAUSE he endured “suffering and death.”
Moreover, his death was quite “fitting,” the very reason for which he was “crowned with glory.” His suffering “completed” or “perfected” him, and his subsequent appointment as the High Priest for his people was the result of his FAITHFULNESS IN DEATH.
The Letter portrays his exaltation as something Jesus achieved in his human life. He BECAME superior to the angels, “having gone beyond them.” God exalted him because of his obedience (“You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, for this cause has God anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners”).
HIS HUMAN DEATH
The next paragraph presents the reason why the death of the Son means hope, mercy, and glory for humanity. Having purposed to grant His children glory, it became “fitting” to “complete” their champion through suffering because he and men are “all from one.”
- (Hebrews 2:10-13) - “For it was becoming in him— For the sake of whom are the all things, And by means of whom are the all things,— When ||many sons|| |unto glory| he would lead, The Princely Leader of their salvation, through sufferings |to make perfect|. For |both he that maketh holy, and they who are being made holy| Are ||all|| of One; |For which cause| he is not ashamed to be calling them |brethren| saying— I will declare thy name unto my brethren, |In the midst of an assembly| will I sing praise unto thee; And again— |I| will be confident upon him; And again— Lo! |I| and the children which, unto me |God| hath given.” - [Passage from The Emphasized Bible, including marks of emphasis].
The Greek verb rendered “perfect” means to “complete, accomplish, finish; to bring to an end.” The idea is not moral perfection but bringing something to its intended conclusion.
And this sense of completion is confirmed by the later application of the same verb to Jesus - “And BEING COMPLETED, he became the author of everlasting salvation for all those who obey him.”
Through his death, the Son qualified to become the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Here, the term “suffering” has his death primarily in view since God determined that he “should taste of death for every man” - (Hebrews 5:9).
And now, Jesus is “sanctifying” believers, setting them apart for service to God. Because he shares a common and genuine human nature with them, he calls them “brethren.” This stresses his solidarity with men and women, and it anticipates the later declaration that they are sanctified “through the offering of the body of Jesus.”
Three citations from the Old Testament are placed on his lips to emphasize his kinship with his “brethren” and to validate the genuineness of his human nature - (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 22:22, Isaiah 8:17-18, Hebrews 10:10).
Thus, it was his oneness with mankind, his subjection to mortality, and his doing so on behalf of “his brethren,” that qualified Jesus as the “High Priest forever.”
The letter does not engage in metaphysical speculation about the eternal nature of the Son, but instead, it goes to great lengths to stress his solidarity with humanity and his complete human nature (“apart from sin”), especially by his willing participation in the death common to all men and women.