Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-6

A Job Description

Popular Translation

1 God chose certain individuals among the people to be High Priest. They would represent the people to God. First, they offered the people’s gifts to God, so God would forgive their sins. 2 Next, they wouldn’t get mad at the people who didn’t know the right thing to do, or weren’t strong enough to do it. After all, they, too, had weaknesses. 3 Because of their weaknesses, they needed to ask God to forgive them, and forgive the people.

4 Certain people just don’t make themselves High Priest. No, they receive this honor from God, just like Aaron, the first High Priest. 5 In the same way, Christ didn’t make himself High Priest. No, God have him that honor when he said, “You are my Son. Today, I gave you birth.” And in another place in the Bible, God said, “You are a priest forever, just like Melchizedek.”

Literal Translation

1 For every high priest being chosen from men is appointed (to be) toward God on behalf of men, so that he might offer both gifts and sacrifices on behalf of sins, 2 being able to act (with self restraint and compassion) among the ignorant and the (morally weak) wanderers, since he himself is set in the midst of weakness, 3 and because of (his weakness), he is obligated to offer (sacrifice) concerning sins, thus for himself as well as for the people. 4 For someone does not receive this honor from himself, but from God, just as Aaron (did). 5 And so, Christ did not glorify himself to become High Priest, but the (One) having said to him, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” 6 Thus, so, in another place, he said, “You (are) a priest into the age with the status of Melchizedek.”

5:5-6 “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” is a adaptation of Psalm 2:7. “You (are) a priest into the age with the status of Melchizedek is an adaptation of Psalm 110:4. Both psalms feature God addressing the king as a favored son. The author of Hebrews reinterpreted both verses as references to a Son who would rule eternally.

What did it take to do a job? Especially if the job was High Priest before God?

The author of the Hebrews used the job description of High Priest to heighten the role Christ played in salvation. In 5:1-4, the author painted the role of High Priest: 1) as mediator between God and people, 2) in a pastoral sense to deal with the ignorant and the morally wavering, 3) as a worship leader among (not above) the people, and 4) as one called by God. This is an good description of the role of an understanding and prayerful man of God. But the difference between the role of a good High Priest and Christ was one of human weakness. A good High Priest was painfully aware of his own sinfulness. And his own need for forgiveness, just like the people. While Christ did not sin, he did empathize with people because he was tempted. So, in this sense he could be the perfect High Priest, since he fulfilled every function, including his assumed weakness. Christ may have been the Son of God and Eternal High Priest, but he was still one of us in every single way, but one. Sin.

God calls us to join the priesthood of his Son. We are to pray with and for others, while we understand their weakness. For we ourselves are weak. And we depend upon the strength of God.

How do you intercede to God for others? Who intercedes for you? How does your intercession help you empathize with the weaknesses of others? And understand your own?