Tuesday 20 October 2015

Bible Book:

] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (vv. 9-10)

Hebrews 5:1-10 Tuesday 20 October 2015

Psalm: Psalm 113


Jesus is our great high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). This idea is central to theletter to the Hebrews, and exploring it opens many doors in ourunderstanding of Jesus' role in bringing us closer to God.

For the people of Israel, priests belonged to the family ofAaron, chosen by God to stand between God and the people asintermediaries or mediators (Exodus28:1). This meant that their responsibility was to offersacrifices, in a system of worship centred on the Temple inJerusalem. Above all, it was through sacrifice that peopleexpressed their closeness to God, whether giving thanks or seekingpurification from uncleanness (cf Luke2:22) or forgiveness of sin (expiation).

From Old Testament times, a hierarchical structure had emergedin which certain priests were recognised as 'chief priests'. At thevery top of the pyramid was the High Priest, who held considerablepolitical power as well as religious prestige. The writer to theHebrews is particularly concerned with the High Priest's role onthe Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when he entered the Holy ofHolies alone, in an ancient ritual described in Leviticus (Leviticus 16). Through this special sacrifice,the high priest atoned for his sins and the sins of the wholepeople.

The writer focuses on the links between the Jewish High Priestand Jesus himself: both are chosen by God, both can sympathise withthe weakness of others because they share one common humanity.Then, however, the writer moves away from this comparison and looksin a different direction, comparing Jesus to a different priest,Melchizedek, whose story is told at Genesis 14:18-20. Melchizedek is both priestand king, ruling in Salem, a name meaning simply 'peace', sometimesused also for Jerusalem. When Melchizedek meets Abraham, he offershim bread and wine, and blesses him. The parallels with Jesus'royal priesthood are obvious, and the writer highlights this inverse 6 by quoting Psalm 110:4: "You are a priest forever,according to the order of Melchizedek".

The writer will go on to explain how Jesus replaces the Jewishpriesthood, taking on himself the role of mediating between us andGod. If we set this in the context of this week's theme 'Fullnessof Life', we can see that the central source of such fullness isour relationship with God, mediated through Jesus.

To Ponder

  • Where in today's world do we encounter mediators?
  • How important (or not) is it to be aware of our spiritualleaders' weaknesses as well as their strengths? Why?
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