Peace on Earth … / A Conversation
The author picks back up on the exposition, continuing where he left off at the end of chapter 2 about the incarnation of Christ. Here, he begins the next major section of the letter: Jesus’ appointment as a high priest (4:14-5:10; 7:1-28).
Sometimes reading about priests and high priests in the Bible can get confusing, so allow me to give some context. Priests in Israel came from the tribe of Levi. Their job was to offer various sacrifices for the daily sins of the people. From among these Levitical priests, one man was selected to serve as the high priest. His biggest responsibility was to offer the Day of Atonement sacrifice once a year; he would enter the holiest part of the tabernacle and make an offering for all the sins the people had committed throughout the year.
Today’s passage builds on these themes of priesthood and applies them to Christ. There are two sections: 4:14-16 (“Peace on Earth…”) and 5:1-10 (“A Conversation”). Transitional in its function, the first section tells us that since we have a great high priest in heaven, we can and should draw near to the throne of God. The second part begins with a discussion of high priests in general, emphasizing their duties, their selection from among men, and their solidarity with mankind. The writer then shows that Jesus not only meets these qualifications of a high priest, but he is also a better high priest than the Levites because (1) he doesn’t have to offer a sacrifice for his own sins (Jesus has never sinned); (2) he is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (not Levi); and (3) unlike the Levites, he will never die. Before the author can dig in to those last two points, he calls an unexpected timeout …
*For further reading in the Bible: Hebrews 4:14 – 4:16 Hebrews 5:1 – 5:10
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