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Relevant Biblical Passages: Hebrews 5 and 7

Jesus Our High Priest. The New Testament writers assign a wide variety of roles to Jesus. While he was on earth, Jesus ministry was more like that of the prophet, admonishing the people to repent and follow God’s ideal. After his ascension, his priestly role is thrown into bold relief, and is a primary theme in the book of Hebrews. When God’s kingdom is restored, then he will rule as King Jesus. By allowing the various roles which Jesus played to be complementary rather than comprehensive and absolute, we allow each of the roles to be seen more clearly.

Paul Duke (in Sources of Inspiration, Gene Maeroff, ed.. [Sheed and Ward, 1992], p. 140), contrasts the prophetic and priestly roles in this way: “A priest brings the people’s grief, their anger, their need to God; a prophet brings God’s grief, God’s anger, God’s need to the people.”

Discussion Questions:

    1. Jesus was not of the priestly line. What is the point of seeing him as high priest?
    2. What is the meaning of the phrase that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8)? If the perfect one had things he needed to learn, how does that affect our understanding of God’s call for us to be perfect (e.g. Matt. 5:48)?
    3. What background enabled Christians to see Jesus as both Priest and King?
      Note: When the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes, polluted the Jerusalem temple (168/167 – 165/164 BCE) and embarked on a brutal program of persecution against the Jews, the era of the Maccabees was launched. Over the next few decades, the Maccabean rulers (or Hasmonean, as they are also called) assumed the dual role of priest and king. Both roles were problematic from the standpoint of the biblical mandates. While the Maccabees were of Levitical descent, they were not from the house of Aaron, and thus were not technically qualified to serve as high priests. The Old Testament also envisions the royal line as coming from the tribe of Judah through David. But the Maccabees were not from the house of David. In short, they were not qualified to serve as kings or priests. Nevertheless, they undoubtedly prepared the way for the people of Jesus’ day to think of a deliverer who was both priest and king.
    4. What does the priestly image do for modern people?
    5. What point is the author trying to make about the Melchizedek priesthood? What does he do with the Old Testament passages (Genesis 14, Ps. 110) which mention Melchizedek?

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