Relevant Verses: Hebrews 5-7
Leading Question: Roman Catholics regularly use priests in their worship; Protestants believe in the priesthood of all the believers. So how can Jesus as “High Priest” be meaningful to those who are not accustomed to priestly mediation?
Comment: The world of priestly mediation is a strange one for us. The overall message of the book of Hebrews is that through Jesus we have direct access to God. Somehow, saying that Jesus is our high priest is intended to help us get that message.
Question: Why did the author of Hebrews need to go through such elaborate arguments to establish that Jesus was a better high priest? Why couldn’t he simply declare that Jesus gives us direct access to God, the message of 1 John 1:1-4?
1 John 1:1-4: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
Comment: The life and teachings of Jesus asked a great deal from those who came from a Jewish background: The whole sacrificial system, the whole priestly ministry were to pass away, replaced by Jesus’ ministry. Could it be that the book of Hebrews was intended to cushion the blow, to ease the transition?
Of the 10 so-called Royal Psalms ( 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132, and 144:1-11), Psalm 110 was one of the most popular psalms for referring to Jesus the Priest-King. According the Scripture, the Old Testament priests came from the tribe of Levi and the royal figure from the tribe of Judah. But the book of Hebrews used the psalm for the purpose of showing that Jesus was someone who brought the two offices together. As noted in Psalm 110, and affirmed in the book of Hebrews, the royal figure found his priestly role through Melchizedek, not Levi.
Question: In Hebrews 6-8, the author of Hebrews pointedly describes Jesus’ role as being better than anything that had gone before: he was a priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:20), and he was the mediator of a “better covenant” (Heb. 8:6-7). Indeed Hebrews 8:13 explicitly declares that the new covenant “has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.” Isn’t this rhetoric in Hebrews rather too critical of God-given laws and rituals?
Question: In what way is the priestly order of Melchizedek “better” than the Levitical priesthood?
Question: In what way is the “new covenant” better than the first one?
In sum: The book of Hebrews is not shy in declaring that everything about Jesus is better, an affirmation that we are entitled to make, too.