Thursday, February 01, 2018

5. Concentrated Hebrews (Hebrews 4:14-5:10)

Posts thus far at the bottom.

B. A Superior Priest (4:14-7:28)
     1. Hold Fast (4:14-16)
  • This is a hinge in Hebrews. 10:19-25 says very similar things. It is not exactly an inclusio, since 10:19 begins a new section rather than ending this one.
  • The common elements with 10:19-25 include 1) the exhortation for the audience to hold fast to the confession, 2) an exhortation to approach Jesus the high priest, and 3) passage through the heavens/the heavenly sanctuary.
  • 4:15. Jesus is again said to be a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses (mainly our temptations).
  • This is the classic verse indicating that Jesus did not have sin while on earth.
2. Appointed High Priest (5:1-10)
  • 5:1. The chapter begins by describing what a high priest is. High priests offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
  • 5:2-3. They have mercy on those who have gone astray. Hint to the audience: Jesus is there for you as you are wavering in your faith. Earthly priests can of course identify with the sinfulness of those who come to them, which is not true of Jesus, who sympathizes with their temptation but not their sin. The earthly high priests have to offer sacrifices for themselves too.
  • 5:4. You have to be appointed a high priest. It's not something you can run for. It's not something you can decide to do. You have to have the right lineage and be appointed.
  • 5:5-6. These two quotes transition us from the earlier part of Hebrews that focused on Jesus as a Son to the next part which focuses on Jesus as a priest. The quotation of Psalm 2 hearkens back to Hebrews 1:5. Then the author quotes Psalm 110:4 to move to the next phase of the argument: Jesus as priest.
  • 5:7. Jesus sounds like a priestly intercessor here, although he will not fully assume this office until after his exaltation (see 5:10). It is natural to think of the Garden of Gethsemane when you read this verse, although it is not actually mentioned.
  • Jesus' prayer to be saved "out of" death was heard because of his godliness. This is a reminder that the "faith of Jesus" is a model for us. Hebrews certainly means for Jesus to be a model of faith for the audience. Being saved out of death is likely a reference to Jesus' resurrection, since obviously Jesus did not escape dying.
  • 5:8. This can be a puzzling verse. How could Jesus learn obedience? A key is to remember that the author wishes the audience to identify with Jesus here. They are the sons and daughters of God too. They are not too good to undergo suffering since Jesus himself did. He obeyed during a time of persecution, so can they.
  • Learning obedience refers to Jesus undergoing an event requiring obedience. It is not about him learning per se, unless perhaps the author is thinking of experiential learning. On the other hand, the author could simply be saying that Jesus obeyed. 
  • Of course the New Testament does not teach that Jesus was omniscient while he was on earth (cf. Mark 13:32). As Christians we believe he must have remained omniscient in some sense, but he chose not to access this knowledge fully while he was on earth. I like to think that he didn't access it at all, but played it by the human rules, showing us what is possible through the Holy Spirit. If so, then the additional knowledge he did have on earth came through the Holy Spirit, just as our knowledge can.
  • 5:9. The perfection of Jesus in Hebrews, as we saw in chapter 2, is about Jesus being fully ready to serve as our high priest, as the one who reconciles us to God, as the means of our atonement and life. He is not "locked and loaded" for salvation until after he has died, risen, and been exalted at God's right hand.
  • Now he is perfected. He is completed as our high priest. He is now our source of eternal salvation, if we will obey him and persist in faith.
  • 5:10. Jesus' completion in this area, his perfection, means his full installation as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, taking up the idea of Psalm 110:4 he mentioned a few verses earlier. 
  • This is the occasion for another shift to exhortation, in fact the central exhortation of the letter. The theme of Mechizedek will then be picked up again in chapter 7.
Previous posts:

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
     C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)

II. The Argument (3:1-10:18)
     A. Enter into God's Rest (3:1-4:13)
          1. A Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
          2. Hear His Voice Today (3:7-4:11)
               a. Don't Harden Hearts (3:7-19)
               b. Be Diligent to Enter (4:1-10)
          3. The Living Word (4:11-13)

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