Tim brought us the Word on 21 October. He preached from Hebrews 5 verses 1-11. Maybe the language in this passage is hard to understand. The language in Hebrews may be unfamiliar to us, but to to the people of the time it was clear as it was about Jewish traditions and culture. The writer of the letters (who we now believe was not Paul) is trying to get across juest who Jesus was and what he did. He is borrowing from the tradition but Tim’s reading finishes on the fact that this is difficult to understand.
Ever been for a job interview or applied for a particular job? Tim reflected on the day he saw a particular job advertised in a paper that could have been written only for him. (He also asked “When was the last time any of us bought an actual physical paper copy of a newspaper?”). The job description could only apply to him as it was a unique set of skills that he had at that point in his working life.
This passage in Hebrews is in effect the job description of Jesus. Jesus is the only one that ticks all of the boxes. Who helps you when you are in trouble? Who can you turn to when you want to make amends? The Jewish people had a sacrificial system. Jesus was the sacrifice for us.
Have you noticed how one or two people in a work area emerge as the people that everyone confides in? They are the people who rise up to be the “high priest” in that area. Someone to chat to, someone to go to. These are the folks for ehom this occurs naturally and organically and not because of their job title or the role they are given. This is route one for the High Priesthood, someone who has experienced something of what life can throw at them.
The passage in Hebrews is all about Jesus. Exodus 28 sets out the old requirements for priesthood , for standing in the gap. The responsibility and the humanity experienced by Jesus leads him to understand our weaknesses. Hebrews 5 verse 10 shows Jesus as “designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” This quoting from Psalms sets the requirement. Jesus in the words of the writer of Hebrews is a perfect priest. Through Christ’s obedience he was made perfect. As Jesus lived as a human and went to the death on the cross on our behalf, his obedience shows how he was perfectly qualified . He was saved after death on the cross. He had to share in the experiences of those he served.
Jesus became fully human although some struggle with this particular concept. He felt real human pain, cried real tears and died on the cross.
The writer in introducing Melchizedek. This and the appearance in Genesis chapter 14 are his only references in the Bible.He is the high priest and king of Jerusalem and his name means King of Justice. He comes with bread and wine! He is a Messiah figure. Jesus is not a traditional high priest, he’s not a Levite. Instead he is of the eternal order of Melchizedek, a priest forever.
Imagine the Jewish Christians receiving this letter. It validates who Jesus is! He is without sin, a priest forever, creating an order of salvation forever. He’s superior, perfectly qualified and the account in Hebrews connects with the audience it is aimed at. The writer talks about Jesus being one of us, flesh and blood, emotional and independent. The cross would break us as it broke him. The humanity of Jesus is never in doubt. Can a tortured, bruised, broken human be the one who carries us to God? Of course he can.
Jesus offered up prayers and supplication as any priest would. We are all called and chosen to work with him. We respond to God’s call to live out our faith. As Jesus stands in the gap for you and me, it is important for us to stand in the gap for the wider community. Through him we might approach the throne of Grace.
Is He qualified? Can He do the job? You bet he can. Tim shared the story of a man who did not believe in the fact that God would choose to be human and walk the earth as Jesus, with all of human fraility. He refused to go to church with his family, and stayed home for services. He was sat at home when he heard a sound like snowballs hitting his house. Going outside he saw a flock of birds had flown into the windows at the side of his house. He tried to entice them with food and with treats into his warm barn to recover, he tried to chase them in but none would go. They simply didn’t understand he was trying to save them. He stood there thinking “if only I was a bird, I could talk to them, show them, make them understand.” Suddenly he realised what he was being shown and sank to the ground. Crying “ Now I understand!”
This was broadcast by Paul Harvey on an American radio station, here’s a version where someone has added some animation.