These days, we have a lot of different ways to select someone for a particular role. Sometimes, responsibility passes down from parent to child, like in a monarchy or in a family business. Other times, a group chooses someone for a particular position. When it comes to getting a job, there is an interview process (one that I’ve participated in quite a bit, over the years). And, other times, someone will step up and take a role for themselves: whether by force, or because no one else was willing to do so.
The author of Hebrews sets up some important information about Jesus Christ with a reminder to readers about how participants were selected for one particular role:
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
Hebrews 5:1-2 NIV
For God’s chosen people – the Hebrew people – high priests were “selected” (or, in the NASB, “appointed”). As another teacher mentioned to our class, being a high priest seems to have generally been passed down from father to son (see Leviticus 16:32-33). However, the first person in that family line (i.e., Aaron, brother of Moses) was affirmed by God when a staff with his name on it was clearly selected by God (see Numbers 17). That staff, “had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds” (from Numbers 17:8).
Similarly, Jesus didn’t get elected by voters or political parties. He wasn’t made a spokesperson for God the Father because He had the most followers on social media, or because He paid a lot of money to put His name on a building. Later in chapter 5, the author of Hebrews continues with what actually happened:
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.”
Hebrews 5:5 NIV
Like Aaron, Jesus was clearly and definitively chosen by God to be a high priest. Jesus is also God’s Son. We could cite God’s words at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), or at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9) as evidence of God’s decision. However, the most compelling confirmation of this choice is probably God’s raising of Jesus from the dead.
High Priest and Son of God aren’t Jesus’ only roles, though. While studying for this lesson, I came across an account of Paul in Acts 23:1-5, where Paul spoke harshly against the Jewish high priest at that time, not realizing that the recipient of this insult was the high priest. What was interesting to me here is that Paul, when he apologizes, appears to be referencing Exodus 22:28, where it talks about not bad-mouthing “the ruler of your people”. This suggests to me that Paul also recognizes the high priest as having God-given authority.
So, in addition to being High Priest, and God’s Son, Psalm 2 (quoted in Hebrews 5:5, above), along with passages elsewhere in the Bible, also identify Jesus as being a ruler, and one whose words are to be respected and heeded. Jesus didn’t become King because of being born into a line of earthly leaders, though. He was chosen by God for His role, which includes not only sovereignty (as King), but also service (as High Priest).
Unlike priests before Him, though, Jesus’ role isn’t limited to a single lifetime (see Leviticus 16:32-33, mentioned previously) Jesus is “a priest forever”, always making intercession for His followers.
May we remember that Jesus isn’t in authority because we want Him to be. We get to decide whether or not to follow and obey Him, but His sovereignty remains intact – chosen by God – independently from our choices.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 10, 2021
- The Lookout, October 10, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.