Hebrews 5:5-10 – Why Does Hebrews Call Jesus a Priest?

Like human priests, Christ was divinely appointed to his office (5:5-6). The writer will deal with his points in reverse order, dealing first with the appointment of Jesus to the office of High Priest. The writer cites two Psalms which he already used in the first chapter.  The first quote is from Psalm 2:7, and emphasizes the fact that God called Jesus to the role of High Priest as he called him his Son. The second quote is from Psalm 110, and calls Jesus a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, the mysterious “priest of the most high God” in Genesis 14.

Melchizedek was a priest of the true God in Palestine at the time of Abraham, nothing is known of him from scripture other than Abraham’s tithe after the victory that liberated Sodom and his nephew Lot. More will be said about Melchizedek in chapter 7, for now it is sufficient to say that Melchizedek is a true priest of God, before the Law, and for that reason Christ can be said to be a true priest even though he is not directly in the priestly line.

Because Christ fully human, the writer of Hebrews says he was able to fully sympathize with our struggles (5:7-10).  The humanity of Christ was mentioned in an earlier passage, making him a sympathetic high priest but now that humanity is shown to be the same humanity as ours because he submitted to the father.

Jesus PassionIn fact, Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”  “Offered” is the same word as the function of the high priest in verse one, the offering of sacrifices.  Here it is “prayers and petitions. This verse is may related to the prayers in the garden, when Jesus prayed to the Lord concerning the death he was about to endure.

Since the wording is similar to Psalm 22:24, some think that this refers to the words spoken on the Cross.  This fits better with the “loud cries” and tears, since the prayers in the Garden were not reported in this way.

Several theological issues converge here, concerning Jesus’ reason for even asking God to take the cup from his hand, and whether or not he really meant to have his death postponed. Many have pointed out that Jesus was probably praying for strength to endure the tortures awaiting him before the Cross. Whatever the case, it is also important to understand that Jesus was submitting himself to the will of God, just as every other human being must do, he fervently prayed that God’s will be done, not his own will; he made his will conform to that of the Father.

It is this submission to the will of God the writer of Hebrews wants to call to our attention. Jesus was “like us” to the point that he cried out to God. But rather than complaining about his suffering or begging for mercy, he humbly submitted to his Father’s will in all things.

Unfortunately the image of Jesus as a faithful high priest is presented in popular preaching and teaching only as a personal encouragement, something like “Jesus suffered this way too so stop complaining.” The theologically rich image of Jesus as a high priest should not be so quickly turned into pep-talk for dealing with normal daily stress. Does the writer of Hebrews think the image of Jesus as a High Priest should be used like this?

24 thoughts on “Hebrews 5:5-10 – Why Does Hebrews Call Jesus a Priest?

  1. One interesting aspect of this passage is that the priesthood in the time of Jesus was a corrupt group who hated Jesus. They were the ones who lead the charge to have Jesus crucified, and yet, Jesus is referred to as the high priest. Instead of simply joining the religious structure, he confronted it. I also liked the last point of your post, about Jesus being taught through suffering. Even through this, he always sought after the will of the Father. If even Jesus, high priest and son of God, was taught through suffering, we have no right to despise suffering in our own lives. Rather, we should follow the example that Christ laid out for us in these verses, and remind ourselves that the will of God takes precedence in our lives.

  2. The humanity of Christ caused him to understand the many emotions and challenges of man. We learn of many of His experiences as we study His life, but looking deeper allows us to know Him more. He grieved, and He wept. He was tempted. He became tired.
    As our High Priest, Jesus has made atonement for our sins. He was able to do this because of the struggles and pain He endured and overcame. By submitting to God’s will, He became “a merciful and faithful high priest.” (Hebrews 2:14)

  3. Melchizedek is a fascinating person (or concept)! His introduction here raises some important questions that don’t always fit easily with traditional concepts of what it means to be “God’s chosen people” (assuming this is a valid claim). Here was a non-Hebrew who is yet recognized as a priest of the same God as the later Hebrews… which group had NO priesthood till hundreds of years later. At the least, this passage suggests a couple things:

    It supports what probably a majority of OT scholars believe – that the Hebrew Scriptures were written and edited (later than Moses) to reflect a national solidarity and level of loyalty to Jehovah that only slowly evolved. Unified concepts of the nature and name of the singular “God” came only gradually.

    It certainly opens the door, even within orthodoxy, to support for broader ways of accessing God and/or “salvation” than just the “revelation” contained in our canonical scriptures. Tho it’s been many years (25+?) since reading it,
    Evangelical missionary, Don Richardson’s, “Eternity in Their Hearts” I recall referring to Mel. among other factors showing that God seems to communicate grace (or “salvation”) to people groups and individuals who have not had access to Jewish/Christian Scriptures or teachings. I’m not sure this was the intention of the author of Hebrews, but then no author can be expected to be 100% consistent or logically unimpeachable.

  4. The interesting part about Hebrews is it’s distinctly Jewish language. The idea that Jesus is portrayed as a “high priest” in this book makes perfect sense when we understand the audience of Hebrews. Written to a Jewish audience, the question it answers is simple: Who is this Jesus and why must we follow him? With the mixed community presented in the New Testament of both greek philosophers and law abiding Jews, the elegant language it uses to explain Jesus is both intellectually and emotionally appealing. In chapter one of Hebrews the writer begins with the literary gem, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Jesus’ role as both the action of God and his final WORD says a lot about who he is and how we see him. Jobes mentions in chapter 2 that the writer of Hebrews must have been an accomplished scholar to know the Old Testament so well. I have to say after reading it that I could not agree more. The book of Hebrews never looked quite so interesting until I took this class. Thanks for the good conversation.

  5. Jesus being a high priest is an important aspect of his ministry. This is seen in chapter 3 of Jobes’ Letters to the Church. She says that Jesus must have been a high priest and the sacrifice itself to replace the need for blood sacrifices and being able to reach the Holy of Holies. I think that this is important because Jesus needed to complete the priestly work of the sacrifice himself so that he himself could be sacrificed and take his place next to the throne. As you stated above, Jesus did the priestly duties in the garden and other times throughout his ministry by humbling himself before the Father and praying on behalf of the people.

  6. After learning about the context and audience of Hebrews, it makes sense that the writer would refer to him as the high priest. There was rarely a Jewish audience after Jesus died because not many Jews saw Jesus as the Messiah. According to Jobes, Hebrews is the only book that describes Jesus as the High Priest (Jobes, 107). The part of Jesus’ life that I often struggle with is mentioned in this post. It is in regard to Jesus asking God to take the cup. This scene forces us to separate Jesus from God because Jesus accepted his role as fully human. Jesus represents humanity because no human wants to die. Jesus knew that his death would bring him to heaven and he was still terrified. But he also had the will power to follow God’s way instead of his own and the will power to never sin while on earth. Jesus’ neglect and death was an example of the future persecution other Christians will be facing (Hebrews 10:32-3). Because he became fully human, he can sympathize and understand us.

  7. To acknowledge that Christ was fully God and fully man reminds us that Jesus endured humanity like we do. He was tempted, tired, hungry, thirsty, and physically became weak. It is important for us not only to read but to know that Jesus endured pain and suffering and yet He still overcame the grave. He fought through more suffering than we ever will and yet still, because He surrendered to God’s Will, He became the faithful high priest. For Jesus Christ to sacrifice himself for the sake of all humanity, it declared His humility, faithfulness, and obedience to His Father.

  8. The interesting thing about Hebrews is that it is the Jewish language and the way Jesus is portrayed as High Priest we will only know that it is written in the times of the Old Covenant. It is interesting to also note that in the time of Jesus’ priesthood was a group of individuals who despised him in every way. But instead Jesus was the one who humbled himself and took on the sins of us so that he could restore the humanity of the human race. As we learn in Hebrews that was his main goal in writing the book was for the atonement of our sins. It is seen in Revelation that Jesus Christ was the final revelation for the human race and that the sacrifice was finished as he is now seated at the right hand. (as seen in Heb. 12:2) Jobes makes it an effort to point this out to us too by expanding on this in further context. Instead of following religious structures, Jesus himself presented himself in a way that would take precedence of our lives, therefore, we should not be ashamed of our sins but rather learn from them as he is the final revelation.

  9. It is interesting how being a priest played out in the life of Jesus. He was more of a priest to the people of Israel than were the priests themselves. The priests of His day were more interested it seems in profiting off of the people who came to worship at the temple rather than leading them and guiding them in the things of God. They forsook their role as shepherd and became profiteers which explain why Jesus was angry when He entered the temple. It also explains why he went after the religious elite like He did. Jesus was the True High Pries and came to earth as a man to help guide His people back to God.

  10. Because Jesus was to make a profound impact upon the current Jewish society, taking on the symbolic role of the High Priest was essential. This incarnation of fully divine into a bodily human being was necessary because of the sacrifice that was needed to make in order to fully atone for the sins of all mankind. Because the general responsibility of the priest was to enter the Holy of Holies and offer up a sacrifice to atone for the sins of men, it would only be fitting that Christ Himself would take on that responsibility in the role of dying on the cross. But unlike the other priests, Jesus was tempted and had not sinned (Heb. 4:15), thus his sacrifice would negate any other sacrifice to be made. Of course Jesus was anxious and scared in doing so, but it was by these inherent human emotions themselves that we are able to identify the legitimacy of Jesus’ sacrifice; that He was indeed fully divine and fully human. Karen Jobes speaks on this when she says that “he had to overcome sin as a human being in order to fulfill his role as priest and, what’s more, as sacrifice” (Jobes 96). May we be able to remember the suffering that Jesus went through on the cross, showing His dedication, His heart, and His love for us all.

  11. It seems pretty clear that Hebrews refers to Jesus as the High Priest because of the High Priest’s job to sacrifice and animal to atone for sins. Jesus atoned for all of our sins through His blood rather than an animals, which can’t actually absolve sins. At least that’s what I get out of reading Jobes. What I’m curious about is Jesus’ prayers and petitions at the Mount of Olives described in Luke 22:39-46. Although Jesus of coarse submits to the will of the Father, he seems to have a separate, conflicting will of his own for a time when asking to have the “cup” taken from him if it be the father’s will. In regards to the Doctrine of Trinity, from what I understand anyways, each person, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have their own wills but they still always will the same thing…or something along those lines. I guess what I would like to know is the nature of the trinity during Jesus’ time as a Human. I assumed the trinity functioned the same as ever considering Jesus was/is fully God while being fully human. Considering Jesus didn’t outright abandon His task but instead submitted, perhaps Jesus didn’t actually have a conflicting will after all..

  12. I can see how He would be known as the high priest. Using Melchizedek as a line between Jesus and His position is an interesting idea. You essentially dispelled the idea that Jesus could not be the priest because he was not from the correct blood line.
    I can follow Collin’s line of thinking as well. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice as well as the high priest. Because he was the ultimate in both categories we do not have to have animal sacrifices today.
    One thing that makes me curious is how do hard core Judaism believers support not doing animal sacrifices? If Jesus Christ was not the saviour then they would still have to follow the old Law and have animal sacrifices.
    Anyway, it would be illogical to say that Jesus Christ was not the High Priest. To say that He was not a high priest would need more Biblical support than exists.

  13. This post is very insightful, and required a lot of deep down thinking about my own life. I know I am quick to complain about little things, and after reading this post makes me realize if I want to be more like Jesus I can’t complain about every little thing. Suffering is going to be apart, of our lives until the day we did, we will have good days and bad days, but through the suffering we are able to grow closer to God and be taught just like Jesus was taught in his sufferings. Eventually we will come out of the suffering because it is not something that is going to be forever. Jobes makes some good points about Jesus being a high priest, she says in chapter three that Hebrews is the only book that describes Jesus as the High priest, and also that the book is for Christians who are being persecuted, this can still apply to our lives today. Jesus took the place of the blood sacrifices, he was the ultimate sacrifice, and Jobes says that is why Jesus must have been a high priest, because he sacrificed himself for all our sins.

  14. Jesus’ act of Grace upon the cross should never be taken lightly. However, even though the object of the use of this metaphor is something trivial such as stress, it can still be used to signify that Christ is there to give grace and mercy when we need it the most. (Heb. 4:16) The author of Hebrews may have a different view on it, considering that the metaphor of Christ as High Priest was meant to signify that Jesus made the atoning sacrifice for our sins and that there is a new covenant written on the hearts of man, shaping their ways to follow the regulations of God. (Jobes, Pg. 100) The meaning of Christ as the High Priest shows that there is no longer a need to follow the sacrificial system. The law has been overwritten and changed. People no longer have to go through their sinful high priest to offer requests and have their sins forgiven. Christ is the perfect and blameless High Priest! (Heb. 7:26) The line of connection between believer and God has been created and there is nothing that will ever disconnect it. So although knowing Christ as your High Priest may be a good way to remind yourself that you have God on your side and that His grace is for you, there is a far deeper meaning that only those who experienced life under the old covenant would truly understand. The Jews understood the meaning behind the priesthood and what Christ becoming a High Priest really means. (Jobes, Pg. 108) It was the author’s intention to relate it the Jewish Christians and it definitely seemed to be effective.

  15. The priesthood of Christ is like any other individual who was chosen to be a priest by God. The priestly assignment of Christ is not one based on his lineage, rather it is based on the priesthood of Melchizedek. The life of Melchizedek is one that is shrouded in mystery. We know that he was a priest of God Most High as recorded in Genesis 14:18. We also know that he was the king of Salem, which would later be Jerusalem. According to Jobes, Melchizedek was not an Israelite as he did not come from the line of Abraham (103). This makes his priesthood unique from the priests that came after the giving of the Law, who were not only from the line of Abraham but even more specifically, from the line of Moses’ brother Aaron. This qualification means that Jesus could not have been a priest by traditional means, rather, he had to be a priest by special qualification.
    As Jobes says, Melchizedek’s name means “my king of righteousness”, which is a description of Christ himself (103-104). Some believe that Melchizedek himself was a pre-incarnate Christ, although there is a great deal of speculation surrounding that viewpoint (Jobes, 105).
    Overall, we see an image of Christ that is given to us that has transcended over a period of thousands of years. Not only does this image that we see show that a person who was not part of the Abrahamic line could follow Christ but could come before God as a priest. Although the book of Hebrews is written to a Jewish Christian audience, the fact that individuals who are non-Jewish can come before God just as Jewish Christians did, shines through in view of Melchizedek.

  16. Hebrews emphasis on Jesus being a high priest is interesting. No other author focuses so much on this idea of Jesus being a priest for his followers, yet this passage helps to frame a significant portion of our theology as Christians today. Jesus meets all of the qualifications the author puts forth, showing that he truly is our high priest. Namely, these qualifications are his divine appointment and his humanity (Long, 52). These are qualifications that are for all priests within Israel, and they apply to Jesus.
    God appointed Jesus to serve as our high priest, the only one who could serve the position perfectly. He is the only one who meets the qualifications perfectly, the only one who can fulfill the role in the way it is supposed to be filled, by someone sinless who intercedes. Jesus also came and lived life as a man, making him fully human. This allows him to intercede on our behalf, because he knows what it is like to be tempted, and he has sympathy for those he advocates for. But because he was also fully God, he was able to perform the atoning sacrifice on the altar in heaven, his personal sacrifice that cleansed humanity from sin forever.

  17. I had the blessing of working in Latin America this past summer as an intern for a ministry affiliated with GMI. The theme for the year was “obedience.” Throughout the spring missions trip there and throughout the summer as well, I was able to hear many different devos and talks about the topic. Going along with obedience, many of the group devotions were focused on what PLong mentioned towards the end of his post, motivation, but as he mentioned above, it is unfortunate that the idea of Christ being high priest has been taken and used in the context of popular talks and every-day motivational concepts. Some of the talks were based on, “Well Jesus was obedient for his work on the cross, so this means that you can be obedient with your work projects and with other things in life.” While this is true, Jesus’ amazing gift to us is something to be inspired by, it should inspire us to become more obedient to God, not to become more obedient in specifically things that don’t glorify God. For instance, if I were to tell my youth group, “since Jesus endured immense physical pain as the high priest on the cross, this should give you motivation to improve your bat speed so you can hit a fastball and make the varsity team next year – this premise is ridiculous. “Jesus experienced the life that we live so that he can know how we feel.”(Long, 49). This statement means that Jesus experienced what he did so that he could feel full humanness, including his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus’ work on the cross granted us forgiveness of our sins, so that we may have a relationship with the lord, not so that we can use it as an example to motivate us in things that are material and of no spiritual importance.

  18. As we all go to church Sunday mornings to listen to a pastor, or a ‘priest’ God had his own plan for Jesus while he was living on earth. Jesus was brought down as fully human which gives us someone who we can trust to call to during our struggles. This is because Jesus knows our struggles because he had to deal with some of the same struggles. While Jesus was going through the torture before the cross He would cry to God, submitting himself to to the will of God. We can relate to this very well, no not the torturing at the cross but whenever we are struggling in life and things are tough, we tend to find ourselves submitting our lives to the will of God. The high priest image of Jesus is really only taught as encouragement for us. Jobes explains that Jesus was not just the high priest who was the final and ultimate priest but the one that was the perfect, ultimate, and the final sacrifice which took place of the animal sacrifices. Jesus gave his own blood because he knew in the end, sacrificing animals would not save us. Jesus’ blood would clean us from our sins and give us the image that God was able to die on the cross for us so we should not take the hard times we face and lose our faith during those times.

  19. I really liked this blog post because it brought a whole new perspective and point of view to my understanding of Hebrews 5: 5-10. Before reading this blog post and looking at Hebrews 5: 5-10 I did not think much about how Jesus would be portrayed for crying out to God in regard to His suffering. To answer the question at the end of the blog post and addressing the statement “quite complaining Jesus had to suffer too”, I really do not think that anyone should use Jesus’ sacrifice as a pep talk because no one could have accomplished redemption like Jesus did with His atonement. “The incarnate of the Son did what no angel could ever do; He died, and because of that He was made superior to the angels despite being fully human” (Jobes 185). This quote is very important because not even angels could say “oh stop your complaining” because no one other than Jesus had to go through that type of suffering. Another point that I would like to address is the fact that Jesus never complained about His suffering and torture. Rather, Jesus cried out to God to give Him strength for what type of death was about to come. “Jesus was “like us” to the point that he cried out to God. But rather than complaining about his suffering or begging for mercy, he humbly submitted to his father’s will in all things” (P.Long). I really like this quote because it gives evidence that Jesus did not complain. He took His punishment and pretty much was telling God, make room here I come to heaven. The last thing that I would like to add from Hebrews 5 is “He learned obedience through what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). This verse is important to me because Jesus did not complain nor did he beg for mercy and a way out of suffering; more impressive despite Him being tortured and mistreated, Jesus died for all of mankind and obeyed God and took His death as a source of eternal salvation for all who believed.

  20. There is a lot of talk in the modern day church about the suffrage that Christ went through is not comparable to ours when in fact that is true I don’t think it’s a good tool to use to get believers to stop complaining about their troubles. In the priesthood one must submit themselves to the will of God just as Christ did (though very different from traditional views He did so nonetheless); submitting oneself to the will of the Father is very hard to fulfill. We have a modern way of thinking that the will of God is accepting Christ as our savior and trying to live a life dedicated to the Father and “His will”. God is unchanging but laws and covenants are not, in the time of Jesus being fully dedicated to the Lord wasn’t like living in His will today. The theologically rich image of Jesus as a high priest should be treated with much respect and high honor not looked at or spoken as a pep-talk for normal issues. The suffrage that Christ suffered was much more in this life than we could have imagined, and I don’t think that’s acknowledged enough; yes, Christ suffered on the cross and endured our pain so that we can be rewarded with eternal life. But what about the suffrage before that? Jesus didn’t suffer the same as we did, we aren’t living a nomadic lifestyle preaching the gospel (feeling the pain of living in the heat of the middle east), we aren’t actively leaving everything behind in our lives without turning back to glorify God (some may but majority of believers don’t), we aren’t being disowned by our own people groups by being spit on and mocked. Yet we still have the entitlement attitude to complain about small things, and the pastor tries to convict us with “Jesus suffered this way too so stop complaining” when in reality Jesus suffered a lot more than being late for work or having a loved one pass away. I am not making our suffrage null and void rather I am saying our suffrage shouldn’t be compared to Christ. We share common feelings of life with Christ, but we don’t share in the same suffrage as Him.

  21. Why does Hebrews Call Jesus a high priest? The implications are there. There is the reality that at this period in history, the analogy of high priest was very relatable to the people of the time. Several prominent leaders in culture were referred to as the High Priest, and the writer of Hebrews does a beautiful job interweaving this controversial idea of high priesthood into a wonderful analogy of Jesus being the high priests, above all the other high priests. It’s interesting to note that essentially no other author in the Bible focuses nearly this much on this high priesthood analogy concept. I think the reasonings for the author of Hebrews making this great emphasis could be many, but I believe at the core of it, it’s a explanation as to why Jesus is High priest over all. He has His divine appointment, His humanity, he meets all the necessary qualifications- He is truly worthy, and Him alone is worthy to be our High priest. Also, the meaning of Christ as our High Priest shows us that there is no longer a need for sacrifices. The law has been been fulfilled through Christ. People no longer have to petition to their high priest to offer sacrifices. Christ is perfect and blameless.

  22. Jesus is a priest in the sense that He was divinely appointed and that He represents believers in matter related to God (Jobes, 95). In order for Jesus to represent believers as their high priest He had to be fully human (Chapman, 2364). “Because Christ was fully human, the writer of Hebrews says He was able to fully sympathize with our struggles” (5:7-10) (Long). Jesus faced temptation, emotions, and suffering in the same ways that we do if not more so. This is oftentimes used in sermons as a personal encouragement. Jesus suffered in the same way that we do and did not sin or give into temptation. I don’t think that this was the writer of Hebrew’s intention when he said that Jesus experienced and understands our suffering. “Though always without sin and thus always obedient, Jesus nevertheless acquired knowledge and experience by living as a human being, and he especially came to know firsthand what it cost to maintain obedience in the midst of suffering” (Chapman, 2368). I think that the author was emphasizing more on the fact that Jesus understands what it is like to be human and can sympathize with us. We can apply this to our lives on some level. We are to reflect Jesus and live like Him. For example, Jesus responded to temptation with Scripture. This is something that we can also do. We can read about how Jesus lived as a human and learn from Him in that way.

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