MDB 85: Hebrews 5
May 3, 2010
Hebrews 5:1 and following continues to press the point that Jesus is better. He is better than any high priest who has come before. Even though earthly priests could sympathize with humanity's common plight (Heb. 5:2), they could not save themselves. All the priests who have come before needed to provide atonement for their own sins (Heb. 5:3, 7:27, 9:7).
The author will build on this in chapters to come, but Jesus supersedes the earthly priesthood. The author then raises the origin of Jesus' priesthood in a calling from God, "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:5-6); about this mysterious figure you'll read more later in Hebrews 7 (cf. Gen. 14:18; Ps. 110:4). But the point is Christ's Sonship as the origin for his calling. It is an irrevocable calling. And just as Melchizedek was without "beginning of days nor end of life" (Heb. 7:3), Jesus' excellent appearing in time and space obviates the need for a continuing priesthood (Heb. 7:3). Jesus is the source of an eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).
Early Christians needed to hear of something permanent, something lasting. Theirs was a world that was unstable. The capricious Roman government, the tentative political alliances, the raw effort to eek out subsistence in a pre-modern era -- all of these issues (and more) conflated to breed a substantial loss of confidence and temptation to fear. The permanence of Jesus was better than all of these trials.
Therefore, how could they grow dull of hearing the truth (Heb. 5:11). The author of the book expected them to be more mature than they were to be able to understand these things better (Heb. 5:12-13). Just as our bodies need proper nutrition, Christians grow spiritually when they eat properly (Heb. 5:14). And this growth is not growth for our good alone, it is for the purpose of having "powers of discernment" suitable for helping and encouraging others.
Spiritual laziness is surely not a malady exclusive to early Christians. How are you growing? Is your faith strengthened in the midst of trials? In what ways is Jesus better in your life?