Thus far the author of Hebrews has made the case that Jesus is a better mouthpiece than the angels and a superior source of salvation than even the great hero Moses. Now he makes the case that Jesus is the greatest high priest, greater even than Melchizedek. He describes the role of the high priest, noting that the high priest is appointed by God to represent the people before God. The high priest is to be gentle and humble, and “must make an offering for his own sins as well as for the people.” The high priest must be considered perfect and clean himself before he is considered worthy to make sacrifices for the people. It was a tremendous honor for a man to serve as high priest on behalf of the people of God.
According to Hebrews, Melchizedek was the most highly revered high priest in the Jewish tradition. His name means “king of righteousness and peace.” The fact that the Bible doesn’t record much background about Melchizedek (we don’t know when he was born, or when he died, or his family history) only adds to his legend. Melchizedek was considered great in the eyes of the Jews because Abraham chose to give a tenth of his estate to Melchizedek. This was significant because it wasn’t until much later in history that the law required the people to give a tenth of what they owned to support the priestly office. That meant that Abraham held Melchizedek in such high regard that he gave a tenth even though he was not required to do so. How much esteem must Abraham have had for Melchizedek, to be compelled to such generosity toward him? And yet, Jesus was considered an even greater high priest. Why?
First, Jesus is a better high priest because the Bible says so. Three different times the writer of Hebrews recalls the prophecy from Psalm 110:4, which says of the Messiah, “you are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Second, Jesus is a better high priest because His sacrifice is permanent. All previous high priests were temporary, which meant once they died they would need to be replaced in their priestly role. Jesus overcame death, which means His ability to save us is complete, because He will always remain alive and present to intercede on our behalf. Third, Jesus is a better high priest because He is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” Like the high priests of old, Jesus was gentle and humble. Unlike all of the other high priests of old, He doesn’t need to make restitution for His own sins, because He lived a sinless life. He didn’t need to make Himself perfect and clean before God, because He was already clean. His sacrifice was sufficient and perfect; therefore He is the greatest of all the high priests. As the writer of Hebrews states, “for the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever” (Hebrews 7:28).
For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.
Old Testament References
- Genesis 14
- Exodus 32:22-24
- Psalm 110:4
- Luke 22:31-32
- Romans 8:15-17
- Galatians 5:1
- The writer of Hebrews says, “although [Jesus] was the Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” How have you learned from suffering in your own life?
- The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “always lives to intercede” on our behalf. Why is this significant? How does it make you feel knowing that Jesus is going before God with your name and your needs?
- As followers of Jesus, we’re called to obedience and yet our salvation is a free gift from God through His grace alone. How do these two realities (good works and freedom in Christ) work together in your own life?
The writer of Hebrews instructs us to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Make a list of needs you have today. These could be material needs, relational needs, or spiritual needs. Take time to approach God in prayer to boldly share your needs, enjoy His presence, and thank Him for the grace and mercy He extends to you.
[expand title=”Life Group Questions: Holt Venue”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 4:14-5:6, Hebrews 7, and 1 Peter 2:1-5. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- What makes Jesus a better high priest than the high priests of old? What difference does that make in your life?
- What makes it difficult for you to believe that Jesus is everything the Bible says He is? How is the study of Hebrews impacting your sense of belief?
- Are you able to “approach the throne of grace with boldness?” What holds you back? How can you be specific and intentional about making prayer a priority in the next week?
- The passages for next week are Hebrews 5:11 – 6:19. Encourage the members of your Life Group to read the text in advance, and to follow along with the questions and application steps that are found in the Study Guide.
[expand title=”Life Group Questions: MSU Venue”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 4:14-5:10, 6:20-7:28. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- Read Hebrews 4:15&5:7-8. Share some thoughts that come to mind about you, Jesus, and suffering. Why is it important that Jesus sympathizes with our suffering? How can this be a hope for people who may not believe in Jesus at all?
- The author of Hebrews calls Jesus our “forerunner” meaning that we can draw near to God through Jesus. What are some different worldviews that are prominent today that may not agree with the Bible that talk about gaining access to God? How do Jesus and the Gospel differ from these worldviews?
- Jesus brought in the New Covenant – a better promise for eternal life and union with God that is fulfilled through His life, work, death, and resurrection. How is it different working for your faith versus working towards growing in holiness and godliness? How does the Gospel affect your understanding of this difference/these differences?
- The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus intercedes for us. What does this mean and how does it affect the way you live your life as a Christian?
[expand title=”Life Group Questions: REO Town Venue”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 7:18-28. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- When you hear the term “high priest,” what comes to mind?
- How often do you feel that God is mad at you, or that you don’t measure up to His high standard? Describe various ways that this inadequacy plays out in your life.
- Read Hebrews 7:23-28. What makes Jesus the ultimate high priest? How does this change your view of how God sees you?
- How does the high priesthood of Jesus give Christians confidence and hope?
[expand title=”Life Group Questions: Westside Venue”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:1-10, 7:1-28. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- Do you tend to take risks or stay with what’s familiar to you? Why do you think we tend to lean toward familiarity instead of newness?
- How does having a shared experience with someone change your relationship with them? How can we minister to those who have walked through similar brokenness that we have?
- Read Hebrews 7:26-28. Why was it necessary for Jesus to become a human being? Why is he considered the “kind of high priest that we need?”
- Read Hebrews 4:14-16. How does this verse encourage us to approach Jesus? What does it look like for you to “approach the throne of grace with boldness?” How can other people help you do that well?