Our Sympathetic High Priest

The priesthood of Jesus is a key subject of Hebrews. He is the “merciful and faithful High Priest” who intercedes for us. The topic is anticipated in the Letter’s opening paragraph by its declaration that the Son “achieved the purification of sins,” and therefore he “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” as the “High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” for his people.

The Second Chapter describes his qualifications for the priesthood, and it begins by citing the eighth Psalm and its celebration of the “crowning of man with glory and honor” - (Hebrews 2:5-9).

Jesus on the cross - Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
[Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash]

The passage referred originally either to Adam’s loss of the original glory that he received at the creation or to God’s plan for man to be filled with glory, a plan that was thwarted by sin. The Psalm was not about an individual Messiah but the intended rule of humanity over the Creation. The role of man in the “
coming habitable earth” was to fulfill the mandate to “take dominion over the Earth.”

Not yet do we see all things subjected to him.” Here, the term “not yet” indicated that the promised subjection would be achieved by the Son (“Whom God has appointed heir of all things”). For now, his followers see him “sitting” at God’s right hand.

Like Adam, Jesus was “made a little lower than angels,” but unlike the first man, he was “crowned with glory and honor” because he endured “SUFFERING AND DEATH” on behalf of his “brethren.”

His death was “fitting,” and the very reason for which he was “crowned with glory,” and his suffering “completed” or “perfected” him. His subsequent appointment as the High Priest was the result of his FAITHFULNESS IN DEATH.

The Letter portrays his exaltation as something achieved in his human life. He BECAME superior to the angels, “having gone beyond them.” Logically, this means that at one point he was NOT superior to the angels. God did exalt him because of his obedience (“You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, for this cause has God anointed you with the oil of exultation beyond your partners”).


The next paragraph presents the reason why his death meant hope and mercy for humanity. Having purposed to grant His children glory, God “perfected” their champion through suffering because he and humanity were “all from one” - (Hebrews 2:10-13).

The Greek verb rendered “perfect” means to “complete, accomplish, finish; to bring to an end.” The idea is not moral perfection but bringing something to its intended conclusion. This intended sense is confirmed by the application of the same verb to Jesus - “And BEING COMPLETED, he became the author of everlasting salvation for all those who obey him.”

Through his death, he qualified as our High Priest. The term “suffering” has his death in view since God determined that he “SHOULD TASTE DEATH FOR EVERY MAN” - (Hebrews 5:9).

Jesus is “sanctifying” believers because he shares the same human nature, and he calls them “brethren.” This stresses his solidarity with mankind and anticipates the later statement that they are sanctified “through the offering of the body of Jesus.” Three citations from the Old Testament are placed on his lips to emphasize his kinship with his “brethren” - (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 22:22, Isaiah 8:17-18, Hebrews 10:10).

Having established his qualifications, Jesus is presented as the High Priest who intercedes for the Assembly. He participated fully in the nature and the sufferings common to all men. His priestly intervention for us is characterized by FAITHFULNESS and COMPASSION.

  • (Hebrews 2:14-18) – “Seeing, therefore, the children have received a fellowship of blood and flesh, he in like manner, took partnership in the same, in order that through death he might paralyze him that held the dominion of death, the Devil, and might release these, as many as by fear of death were all their lifetime liable to bondage. For not surely of angels is he laying hold, but of Abraham’s seed he is laying hold. Whence he was obliged in every way to be made like the brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things of God, to expiate the sins of the people. For in that he suffered when tested, he is able to give succor to those who are being tested.

The phrase “FLESH AND BLOOD” is a Semitic idiom used commonly to represent human mortality – MAN IN HIS MORTAL STATE. Since believers were subject to death, he “partook” of the same nature and fate.

The Devil had the “dominion” of death or kratos. In the Greek language, this means “hold, power, force, dominion.” The English term “tyranny” best captures the sense. Through his death, Jesus invalidated the “tyranny” of Satan, and he is “laying hold of” the “seed of Abraham.” This clause alludes to a passage in the Book of Isaiah:

  • But you, Israel, my servant Jacob whom I have chosen, the SEED OF ABRAHAM my friend, you whom I have laid hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said to you: You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you away” - (Isaiah 41:8-9).

Because he endured the same sufferings as his fellows, he is well equipped to help them when they are “tested.” Under discussion is not so much humanity in general, but the followers of Jesus in particular, and that explains the term “seed of Abraham.”


The Son was obliged to be made like his brethren “IN EVERY WAY.” For him to become the “merciful and faithful high priest,” it was necessary to have the same nature and experiences as men and women.

Solidarity with humanity is mandatory for the office of the High Priest since he represents men before God - He must be one with the men he represents. Under the Levitical code, faithfulness was vital to the performance of priestly service - (1 Samuel 2:35, Hebrews 8:3).

As our High Priest, he expiates the sins of his people (hilaskesthai). The Greek term translated as “sins” is in the accusative case since it is the direct object of the verb hilaskesthai or “expiate.” What he “expiated” were the sins that separated men from God - He removed the uncleanness, the stain caused by sin that left men defenseless in the presence of God. Thus, Jesus “achieved the purification of sin.”

Resurrection life - Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
[Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash]

The passage presents four reasons why he needed to receive the same sentence of death as humanity. First, to experience death on behalf of others. Second, to bring God’s “
many sons to glory.” Third, to achieve victory over the Devil and liberate believers from the tyranny of death. Fourth, to qualify him as the faithful and compassionate high priest of his “brethren.”

Unlike Adam and all other men, Jesus did not violate the commandment of God, and so he was without “blemish.” But in all other respects, he was as human as the next man. Because he suffered as all men do, only “apart from sin,” he became qualified to be our “faithful and sympathetic High Priest” who now intercedes continually for us in the presence of God.

  • The End - (The arrival of Jesus “on the clouds” will be an event of great victory and finality that will result in the resurrection and the New Creation)
  • The End of Death - (The arrival of Jesus at the end of the age will mean the end of the Last Enemy, namely, Death - 1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
  • Defeating Death - (Paul reminds Timothy of Christ’s resurrection and victory over death since false teachers are denying the resurrection of believers)



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