Thursday, March 19, 2009

High Priest… (Hebrews 5:1-4) 190309

I am so glad that the qualification and job description of a high priest stipulated in the Scripture includes personal weaknesses (v2). F. F. Bruce suggests that there are only two qualifications, namely: a) able to sympathize with those whom he represents, and b) divinely appointed to his office. Whereas George H. Guthrie proposes that the author of Hebrews outlines four main principles related to the office of high priest as described in the Old Testament:

  1. The high priest originates from among people (v1).
  2. The role of the high priest is to represent people in matters related to God, especially through offering gifts and sacrifices (v1–2).
  3. The high priest’s weakness enables him to deal gently with people, and he is required to offer sacrifices for himself as well as for the people (v2-3).
  4. God is the One who confers the office of high priest by appointment (v1, 4).

Whatever it is, high priest is God ordained, and he comes from among the people of God. A high priest is no different from any other people; he is also succumbed to temptation and sin. And a pastor in modern day context has the role of a high priest too. I am so glad that I am not expected to be superhuman, but at the same time, God has ordained me and will help me to fulfill the role and responsibilities He has entrusted me.

Of course, we Christians are also called to the royal priesthood according to Peter in 1 Pet. 2:9. Therefore, in some sense we have a divine calling and yet having the human tendency to sin. But at the same time, God has also given us the assurance that He will be with us to help us as we are called by Him. And because when we understand that we are also a sinner (redeemed one), we can empathize with others.

There is a Greek word in verse 2 that interests me. It is metriopathein which generally translates as ‘deal gently’. Even commentator like Leon Morris thinks that:

It is not easy to translate metriopathein (NIV, "to deal gently with"). It refers to taking the middle course between apathy and anger. A true high priest is not indifferent to moral lapses; neither is he harsh. He "is able" to take this position only because he himself shares in the same "weakness" as the sinners on whom he has compassion. The word may denote physical or moral frailty, and the following words show that in the case of the usual run of high priests the latter is included. The earthly high priest is at one with his people in their need for atonement and forgiveness.

But this word gives me a sense of comfort. As a pastor, I don’t have to be perfect. I will never be perfect, and I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. I don’t need to be even better than others. All I need, and very importantly, is to know that I am no different from others and others are no different from me.

If I have struggles with pornography and lust in the past, my members will also struggle. I am called to pray for them and help them. If I have the problem of pride, even now, I am sure that my members are prideful too. I am called to remind them and myself to be humble. If I have difficulty managing my anger at times, I believe that my members’ outburst and rudeness are understandable. I have to direct their anger to the Lord rather to anything or anyone else. If I have been dishonest in the past and not willing to be opened to share my thoughts and feeling, I am sure that the walls which my members have must have their reasons. I have to help them to bring down the bricks of the wall one by one, rather than merely crush down the entire wall at once, leaving them expose and vulnerable.

My point is: be understanding. Be in the shoes of others. But first, take off our own shoes, for we are high priest before the holy God.


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