Brothers and sisters, since we have a Great High Priest Who has passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession of faith. For we have not a high priest is unable to pity our weaknesses, but One tried as we are in all things, save sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in matters pertaining to God, so that he may offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring, because he himself also is beset with weaknesses, and therefore must make offerings for sin in his own behalf as in behalf of the people. And no one invests himself with this honor: only one who is called by God takes it, as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself with the high priesthood, but glorified the One Who had spoken to Him, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You" (Psalm 2:7). As He says also in another place, "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 109:4).
One of the main ideas of the whole Epistle to the Hebrews is the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. It outlines the nature and conditions of the priestly ministry. Every priest is responsible for representing the people before God, or, in other words, act as a mediator and intercessor before God on behalf of the people of God.
Sin has separated the people from God, in Whom is the source of life and being. Sin also increases the gap between God and people. The priest, through his ministry, is called to bridge this gap and bring people into the presence of God.
Jesus Christ, Who was not merely a simple priest, but the Great High Priest, overcame this gap, He "passed into the heavens," and thus paved the way for us - from earth to the throne of God. This is the confession of our faith, and in this confession our hope in salvation is revealed.
Who from among the sinful people is able to pass into heavens, to get close to God? Of course, no one. But Jesus Christ was not a simple priest from among the people. He is the Great Mediator, greater than all other mediators - greater than the angels, greater than all the priests from the line Aaron, greater than the Lawgiver Moses.
If Christ had only the divine nature, meaning if He never became human, He wouldn't be able to answer to the very notion of being a mediator. Any mediator has to be related to both sides. The Old Testament priest only partially possessed this property. He was a simple man and, of course, was burdened with all the human weaknesses, the root of which lay in Adam's sin. That's why the earthly Old Testament priesthood, as well as solemn Temple worship with its sacrifices, was only a shadow of the true High Priesthood, both earthly and heavenly.
If Jesus Christ was only God, then He would not have been able to co-suffer with us in our weaknesses. The mere thought that God could suffer or co-suffer was absolutely alien to Jewish theology. The familiar idea for us of God as a loving Father entered the world with Christ's preaching. At the time of His earthly life, such idea was new and revolutionary. That's because the main idea about God in Judaism was that God is Holy, which meant that He is completely distinct from people and from all earthly things. It was impossible to imagine that God could experience human feelings. Such an idea seemed to be "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23).
Jesus, however, is not only God, but a man also, like us in all things (meaning, He was hungry, thirsty, tired, felt pain, etc.), except for sin (because God, by His nature, can't sin). When the reading above says that He, being like us, simple human beings, was "tried/tempted in all things, save sin," it does not only mean that He was tempted by some moral or ethical temptations, to which we are exposed daily. It rather means the main, principle temptation - when person's faith is questioned. We are talking about Adam's temptation to reject the life of faith and to fall away from God. Jesus was not tempted by this because He cannot fall away from Himself.
Jesus Christ met all the criteria of a true Mediator between human beings and God. He is One with God, Divine by nature, and at the same time, as Man, He stands in solidarity with the sinful, suffering, and tempted humanity. In Christ, God revealed Himself as a loving Father, capable of compassionate mercy, understanding sympathy, and saving help.
Developing the doctrine of Jesus's High Priesthood, the Epistle to the Hebrews lists the main features of the Old Testament priest. First, the priest was chosen from among the people to serve God, becoming a link between God and the people. Priestly ministry consisted of offering the gifts and sacrifices for the sins of the people.
Second, the priest had to be one with the people. He had to be able to sympathize with them because he himself was a weak and tempted man. Because of his sinfulness and weakness, the priest (and here we are still taking about Old Testament priesthood) first had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, and then for the sins of others.
Third, even though the priest was chosen from among the people, he was not chosen by the people. And of course, he did not choose priesthood on his own. Priesthood was not a job, but dignity and honor, to which a person was called by God.
The Priesthood of Christ meets all of these conditions. First of all, He is the Man. Second, "He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every respect, so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God" (Hebrews 2:17). Third, He did not choose Himself for this glorious and honorable service, but was chosen by God. The words of messianic Psalm, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You" (Psalm 2:7) remind us of the Voice heard from heaven (Mark 1:11) that proclaimed Jesus as the Savior and Messiah.
However, the Epistle also reminds us that Jesus Christ is not just a Man, but the Son of Man, the God-Man. Even though, He is like us in being tempted, He was and remains without sin, and consequently, unlike the Old Testament priests, did not have to offer a sacrifice for His own sins. And finally, quoting another messianic Psalm, the Epistle to the Hebrews, indicates the exclusive and extraordinary nature of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Priest, not temporary.
Above reflection is a translation of Проповедь - 3-я неделя Великого поста.
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest