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5. Jesus the Great High Priest
1For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: 2who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity; 3and by reason thereof is bound, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4And no man taketh the honor unto himself, but when he is called of God, even as was Aaron. 5So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him,
Thou art my Son,
This day have I begotten thee:
6as he saith also in another place,
Thou art a priest for ever
After the order of Melchizedek.
7Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, 8though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation; 10named of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. 11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. 12For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. 13For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. 14But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.
7. Who in the days, etc. As the form and beauty of Christ is especially disfigured by the cross, while men do not consider the end for which he humbled himself, the Apostle again teaches us what he had before briefly referred to, that his wonderful goodness shines forth especially in this respect, that he for our good subjected himself to our infirmities. It hence appears that our faith is thus confirmed, and that his honor is not diminished for having borne our evils.
He points out two causes why it behooved Christ to suffer, the proximate and the ultimate. The proximate was, that he might learn obedience; and the ultimate, that he might be thus consecrated a priest for our salutation.
The days of his flesh no doubt mean his life in this world. It hence follows, that the word flesh does not signify what is material, but a condition, according to what is said in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Rave then do those fanatical men who dream that Christ is now divested of his flesh, because it is here intimated that he has outlived the days of his flesh for it is one thing to be a real man, though endued with a blessed immortality; it is another thing to be liable to those human sorrows and infirmities, which Christ sustained as long as he was in this world, but has now laid aside, having been received into heaven.
Let us now look into the subject. Christ who was a Son, who sought relief from the Father and was heard, yet suffered death, that thus he might be taught to obey. There is in every word a singular importance. By days of the flesh he intimates that the time of our miseries is limited, which brings no small alleviation. And doubtless hard were our condition, and by no means tolerable, if no end of suffering were set before us. The three things which follow bring us also no small consolations; Christ was a Son, whom his own dignity exempted from the common lot of men, and yet he subjected himself to that lot for our sakes: who now of us mortals can dare refuse the same condition? Another argument may be added, — though we may be pressed down by adversity, yet we are not excluded from the number of God’s children, since we see him going before us who was by nature his only Son; for that we are counted his children is owing only to the gift of adoption by which he admits us into a union with him, who alone lays claim to this honor in his own right.
When he had offered up prayers, etc. The second thing he mentions respecting Christ is, that he, as it became him, sought a remedy that he might be delivered from evils; and he said this that no one might think that Christ had an iron heart which felt nothing; for we ought always to consider why a thing is said. Had Christ been touched by no sorrow, no
consolation could arise to us from his sufferings; but when we hear that he also endured the bitterest agonies of mind, the likeness becomes then evident to us. Christ, he says, did not undergo death and other evils because he disregarded them or was pressed down by no feeling of distress, but he prayed with tears, by which he testified the extreme anguish of his soul.
“Prayers and supplications” are nearly of the same meaning; the first word means a request, a petition, strictly a prayer; and the last an earnest or humble entreaty. The last word is found only here in the New Testament; once in the Septuagint, in Job 41:3; and once in the Apocrypha, 2 Macc. 9:18. Hesychius, as quoted by
Schleusner, gives παράκλησις, request, entreaty, as its meaning: it comes from ἱκέτης, a suppliant. The word ἱκετηρία, which is here used means first an olive branch wrapped in wool, carried by suppliants as a symbol of entreaty and hence used often in the sense of entreaty and supplication. — Ed.
Then by tears and strong crying the Apostle meant to express the intensity of his grief, for it is usual to show it by outward symptoms; nor do I doubt but that he refers to that prayer which the Evangelists mention, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” (Matthew
26:42; Luke 22:42;) and also to another, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.) For in the second instance mention is made by the evangelists of strong crying; and in the first it is not possible to believe that his eyes were dry,
since drops of blood, through excessive grief, flowed from his body. It is indeed certain that he was reduced to great straits; and being overwhelmed with real sorrows, he earnestly prayed his Father to bring him help.
Stuart on this passage very justly observes, “If Jesus died as a common virtuous suffered, and merely as a martyr to the truth, without any vicarious suffering laid upon him, then is his death a most unaccountable event in respect to the manner of his behavior while suffering it; and it must be admitted that multitudes of humble, sinful, meek and very imperfect disciples of Christianity have surpassed their Master in the fortitude, and collected
firmness and calm complacency which are requisite to triumph over the pangs of a dying hour. But who can well believe this? Or who can regard Jesus as a simple sufferer in the ordinary way upon the cross, and explain the mysteries of his dreadful horror before and during the hours of crucifixion?”
What is referred to is certainly inexplicable, except we admit what is often and in various ways plainly taught us in God’s word, that Christ died for our sins. — Ed.
And what application is to be made of this? Even this, that whenever our evils press upon us and overwhelm us, we may call to mind the Son of God who labored under the same; and since he has gone before us there is no reason for us to faint. We are at the same time reminded that deliverance from evils can be found from no other but from God alone, and what better guidance can we have as to prayer than the example of Christ? He betook himself immediately to the Father. And thus the Apostle indicates what ought to be done by us when he says that he offered prayers to him who was able to deliver him from death; for by these words he intimates that he rightly prayed, because he fled to God the only Deliverer. His tears and crying recommend to us ardor and earnestness in prayer, for we ought not to pray to God formally, but with ardent desires.
And was heard, etc. Some render the following words, “on account of his reverence” or fears but I wholly differ from them. In the first place he puts the word alone ἐυλαθείας without the possessive “his”; and then there is the preposition ἀπὸ “from,” not ὑπὲρ “on account of,” or any other signifying a cause or a reason. As, then, εὐλάθεια means for the most part fear or anxiety, I doubt not but that the Apostle means that Christ was heard from that which he feared, so that he was not overwhelmed by his evils or swallowed up by death. For in this contest the Son of God had to engage, not because he was tried by unbelief, the source of all our fears, but because he sustained as a man in our flesh the judgment of God, the terror of which could not have been overcome without an arduous effort. Chrysostom interprets it of Christ’s dignity, which the Father in a manner reverenced; but this cannot be admitted. Others render it “piety.” But the explanation I have given is much more suitable, and requires no long arguments in its favor. 8989 The idea of the effect of hearing, that is deliverance, is no doubt included in εἰσακουσθεὶς, “having been heard,” as it is sometimes in the corresponding word in Hebrew; so that Stuart is justified in the rendering it delivered, — “and being delivered from that which he feared.” It is rendered the same by Macknight, “and being delivered from fear.” Both Beza and Grotius render the last word fear; and this is its meaning as used in the Septuagint. — Ed
Now he added this third particular, lest we should think that Christ’s prayers were rejected, because he was not immediately delivered from his evils; for at no time was God’s mercy and aid wanting to him. And hence we may conclude that God often hears our prayers, even when that is in no way made evident. For though it belongs not to us to prescribe to him as it were a fixed rule, nor does it become him to grant whatsoever requests we may conceive in our minds or express with our tongues, yet he shows that he grants our prayers in everything necessary for our salvation. So when we seem apparently to be repulsed, we obtain far more than if he fully granted our requests.
But how was Christ heard from what he feared, as he underwent the death which he dreaded? To this I reply, that we must consider what it was that he feared; why was it that he dreaded death except that he saw in it the curse of God, and that he had to wrestle with the guilt of all iniquities, and also with hell itself? Hence was his trepidation and anxiety; for extremely terrible is God’s judgment. He then obtained what he prayed for, when he came forth a conqueror from the pains of death, when he was sustained by the saving hand of the Father, when after a short conflict he gained a glorious victory over Satan, sin, and hell. Thus it often happens that we ask this or that, but not for a right end; yet God, not granting what we ask, at the same time finds out himself a way to succor us.