“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly
fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’ of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:5-11).
Many of us learned in confirmation class about the office of Christ, namely, that God appointed Jesus the Christ to serve as our humble and then exalted Prophet, Priest and King. I’m not sure that I really understood this when I was a confirmation student. It wasn’t until I wrestled with it in order to teach it that I began to understand the office of Christ.
At the time of His Baptism, Jesus the Christ was publicly declared to be the Anointed One, and entered into the work of our Redemption.
Thus, even though He is God from eternity, He humbled Himself and appeared in time to serve as our Prophet, speaking the Words of God (which is what a prophet does). He did this throughout Judea and Samaria and even on the other side of the Lake of Galilee. Now that Christ is ascended and exalted, having completed the work of our Redemption, He still serves as our Prophet by calling and sending pastors and teachers to speak the Word of God, both Law and Gospel (Ephesians 4:11ff).
Moreover, though He rules all things as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Christ humbled Himself and appeared in His creation as a man in order to defeat all of our spiritual enemies. When tempted by Satan, He was victorious in our place (Matthew 4:1-11). Now that Christ has ascended into Heaven and is seated in the highest place of authority and power (Ephesians 1:20-23), He still rules as the King of Love in the hearts of
all those who trust in Him.
In this portion of the letter to the Hebrews, the Spirit of God speaks of Jesus’ position as our great High Priest. It’s important to our understanding that we remember what a priest does, namely, sacrifice and intercede. Jesus the Christ appeared in time to humble Himself and offer Himself as the one perfect sacrifice for human sin (Hebrews 9:12, 10:10). The ascended and exalted Jesus still serves as our High Priest when He intercedes for us at the throne of God, pleading His own sacrifice (Romans 8:34).
The writer to the Hebrews here makes the point that Jesus did not appoint Himself to serve as our High Priest, neither did He set out to glorify Himself. It was His heavenly Father Who anointed Him to be our eternal Priest (Psalm 110:4). He is our perfect Intercessor, being fully God and fully human.
There is none better for us to turn to than the One Who, when carrying out the work of our redemption,
did not only pray on our behalf but, being human Himself, cried out to the Heavenly Father. Although we at times ask for things outside of the will of God, Jesus prayed that God’s will be done—even when it meant
His own suffering and death.
Now the Exalted Christ is the author of eternal salvation for all those who by grace cling to Him in faith. He is our Underwriter, the surety of our eternal redemption.
Finally, these words (Hebrews 5:11) remind us that, though we may have been confirmed in the faith long ago, still we have much to learn from our exalted Prophet, Priest and King.
Andrew Schaller is pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Marquette, Michigan.