International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 16, 2016
Purpose: To unpack the meaning of the affirmation that Jesus Christ is our High Priest
Bible Lesson: Hebrews 4:14–5:10
Key Verse: Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son. (Hebrews 4:14)
Hebrews 4:14-16 (CEB)
(14) Also, let’s hold on to the confession since we have a great high priest who passed through the heavens, who is Jesus, God’s Son; (15) because we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. (16) Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help.
Hebrews 5:1-10 (CEB)
(1) Every high priest is taken from the people and put in charge of things that relate to God for their sake, in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (2) The high priest is able to deal gently with the ignorant and those who are misled since he himself is prone to weakness. (3) Because of his weakness, he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people. (4) No one takes this honor for themselves but takes it only when they are called by God, just like Aaron. (5) In the same way Christ also didn’t promote himself to become high priest. Instead, it was the one who said to him, You are my Son. Today I have become your Father, (6) as he also says in another place, You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. (7) During his days on earth, Christ offered prayers and requests with loud cries and tears as his sacrifices to the one who was able to save him from death. He was heard because of his godly devotion. (8) Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. (9) After he had been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for everyone who obeys him. (10) He was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This week’s lesson offers some interesting ideas, so I will share some thoughts that may be new thinking. The author of Hebrews is writing to a Jewish community of Christians, using language that would make sense to those that were originally trained in Jewish customs. The office of Priest was originally given by God to Moses for Aaron and his family. Every Priest after Aaron was a descendant of Aaron. Their mission was to be a bridge between God and man.
Because they were flawed men, they themselves had to offer sacrifices for themselves. The author of Hebrews makes the point that unlike Christ they themselves must be cleansed before they offer sacrifices for others.
The authority for Christ as our great high Priest came from God, Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron, yet was anointed by God to fill the office of High Priest. Jesus not only fills the office, but because He experienced pain and suffering unlike what any other priest had experienced it makes him better at interceding for mankind in their agony and grief.
As for that mysterious Priest of Salem (modern day Jerusalem) Melchizedek. In chapter 7 of Hebrews we read this. (1) This Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he returned from the defeat of the kings, and Melchizedek blessed him. (2) Abraham gave a tenth of everything to him. His name means first “king of righteousness,” and then “king of Salem,” that is, “king of peace.” (3) He is without father or mother or any family. He has no beginning or end of life, but he’s like God’s Son and remains a priest for all time.
Now for my way out theory.
If you read the genealogy of Genesis, you might be amazed to find that Noah died two years after the birth of Abraham. Shem, Noah's son, is considered the father of all Jews. (it is why they are called Semitics) Shem and Abraham were on the earth together for all but 25 years of Abraham’s life. Even Isaac and Shem were on the earth for 50 years together. I doubt you will find this in any commentary, but I think there is a possibility that the mysterious Melchizedek might indeed be the survivor of the flood, Shem. And why Mount Zion (Salem/Jerusalem) was established as God’s dwelling place.
After continuing to research this idea, I found that according to some Jewish traditions (e.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.), Shem is believed to have been Melchizedek, King of Salem whom Abraham is recorded to have met after the battle of the four kings.
Just some way out thoughts for this week, and my hymn would be “Jesus the Great High Priest.”