The Hebrew writer continues on the subject of Jesus as our high priest. To understand the context of this writing, we should remember that many of the Christians this letter was written to were Jews or Gentiles that had first aspired to Judaism before becoming Christians. Much of their persecution would not be happening to them if they had not become followers of Christ; and their lives would be much easier if they turned back to Judaism. Secondly, the high priest was an attractive and important part of that faith they had previously known. Coffman’s summary as follows is well put:
“Without doubt, the earthly splendor of the Jewish high priest was a factor of seductive influence on Christians, especially those of Jewish background. His rich robes, the extravagantly ornate breastplate, the unique privilege of entering the Holy of Holies on the day of atonement, his status as judge and president of the Sanhedrin, his dramatic influence as the official representative of the Jewish nation, more especially at a time when they had no king, the traditional descent of the office from the sons of Aaron and reaching all the way back to the Exodus, and the grudging respect paid to the office, even by Roman conquerors – all these things and many others elevated the Jewish high priest to a position of isolated splendor in the eyes of the people.“
The writer is letting them know that they still have a high priest – but a better one now! Jesus is their high priest and intercedes for us now, and he is fully qualified – and was appointed as such by God (verses 5-6)! But they should know this by now, and the writer rebukes them, warning them not to fall back into their old ways. By now, he says, they should be teaching others, but they need teaching again themselves. They “…need milk, not solid food” (verse 12) – meaning they have to get back to the first principles of Christianity before they can move forward with maturity.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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