Online Bible Commentary
Hebrews 5:5 So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." 6 And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (NIV)
In the previous passage the writer of the book of Hebrews gave the qualifications for the priesthood. The Jewish high priests could only be from the tribe of Levi because God had given such instruction to Moses on Mount Sinai, when He also gave him the Law. Thus they were called Levitical priests. Aaron, brother of Moses and great grandson of Levi was appointed the first high priest by God. This resulted in a second designation, of Aaronic priests.
In this section of the book of Hebrews we are looking at the superiority of Christ to Aaron. In verses five and six we learn how both were called by God to carry out their work, and the differences in their work. Christ, like Aaron, could not choose to be a high priest. He could “not take upon himself the glory” (v. 5a) of such a position. Only the Father could designate high priests. The writer then quotes from Ps. 2:7 that Christ is indeed the Son of God (v. 5b). He follows this with a quote from Ps. 110:4 that Christ is “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 6).
As His Son, Christ is affirmed by the Father as qualified to be high priest (v. 5). However, Christ as a high priest was superior to Aaron as a high priest. The priesthood of Aaron was temporary, whereas the priesthood of Christ was eternal (v.6a). Aaron was to offer sacrifices for, not only the people, but also for himself. The sinless Christ did not need to offer sacrifices for Himself.
Not only that, the priesthood of Christ is proclaimed to be that of the order of Melchizedek (v.6b). The Patriarch Melchizedek lived in the days of Abraham, prior to the giving of the Law. Melchizedek served both as a king and a priest, just as Christ. This priesthood was superior to that of Aaron’s.
Verses seven through ten of this passage show the ability of Christ to understand sympathetically the needs, and suffering, of human beings. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed fervently to His Father. The prayers consisted of “strong crying and tears” (v. 7), according to the literal Greek translation. Jesus understood the frailty of flesh and depended on God to meet his needs. God “heard” His prayers because of their “reverent submission” (v. 7b). The Greek word translated “reverent submission” is the word “eulabeias”, which means “godly fear”.
Even though Christ was the Son of God, He suffered on earth. Through His suffering he “learned obedience” (v. 8). As He went through human suffering, He was able to sympathize with mankind. He understood their needs, including their need for total dependence on God. He walked in our shoes, and knows how we feel in the midst of suffering. He learned that only though man’s obedience to God do prayers get heard.
Christ was “made perfect” (v. 9a) through His mission of incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. He has always been perfect, without flaw, because He is God. He was “made perfect” in the sense that His obedience to fulfilling his mission on earth perfected His office as Savior. He could not have been our Savior if He had remained in Heaven. He had to come to earth and fulfill the mission the Father had for Him.
Once Christ became our Savior, He “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (v. 9b). Also, he “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 9c).
Even though Christ on earth was the Son of God, He still suffered. His suffering was necessary so that he could learn obedience. Such it is with us. Suffering teaches us obedience. We learn through suffering that we are not in control of our lives. Things happen, and we cannot stop them. Loved ones die, tragedy happens, lives are turned upside down, nothing makes sense. When all is out of control, One is still in control. Even a “man” as great as Christ depended on God in Heaven. Only through His dependence on God did He have the strength to go on. And only through our dependence on God will we have the strength to go on.