Christ is a better priest than ever existed under the law of Moses. His office is better (Hebrews 4:14-7:28). His work is better (Hebrews 8:1-10:31).
Let’s consider the comparison of office, as set forth in Hebrews Chapter four and five.
1. Great High Priest
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14).
Jesus was referred to as High Priest in Hebrews 3:1. The writer now returns to this point, and expands on it.
This High Priest is said to have passed through the heavens. He is not currently on earth (Hebrews 8:13). He is seated at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1 cf. 1:3; 1:13; 10:12; 12:2).
He is described as, not only High Priest, but also, “the Son of God.” He is the Messiah (cf. Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Matthew 26:26; Luke 23:35; cf. Matthew 27:39-43; Acts 9:20 cf. 9:22). He is King (Hebrews 1:5 cf. Psalm 2:6-12; 2 Samuel 7:14).
The writer exhorts, “let us hold fast.” This exhortation is made more than once (Hebrews 3:6; 3:14; 4:14; 10:23). The recipients of this epistle had confessed their belief in Jesus (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 10:23). They needed to hold fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:14).
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus is not now on earth, but He knows what it is like to live life on earth as a man. He faced the same temptations that we do (Hebrews 4:15 cf. e.g. Matthew 4:1-11). He experienced the same physical needs and limitations that we do (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6-7; Mark 4:38; Luke 23:26; John 19:28). He experienced sorrow and grief, as we do (Isaiah 53:3). He even tasted death, as men do (Hebrews 2:9).
3. Mercy and Grace
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“Therefore” means that these words flow from the previous thought. The previous thought is that Jesus is a great and sympathetic High Priest (cf. Hebrews 4:14-15).
Christians are encouraged to “boldly” approach God through Jesus, their High Priest. The throne of grace is the throne of the Majesty (Hebrews 4:16 cf. 8:1). The word “boldly” (parrhesia) is from pas=all and rhesia=speak, lit. all speak. The original word is translated in a variety of ways in the NKJV: openly (e.g. Mark 8:32; John 7:13); plainly (e.g. John 10:24; 11:14); freely (Acts 2:29); boldly (e.g. Ephesians 6:19; Hebrews 4:16); boldness (e.g. Acts 4:13; 10:19); confidence (e.g. Acts 28:31; Hebrews 3:6; 10:35). The original word appears four times in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:6; 4:16; 10:19; 10:35). The original word is defined to mean “outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech that conceals nothing and passes over nothing… openness to the public… courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness esp. in the presence of persons of high rank” (BAGD).
It seems that Jesus’ ability and willingness to intercede has much to do with His ability to sympathize with man. Here, it says “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are… Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Earlier, it said, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest… for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). These two passages are very closely related in thought.
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness” (Hebrews 5:1-2).
There are similarities which may be inferred from these words. (1) The high priests, under the Law of Moses, were taken from among men (Hebrews 5:1 cf. Exodus 40:13-15; Leviticus 21:10). Jesus shared in flesh and blood (cf. Hebrews 2:14-15, 17-18). (2) The high priests were appointed for men (Hebrews 5:1 cf. Leviticus 9:7). Jesus makes intercession for men (Hebrews 7:25). (3) The high priests were to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 5:1; 8:3). [Robert Milligan comments, “The words ‘gifts’ (dora) and ‘sacrifices’ (thusias) are sometimes used interchangeably, as in Gen. 4:3-5. But when contrasted, as they are in this case, and also in 8:3; 9:9, the former is used of bloodless offerings, and the latter for such as required the life of the victim” (A Commentary on The Epistle to the Hebrews). Tom Wacaster comments, “The ‘gifts’ refer to the bloodless offerings, while the ‘sacrifices’ speak of the multitudinous blood sacrifices” (Wacaster, Studies in Hebrews)] Jesus likewise offered sacrifices for sins (Hebrews 8:3; 9:11-12; 9:24-26; 10:12, 14). (4) The high priests could have compassion on the people because they had the same weaknesses as the people (Hebrews 5:2). Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, since He was tempted in all points as we are (Hebrews 4:15).
“Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5:3).
The priest of old sinned. Aaron did before being appointed high priest (Exodus 32:21-ff). Aaron did after being appointed high priest (Numbers 12:1-2, 9-11). The priests made sacrifice for their own sins (e.g. Leviticus 9:7-8; cf. Leviticus 4:2-12).
However, the writer has already said of Jesus that He “was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He shared in man’s weakness, but did not succumb to sin. He is our ultimate example (John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21-22; 1 John 3:16, etc.). He is a better High Priest.