Sunday, March 21, Fifth Sunday in Lent

Reader: “God heard his prayers” 

Response: “because of his deep reverence for God.” 

Scripture:     Hebrews 5:5-10

That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him,

“You are my Son.

    Today I have become your Father.”

And in another passage God said to him,

“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”  

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Reader: The word of the Lord.

Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:   

A couple of days ago we wrote about Jesus being our High Priest and the difference between his priesthood and the priesthood of Aaron. We also noted that holding such an office involved receiving a direct call from God as was the case with Aaron. With this in mind, we come to today’s passage.

The humility of the Son of God comes out again in this opening sentence. Jesus did not assume because he was God’s Son, that he would automatically become the High Priest. He knew the person for that position was chosen by God the Father alone. To represent the people before God, the High Priest must be fully human, again underscoring the humanity of Jesus. Were he not completely human in every way, he could not serve as an authentic priest for all humanity. At the same time, this High Priest must be holy, sinless and pure, in otherwords, deity. Jesus is that perfect human-divine person. The author of Hebrews then quotes two different Psalms. The first highlights the divinity of Christ (Ps.2:7). The latter highlights the humanity of Christ (Ps.110:4). (We’ll save the discussion of Melchizedek for another time when we work with Hebrews chapter seven.)

The writer of this epistle goes back to the humanity of Jesus in this next little section. It’s interesting to me that he uses the phrase “while Jesus was here on earth.” In my mind he is making a distinction between dwelling in heaven and dwelling on earth. On earth Jesus offered prayer and pleading to the Father in heaven, who was able to “rescue him from death.”  A better translation might be “rescue him out of death.” In other words, Jesus was asking the Father not to be left in the state of death. For you’ll recall Jesus saying just prior to Maundy Thursday in John’s gospel (12:27-28), “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” [italics mine] These words might also be a reference to Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked the Father “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” In other words, was there some other way to accomplish salvation?

God the Father was the only one able to design another way to bring about salvation; but this was God’s plan, the atoning death of his only Son. The Bible says God heard his Son’s prayer because of his deep reverence for his Father. But nothing changed. He kept on praying anyway two more times. After the third time, with no other word from his Father, Jesus awoke the sleeping disciples as the arresting crowd approached.

It would seem to me that this is a significant point in regard to our prayer life. Because nothing changes that we can see when we pray, does not mean that God did not hear our prayer. Hearing our prayers does not necessarily nor automatically bind God into doing something we can see. The most important thing is that God hears the cries of his children. God hears you. God knows the plans he has for you and me. That is why we too are to pray, “thy will be done.”

That “Jesus learned obedience” is a mind boggling and instructive truth.  In like manner, we are to embrace the moment with obedience when we are called upon to suffer.  Through great and unimaginable suffering in every way, Jesus identified completely with humanity. Suffering was God’s qualifier to serve as this High Priest. Jesus embraced suffering through his obedience with the result that he became the foundation and pathway to eternal life to all who obey him. Those seven little one syllable words he uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane changed all of creation for all eternity. The humility of Jesus is more and more wondrous the more time I spend in the Scriptures.

What a marvelous, humble High Priest we have who lives to intercede on our behalf.

Music: “Hallelujah, What A Savior”           Gaither Vocal Band


Benign Lord, I praise thee continually for permission to approach the throne of grace, and to spread my wants and desires before thee. I am not worthy of thy blessings and mercies for I am far gone from original righteousness. My depraved nature reveals itself in disobedience and rebellion. My early days discovered in me discontent, pride, envy, revenge. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor the multiplied transgressions of later years, my failure to improve time and talents, my abuse of mercies and means, my wasted sabbaths, my perverted seasons of grace, my long neglect of thy great salvation, my disregard of the friend of sinners. While I confess my guilt, help me to feel it deeply, with self-abhorrence and self-despair, yet to remember there is hope in thee, and to see the Lamb that takes away sin. Through him may I return to thee, listen to thee, trust in thee, delight in thy law, obey thee, be upheld by thee. Preserve my understanding from error, my affections from love of idols, my lips from speaking guile my conduct from stain of vice, my character from appearance of evil, that I may be harmless, blameless, rebukeless, exemplary, useful, light-giving, prudent, zealous for thy glory and the good of my fellowmen. Amen.  The Valley of Vision, p.145