Key passage

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in matters pertaining to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he is also clothed with weakness. Because of this, he must make an offering for his own sins as well as for the people. No one takes this honour on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not exalt himself to become a high priest, but God who said to him,
You are my Son;
today I have become your Father,
also says in another place,
You are a priest forever
according to the order of Melchizedek.

During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, and he was declared by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 4:14–5:10

Quotes from Chapter 5

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.

Hebrews 5:2

We today need a priest no less than ancient Israelites. We need someone to represent us to God.

Christ’s heart is drawn out to his people in solidarity with them in their pain and distress. The manner in which Christ handles his people to whom he is drawn is gently.

The idea in Hebrews 5:2 is that Jesus does not throw his hands up in the air when he engages sinners. He is calm, tender, soothing, restrained. He deals with us gently.

In the Old Testament there were basically two kinds of sins: unwillful and willful, or accidental and deliberate (Numbers 15). This is almost certainly what the writer to Hebrews has in mind, with “ignorant” referring to accidental sins and “wayward” referring to deliberate sins.

When Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus “can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward,” the point is that Jesus deals gently and only gently with all sinners who come to him, irrespective of their particular offense and just how heinous it is. What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him.

If we never come to him, we will experience a judgment so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth at us (Rev. 1:16; 2:12; 19:15, 21).

A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords… The rest were killed with the sword that came from the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds ate their fill of their flesh.

Revelations 19:15, 16, 21

If we do come to him, as fierce as his lion-like judgment would have been against us, so deep will be his lamb-like tenderness for us (Rev. 5:5, 6; Isa. 40:10, 11).

See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and his power establishes his rule.
His wages are with him,
and his reward accompanies him.
He protects his flock like a shepherd;
he gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them in the fold of his garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.

Isaiah 40:10, 11

We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral.

When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because he will know just how to receive us. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do. Jesus’ restraint flows from his tender heart for his people. Hebrews is not just telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us. It’s telling us the kind of love he has: rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, he gets down with us, he puts his arm around us, he deals with us in the way that is just what we need. He deals gently with us.

Jesus’ heart is drawn out to you. Nothing can chain his affections to heaven; his heart is too swollen with endearing love.

When Jesus “deals gently” with us, he is doing what is most fitting and natural to him.

Our sinfulness runs so deep that a tepid measure of gentleness from Jesus would not be enough; but as deep our sinfulness runs, even deeper runs his gentleness.

Jesus had zero sin. But he did experience everything else that it means to live as a real human being in this fallen world: the weakness of suffering, temptation, and every other kind of human limitation.

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Hebrews 2:14-18

As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe. But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger. Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.


Questions

  • How does Hebrews 5:2 flow from what is learned in Hebrews 4:15 (Chapter 4)?
  • Do we still need a priest today like the Israelites did? Why?
  • How does Christ handle his people?
  • What does this mean?
  • Who is ignorant and wayward? Are you sometimes this way?
  • What elicits tenderness from Jesus?
  • Is Jesus neutral to anyone? Explain.
  • Reflect on your own character. What does that reveal? Are you convinced that Christ will deal gently with you?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.