The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were falling away from the true doctrine — the gospel of Jesus. The book was intended to restore them and to eradicate the wrong thinking that had crept in.
In Hebrews 5, we read about the tradition from the Old Testament of having high priests. This description is so sweet and tender. It was the responsibility of the high priest to “deal gently with those who [were] ignorant and [had gone] astray.” This model is not what I associate with Mosaic Law. I guess it’s because I tend to generalize, imagining it as rigid and void of grace, as if the Pharisees were always in charge. But that’s inaccurate, and certainly not what God intended. God didn’t want Israelites cut off because of sin; instead He assigned the most revered religious leader among them to gently restore the lost. According to this passage, being a high priest was not a role that involved being removed from everyday life, holed up in a hebraic huddle. No, it was a job that required great interpersonal skills, compassion, mercy and dedication. In essence, being the high priest meant you were a shepherd of the people.
So who then is the perfect high priest? Jesus Christ is, because He is also the Good Shepherd. In fact, all of the beautiful pictures of what God intended for the Israelites are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect High Priest, sympathizing with our weaknesses and offering his very life to atone for our sins. He deals with us gently, even when we are ignorant and go astray like ingrates. He is ever full of love and compassion. No matter what.
Have we taken our High Priest for granted? Have we fought the loving staff of our Good Shepherd? And what does it mean to be Christ-like in this context? Do we gently restore those who go astray or do we cut them off?
This week may we embrace the atoning sacrifice and restorative love of our Savior, and may we emulate Him as we gently love ALL whom God has placed in our path.