Sympathetic Priest

Jesus - Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Having established his qualifications, Hebrews next presents Jesus as the high priest who intercedes faithfully for his people. He participated fully in the nature and sufferings common to all men, and therefore, his priestly ministry for his “brethren” is characterized by faithfulness, empathy, and compassion.


The Son experienced the death that is common to all men, and in doing so, he qualified to become their high priest. What set his nature and life apart from the rest of mankind was his sinlessness.


The phrase in the following passage, “flesh and blood,” is a Semitic expression that refers to human mortality - man in his weakened and mortal state. Since believers are subject to death, Jesus “partook” in that same fate.

(Hebrews 2:14-18) – “Seeing, therefore, the children have received a fellowship of blood and flesh, he in like manner, took partnership in the same, in order that through death he might paralyze him that held the dominion of death, the Devil, and might release these, as many as by fear of death were all their lifetime liable to bondage. For not surely of angels is he laying hold, but of Abraham’s seed he is laying hold. Whence he was obliged in every way to be made like the brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the things of God, to expiate the sins of the people. For in that he suffered when tested, he is able to give succor to them who are being tested.



The Devil had the “dominion” of death or kratos (Strong’s - #G2904). In Greek, this is a strong term that denotes “hold, power, force, dominion.” The English term “tyranny” best captures the sense intended in the letter to the Hebrews.


Paradoxically, through his own death, he invalidated the “tyranny” of Satan. And now, Jesus is “laying hold of” the “seed of Abraham.” The clause alludes to a passage in the book of Isaiah:

But you, Israel, my servant Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend, you whom I have laid hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said to you: You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you away” - (Isaiah 41:8-9).

Because he endured the same trials and sufferings as his “brethren,” he is well-equipped to help them when they are likewise “tested.” Under discussion is not so much humanity in general, but the followers of Jesus in particular, which explains the term “seed of Abraham.”




The Son was obliged to be made like his brethren “in every way.” For him to become the “merciful and faithful high priest,” it was necessary for him to have the same nature and experiences as his “brethren.”


Solidarity with humanity is mandatory for the office of high priest since he represents men before God, and therefore, he must be one with them.


And under the Levitical system, faithfulness by the priest was vital to the proper performance of his priestly service - (1 Samuel 2:35, Hebrews 8:3).


As our high priest, Jesus expiates the sins of his people (hilaskesthai – Strong’s #G2433). Here, the noun “sins” is in the accusative case since it is the direct object of the verb hilaskesthai.


What he “expiates” are the sins that separate men from God. More specifically, he removes the uncleanness, the stain caused by sin that leaves men unclean and defenseless in the presence of God. Thus, Christ “achieved the purification of sin.”


And the passage presents four reasons why it was necessary for him to receive the same sentence of death as humanity.


First, to experience death on behalf of others. Second, to bring God’s “many sons to glory.” Third, to achieve victory over the Devil and liberate believers from the tyranny of death. And fourth, to qualify him as our faithful and compassionate high priest.


Unlike Adam, Jesus did not trespass the commandment of God, and therefore, he was without “blemish.” But in all other respects, he was as human and mortal as the next man. And because he suffered death as all men do, only he lived a life “apart from sin,” he was and is well-qualified to be our “faithful and sympathetic high priest.”

Lighthouse - Photo by Ludovic Charlet on Unsplash

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