Jesus is the Great High Priest to surpass all the previous ones, ending the Levitical priesthood.
Priests were needed in Judaism to explain the need for sacrifices for sin, to acts as symbolic intercessors on behalf of people and to offer sacrifices. They were frail humans just like us, who could deal gently with the ignorant and wayward because they knew what it is to be ignorant and wayward too.
Jesus is the superlative Great High Priest because He is perfect, He is God and He fulfils all the Old Testament priesthood. He is sympathetic because He has been through every temptation, but he didn’t fail in weakness, so His perfection as a self sacrifice covers all.
Verse 5 – “so also Christ” – Jesus had a calling from God, from eternity and in the order of Melchizedek – the priest from Jerusalem, without beginning or end, who appeared to Abraham. Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 are quoted to reinforce the point.
He came in weakness of flesh, but without sin. As Michael Eaton writes “He knew all about weariness and sorrow, tiredness and temptation, disappointment and grief. He was Son of God in power after the resurrection, but Son of God in weakness ‘in the days of his flesh’.”
Jesus needed to pray, and pray with great intensity – the “loud cries and tears” clearly alluding to the Garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest and crucifixion. In all of this, Jesus was fulfilling the pattern of priesthood that was to be found among the high priests of the Mosaic covenant. He became a sympathetic Saviour because he was a human being who endured, in an extreme form, the kind of struggle and temptations and battles in prayer that we experience. At the right hand of the Father, Jesus remembers this. He has great empathy for us in our struggles and intercedes for us to keep going!
In the light of all that, we must do two things:
i) hold fast to our confession and
ii) draw near to the throne of grace.