Hebrews 5:7

Saturday, 13 October 2018

…who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, Hebrews 5:7

The verse begins with “who.” This is speaking of Jesus, not Melchizedek. Though not in the original, some translations insert the name here to ensure clarity. The words now are explanatory of verse 5:2 which spoke of the ability of the high priest to have compassion on those he ministers for. Further, the words are given in preparation for verse 5:8 to show that He “learned” through what is now stated. In essence, it was Jesus “who…learned obedience.” Everything between the words is building up that thought. Understanding this, it next says that it is He who, “in the days of His flesh,” meaning the time of His incarnation.

Christ was born into humanity and He lived out a human existence. The term “flesh” is speaking of this physical aspect of Christ Jesus as a Man. This does not mean that Christ is no longer united to a material body, as if “the days of His flesh are over and He only has a spiritual nature now.” Rather, He is still fully Man, but not in a body like ours. He has an eternal, glorified body. “In the days of His flesh” is speaking of the human nature that we possess, and that He assumed in the incarnation. This is stated to show that He can empathize with us, just as any high priest is able to do.

Next, the author tells us, “when He had offered up prayers and supplications.” The two words are close in meaning, but they cover a full range of what is lifted up. Prayer (deésis in Greek) is a strong, even emotional, petition which arises out of a deep-seated need. It is something personal based on a perceived lack that needs to be filled. Supplication (hiketéria in Greek) signifies an olive branch. Thus, it is a type of petition looking for reconciliation and relief. The olive branch is a symbol of seeking peace that we still speak of to this day. This is the only use of the word in the Bible. Christ Jesus is said to have offered these up, meaning to God, “with vehement cries and tears.”

The “vehement cries” does not speak of mourning and tears as if He were downcast. Rather, it is an outcry which arises when one suffers intensely. Examples of this are found in the gospels where it says that Jesus “cried out with a loud voice” in Matthew 27:45, and where He “prayed more earnestly” in Luke 22:44. The “tears” of Christ are specifically noted in Luke 19:41 where He wept over Jerusalem, and where He wept at Lazarus’ tomb. These two examples showed that He, in fact, wept. However, they are probably not what is being referred to here which is speaking of His tears in relation to what lay ahead for Him in regards to His own suffering. When He prayed in Gethsemane, “His sweat became like great drops of blood.” It is hard to imagine that tears were not a part of this moment, even if Luke doesn’t include it in his description. These and other such examples showed the immense depth of emotion and heartfelt petition in His time of deepest need. And these were directed “to Him who was able to save Him from death.”

This is speaking of God the Father, and it can possibly mean one of two things. First, God the Father was able to save Christ from going to death. This is noted in Luke 22:42, for example, where Jesus petitioned, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” It is also possible that it is referring to Christ being saved from out of death. Jesus noted to His disciples that He would be crucified and that He would rise again. But just as He petitioned to be saved from going to death, once it was obvious that this would not come about, His heartfelt utterances to the Father may have been redirected to His being saved out of the state of death. This would be in line with prophecies in the psalms and also in Jonah which reveal this, such as Jonah 2:6 when Jonah prayed from the fish’s belly. In both cases, in going to death, and in being brought out of death, Jesus “was heard because of His godly fear.”

Again, this was actually prophesied in the psalms and in Jonah. In Jonah 2:2 we read –

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.”

The prophecies were fulfilled in Christ who possessed a godly fear, and who conveyed that in His prayers and supplications to His Father. All of this was not without purpose, but was to fulfill the requirements of becoming a high priest who might “have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray” (5:2).

Life application: The work of Jesus, when taken in its proper light, is more than astonishing. He, who is fully God, was willing to step out of the eternal realm and unite with humanity, taking on all of its pains, sufferings, and trials in order to redeem us; but also in order to become a High Priest who can empathize with our own shortcomings, failings, and weaknesses. Though He never was found in fault, He can empathize with us in our faults. He knows what we are going through and He is not only not unsympathetic to it, but He is minutely aware of it and caring about it. When you petition the Father through Christ Jesus, you are going through One who understands your needs and wants perfectly.

Lord God, because Jesus came in the flesh, He is completely able to empathize with us and to sympathize with our desires, wants, needs, pains, trials, and sufferings. There is nothing unknown to You, and there is nothing He has not – in one way or another – endured with us. Together, we have the perfect match up to respond to us in the perfect way. You know what we need, and You are able to assist us in our times of need. How great are the things You have done for us. Such love! Thank You for Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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