"...merciful and faithful high priest..." Hebrews 2:17 (NIV)
After providing a historical context from the sacred texts to open a door of commonality with the Jews, the writer concludes the first section of the letter (what is now the end of the chapter one) with a description on the purpose of angels: ministering spirits sent to serve those who have inherited eternal life (1:14). The reader then receives a serious statement of caution - to not ignore so great a salvation.
The second section of the letter could be one of the most eloquent descriptions of Christ's purpose and position - reflecting the sacrificial death of Christ (v.'s 9, 14-18), as well as His place of honor in heaven (v.'s 9&17). I find it deeply moving how the writer identifies himself as a first generation convert: "confirmed to us by those who heard Him." (2:3) His trust in the disciples' experience with Jesus led to his trust in Christ as Savior. The personal relationship is critically important in translating the grace of Christ to a fallen world. Reinforcing the biblical truth with another reference to the Old Testament, provided further veracity to the writer's argument when he quoted from Psalm 22:22: "I will declare Your name to My brothers and sisters, in the assembly I will sing Your praises." Imagine... joining Christ in exalting God the Father in heaven... only to see God the Father return the praise right back to Jesus, Who is worthy of all glory and praise (Rev. 5:13).
Why is Jesus given such glorious praise? The writer reveals the reason just a couple of verses earlier: "...should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what He suffered." (v.10) Of course, we know He was already perfect in His pre-incarnate state as God, the Son. The verse is actually stating Jesus establishing a first: the sinless dying for the sinful, and restoring the sinful to a full relationship with a pure and holy God.
Jesus, as the "...merciful and faithful high priest..." to God, instead of offering a sacrifice, BECAME the sacrifice Himself - "...that He might make atonement for the sins of the people." (v.17) AND He is able to strengthen us in defeating temptation by His familiarity with the devil's ways when He Himself was tempted (v.18). (Jesus was tempted in the wilderness before beginning His ministry. Read about it in Matthew 4:1-11.)
He is the merciful High Priest because of His death on the cross. He is the faithful High Priest because He fulfilled His purpose for which He was sent to earth in human form. He is now faithful to complete that which He began in each of us when we embraced Him by faith (read Philippians 1:6). If you have not embraced Him in faith, then I offer the strong caution of the writer: "...how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" (v.3)
Join me in honoring Jesus for such a great sacrifice.
To Him be the glory!