17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Verses 17 and 18 conclude the argument of chapter 2, the reason Jesus became incarnate. He became incarnate to become a High Priest who intercedes for men. The appropriateness of Jesus’ suffering in the Father’s plan was developed (vv. 10–16), and now the author addressed the idea of Jesus’ high-priestly status of dealing with sin.
The “therefore” here draws a conclusion from verse 16 (He 2:16). By His incarnation He saved those who would believe.
in all things
Jesus had to become a man in every respect, whether in His birth, growth as a person, or suffering. Christ experienced all the consequences of being a human except sin.
He had [incumbent upon]
The word “had” carries the idea to be necessary or indispensable. Jesus had an obligation upon Him to come to the aid of sinners. Saving the lost was His responsibility.
to be made like His brethren,
Jesus’ help of His “brethren” was predicated on His becoming human. The likeness was identification, not simulation. He experienced hunger, thirst, pain, and criticism from legalists. He fully experienced the life we experience.
that He might be
The “that” shows the purpose whereby Jesus took on humanity and became a High Priest. “Might be” is to be like. By this He could represent man to God properly. The incarnation made the possibility that Jesus would become a High Priest.
a merciful and faithful High Priest
Hebrews here for the first time introduces the idea of a High Priest. The High Priest was someone who interceded for others. The High Priest in Israel did this on the Day of Atonement, for example. The priesthood had both Godward and manward dimensions.
Jesus is both a “merciful” and a “faithful” High Priest. This idea will be developed more fully later in the epistle. Hebrews, more than any other epistle, discusses Jesus’ role as High Priest. Mercy is a primary requisite of a priest (He 4:15). A person who exercises mercy must identify with the misery of someone else. He was also “faithful”; He was true to His office as Mediator of mercy.
in things pertaining to God,
Jesus was a faithful High Priest in things pertaining to mediation toward God.
to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
The word “propitiation” means satisfaction. God must be satisfied that an adequate payment for sin has been made. His personal justice needed to be satisfied. Christ’s sacrifice was enough for Him. God no longer rejects man from His fellowship, because He has been appeased by the blood of Christ.
“Make propitiation” means more than make atonement. To atone is to cover our sins; Jesus took our sins away completely.
God is completely resolved about the sin question.
Since God is satisfied about the sin issue, He is now willing to fellowship with those who accept Christ’s sacrifice for their sin (Ro 3:25; 1 Jn 4:10). God met the demand of His own holiness by sending His Son to pay for our sins. He satisfied Himself in doing so.