What does Hebrews 5:3 mean?
ESV: Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.
NIV: This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.
NASB: and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins for himself, as well as for the people.
CSB: Because of this, he must make an offering for his own sins as well as for the people.
NLT: That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs.
KJV: And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
NKJV: Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.
Verse Commentary:
The first few verses of chapter 5 refer directly to a human high priest, in order to make a point about Jesus. Verse 3 summarizes details given more depth in verses 9 and 10. The context is a continuation of chapter 4. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews explains how Jesus' humanity makes Him suitable to become the ultimate High Priest of all believers. Part of a priest's responsibility is offering sacrifice for sins. In the case of a human high priest, this includes their own moral flaws. Acknowledgement of their own sin is part of how a priest is able to be compassionate and gentle with those he serves (Hebrews 5:2).

The writer of Hebrews is not at all confused on whether Jesus sinned. As prior verses show, Jesus Himself had no sin to atone for (Hebrews 4:15), though He experienced human temptation in order to sympathize with us. This same point will be made later in Hebrews, acknowledging this as the one characteristic where Jesus is unlike a typical high priest (Hebrews 7:27).

In the instance of Christ, He sympathizes with us on the basis of His temptations, not His sin. In fact, Jesus' perfect life without sin, in the face of temptation, makes His understanding of sin even greater than that of a fallible person. Only those who can fully support a weight truly appreciate how heavy it is. Those who are weak only experience whatever effort they could exert before they dropped that object. Unless someone can hold a weight without "giving in" to it, they don't really experience all of its force. Jesus experienced our temptations beyond the point where we gave in and committed sin. This means that Christ, being sinless, can truly claim to have experienced temptation more than we have!
Verse Context:
Hebrews 5:1–10 explains how Jesus fits the requirements of a high priest. Earlier verses showed that the Messiah promised by the Old Testament would be entirely human (Hebrews 2:17). That humanity allows Christ to sympathize with our temptations and weaknesses. Here, the writer of Hebrews points out that this also makes Jesus qualified to be our ultimate High Priest. Because of His humanity, His prayers, His sacrifice for sin, and His appointment by God, Jesus' status is far superior to any other figure.
Chapter Summary:
Hebrews chapter 5 completes the previous commentary about Jesus' humanity. His human existence qualifies Him to understand other men and to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf. Jesus also fulfills the roles of both high priest and king, which the author demonstrates by returning to the Old Testament. The figure of Melchizedek is used to illustrate this point: that Christ, unlike any before, was able to be both the kingly Son of David and the High Priest for all people. The deeper meaning of this example, however, may well be lost on the letter's audience, since they are languishing in spiritual immaturity.
Chapter Context:
The book of Hebrews shows how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God's purpose for mankind. For the sake of Jewish Christians, in particular, the author explains that Christ is superior to all other figures, and His covenant is superior to all other relationships. Chapter 5 continues the point made in chapter 4, that Christ's humanity makes Him a uniquely qualified High Priest. This passage bridges that idea into the writer's next warning: spiritual immaturity. This call to avoid apathy will run through all of chapter 6, before the writer returns to Jesus' priesthood in chapter 7.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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