Jesus the High Priest

Hebrews is one of my favourite books of the Bible. It’s all about the High Priesthood of Jesus. It’s something that blows my mind: He’s a member of the Trinity, He is God, and yet Jesus takes it upon Himself to become the mediator between God and His world. And He has bound Himself to go on fulfilling that role for all eternity! What amazing, merciful love! It’s condescension in the old meaning of the word: a voluntary stepping-down from rightful rank and dignity to allow relationship with one who is inferior. [And that condescension is what makes the incarnation, as I’ve blogged about before, so precious to me].

Why do I love the High Priesthood of Jesus so much? It’s the root of all our security and confidence before God. Jesus is both our perfect High Priest and our perfect Sacrifice:

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Heb 9:24-26

In the OT, the high priest ministered in a tent, and later in a temple – in a picture of God’s throne room. Jesus’ carries out His ministry in Heaven itself. He appears for us in the very presence of God. Because of this High Priestly ministry of Jesus, we can be confident that we, too, will be accepted there before Him.

In the OT, the priests offered animals as sacrifices to make the people acceptable to God. They did this as a picture of the reality that ‘without blood there is no forgiveness of sins’ (Heb 9:22). The law demands the death of the law-breaker; God in His grace provides a substitute in the death of a sacrifice, instead. But those sacrifices didn’t pay for the rebellion of the people, because ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins’ (Heb 10:4). Instead they were all pointing to the one true Substitute Sacrifice that God has provided once for all. Jesus did not come ‘with blood that is not His own’ but when He appeared before the Father on our behalf He offered ‘the sacrifice of Himself’. …Wow. I’ve never offered a sacrifice, but I guess that when you do your confidence is based on how good the sacrifice is, right? God the Son offered His very Self – perfect in holiness, infinitely valuable, utterly beloved – to the Father on our behalf. There could be no better sacrifice. How could we be more loved? How could we be more secure?

Finally, in the OT, the high priest was a mortal man who only offered the blood of animals. Both he and his sacrifice were deficient, and so his ministry was never finished, because it was never sufficient. Jesus is different. He’s the eternally living High Priest, and He has offered a completely sufficient sacrifice, so His ministry is that of the ‘perfect tense’: a completed action with a present effect. Hebrews 7 tells us that He is ‘able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him’.  He is beyond sickness or sin or death – there is nothing that can make Him less able to be our High Priest, and nothing could ever make Him have to leave the Father’s presence. Hallelujah! I want to be one ‘who draws near to God through Jesus’, because in Him I have the promise of being ‘saved to the uttermost’.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high Priest whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood.
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God!

 

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