Wednesday, June 27, 2018

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

In Old Testament times, the office of the high priest was a position held by people whom God had called. Put in charge of the tabernacle among all other priestly duties, they were required to intercede to God on behalf of the Children of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness from Egypt towards the Promised Land. They were chosen from the tribe of Levi. “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honour.” (Exodus 28:1)  “He must be called by God just as Aaron was.” (Hebrews 5:4b)

“Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters relating to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for our sins.” (Hebrews 5:1) Once every year, the high priest would be required to go into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies to intercede for the sins of the Israelites and for his own sins as well. “...he has to offer sacrifices even for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 5:3) It was a very delicate assignment because the high priest who ‘entered the inner sanctuary, behind the curtain’ could lose his life for being unholy in God’s eyes.  Our Lord Jesus went to the cross as the sacrificial Lamb offered at the Passover in Egypt which God instructed Moses to observe in remembrance of the liberation of the Israelites.

Our Lord Jesus played a dual role not only as the Lamb of God that would be sacrificed but also as the High Priest who would perform the sacrifice. His was the perfect sacrifice – the spotless Lamb and the Chief High Priest who was on a category of His own because He hailed from the tribe of Judah not from that of the Levites.

“No one takes this honour upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But He said to Him, “You are my Son; today I have become Your Father. And He says in another place, ‘You are a priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:5-6)

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.” (Hebrews 5:7)

A permanent priesthood

All the high priests who have served in this capacity after Levi have died. They have not continued in office. Because Jesus lives forever, His position as High Priest is still valid. In fact, He has become our Chief High Priest. ”Now there has been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for us.” (Hebrews 7:23-26) “Here is the High Priest perfectly adapted to our needs, as was fitting, holy, blameless, unstained by sin, separated from sinners and exalted higher than the heavens.”  (Hebrews 7:26 Amplified version)

“Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people.. He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)

The priests of old entered the outer room to perform their duties, but only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” (Hebrews 9:7)

“When Christ came as High priest ...He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12)

The writer of the Book of Hebrews argues that there would not have been any need for a change in the priesthood if the first one was not flawed. “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” 

He gives an answer to this rhetorical question. “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.” (Hebrews 7:12-13) Our Lord Jesus did not become High Priest on the basis of the law, but in the order of Melchizedek – ‘one who has become a high priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible gift.”   (Hebrews 7:16)

Christ has been “raised from the dead” by the Father who has “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in this present age but in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)

“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You [Jesus] are a Priest FOREVER.” (Hebrews 7:20b)