The Perfect High Priest

The book of Hebrews really is one of my favorites. For the most part I would say the theme of the book is “Jesus is Better”.  But I have to be honest and say that it can be hard to read. I think that’s partly because so much of it references so many other things (sacrifices, priests, old testament characters, etc…) and if you don’t have a good working knowledge of those other things it’s possible to  get a little bit lost.

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In the Old Testament (and under the old covenant) if the Hebrews were going to come before God or interact with God or communicate with God in any way they needed a priest. The idea of a priest isn’t a foreign one to us. Pretty much all religions have them in one way or another and I think they are seen, in general, as people who you “need” if you are going to participate in that religion in some way. Truthfully, that general perception is not that different than the way priests worked for the Hebrews in the Old Testament. Under the old covenant, God lives in the temple and so if God’s people wanted to interact with God in some way they had to go to the temple. The priests were the ones who worked in the temple and were the ones who interacted with God for the people; they offered sacrifices from the people to God and they would bring the word of God from God to the people. There was also a high priest who, obviously, was the chief of the priests and he was the one who was allowed to enter into the true presence of God only once a year.

So under the old covenant access to God was limited at best. And so the people’s relationship with God was far from perfect.

It really was the high priest who made everything happen. But here is the thing, the high priest really wasn’t all that different from the common people. He wasn’t “special” in some way. He didn’t have magical powers that let him talk to God freely. By virtue of the fact that the high priest was just a man, he always had to be replaced because, like all men do, he eventually got old and died. He also, like any other man, was encumbered by his own sin. Not only was the high priest offering sacrifices for the people, he was also offering sacrifices for himself. So the high priest wasn’t the solution. He was part of the problem.

Not only was the high priest limited by his mortality and his sin, he was limited in his workplace. The Bible tells us that the temple was just a copy of the “true temple” in heaven.

So you have a mortal, dying man who has his own sin working with limited access to God in a replica of the true temple – that’s how it worked under the old covenant.

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The book of Hebrews tells us a few things about Jesus that speak to this topic. It tells us that Jesus is a much, much better high priest than anything the Hebrews had before. It tells  us that Jesus is the perfect high priest.

The priests in the old testament were always needing to be replaced because of their own mortality, but Jesus lives forever.

 [23] The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, [24] but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he           continues forever. [25] Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25 ESV)

The priests in the old testament were actually a part of the problem since they were sinners just like the rest of the people. But Jesus never sinned. He wasn’t part of the problem. He was actually the solution to the problem.

                 [26] For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. [27] He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
(Hebrews 7:26-27 ESV)

And the priests in the old testament did their work in a temporary copy of the temple that is in heaven. Jesus did his work in true temple that God made. Not a shadow of that temple set up by men.

                 [8:1] Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, [2] a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. (Hebrews 8:1-2 ESV)

Finally, the Old Testament priests were only allowed to enter into the presence of God once a year. Jesus entered into for all time.

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There are TONS of things to take from the book of Hebrews (priests, sacrifices, mediators, covenants, etc…) and I will probably get more into them in the coming weeks but my point here is just this: Jesus is the perfect high priest. We don’t need “holy men” to talk to God for us. Jesus was perfect and lives forever and has total, permanent access to God in the true temple in heaven. And through him we also have total, permanent access to God as well.

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One thought on “The Perfect High Priest

  1. Pingback: The Perfect Sacrifice « Patrick Downing

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