Summary: Hebrews spends a lot of time focusing on Jesus as our High Priest. But what does that mean to us, and what difference can it make in our lives?
Philip Yancey , in his book “The Jesus I Never Knew” (Zondervan, 2002, p. 25) told of a Jesuit missionary - Matteo Ricci who went to China in 16th century. The missionary took along samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it. He was pleased that the Chinese audiences were intrigued by the portraits of Mary holding Jesus. But when he showed them paintings of the crucifixion, and tried to explain that the baby-Jesus grew up only to be executed, his audiences reacted with revulsion and horror. They much preferred the Virgin and they insisted on worshiping her rather than the crucified Christ.
It’s hard for some people to see beyond the manger and see what Jesus ultimately came to do. His birth is comforting, but His death on the cross can almost seem senseless… until you understand WHY He came to die.
Now the past 4 weeks we’ve focusing on Jesus having been born to be our Savior, our Sanctifier, our Mediator and our Redeemer. And all of those were tied into… Christ’s death on the cross. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, He couldn’t have been our Savior, Sanctifier, Mediator, or our Redeemer.
But this week’s text explains a little more about WHY Jesus died on the cross. This week, we’re going to focus on Jesus as our High Priest. Hebrews 2:17 says “(Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful HIGH PRIEST in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
JESUS WAS BORN TO BE OUR HIGH PRIEST
In fact, this concept - of Jesus being our High Priest was so important that a HUGE part of Hebrews was dedicated to explaining why we should care whether Jesus came to be a High Priest or not. But before we get into that … let’s start with a couple basic truths.
1st – You and I were created in the image of God. In Genesis we’re told that God created Adam and Eve in His image and He gave them a beautiful place to live - the Garden of Eden. There are scholars who believe there were times when God would come down and walk in the garden with them.
You remember the hymn “In The Garden”? Sing it with me: “I come to the Garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear, falling on my ear the Son of God discloses. (Chorus) And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.” (Merle Haggard)
The idea behind that song is that God wants to walk with us and talk with us.
But there was… a problem. And the problem was called sin - our sin! God is a holy and righteous, and (because of our sins) we’re not! And that created a problem. Psalm 5:4 tells us Our God “is not a God who delights in wickedness; EVIL MAY NOT DWELL WITH YOU.” Habakkuk 1:13 says of God “Your eyes are TOO PURE to look on evil.”
Our sins created a WALL that separated us from God. To burn that image into the minds of the Israelites (of a wall between man and God) God had them build a tabernacle that would always be in the middle of their tribes as they traveled thru Wilderness. (We showed a picture of the tabernacle in the wilderness setting in the middle of the Israelite camp).
This Tabernacle declared that god was in their midst. In Exodus 25:8 God declared: “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” The Tabernacle was a statement declaring that God wanted them to know that He wanted to be with them, and He desired to walk with them and talk with them.
But the TABERNACLE was also a declaration that there was A WALL between their sin and God’s righteousness (we showed a picture of the inside of tabernacle with an arrow pointing to the curtain). God was pictured as living inside the Holy of Holies where the Ark was. Now God actually wasn’t “living” there. You can’t put God in a box, and there’s no building on earth that could hold Him, but that was the image God wanted them see.
So God wanted them to visualize Him in the Holy of Holies and there was a curtain. And that curtain separated God from EVERYONE else. No one was allowed beyond that curtain; no one was allowed back where the ark was and where God was; NO ONE… (PAUSE) except the High Priest. And He was only allowed back there one day out of the year.