Summary: The O.T. sacrifices could only cover sins, whereas Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice cleanses sin.
Great High Priest
Quickly review 4:1-11: God has always offered rest to His people and still does. Be diligent to enter that rest!
Verse 11: is a plea for us to be diligent to enter that rest.
Verses 12-13: is a reason or support for the call to diligence. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…”
The word “sword” in verse is the Greek word that means “small dagger.”
Zealots: “Zealous defenders of the Law and of the national life of the Jewish people; name of a party opposing with relentless rigor any attempt to bring Judea under the dominion of idolatrous Rome, and especially of the aggressive and fanatical war party from the time of Herod until the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. The members of this party bore also the name Sicarii, from their custom of going about with daggers ("sicæ") hidden beneath their cloaks, with which they would stab any one found committing a sacrilegious act or anything provoking anti-Jewish feeling.”
When we read, memorize, and meditate on God’s word, we are arming ourselves with the sword of the Spirit. When you put your faith in Christ it is not some agreement with God that from there on out your life is going to be easy and care free. It’s exactly the opposite.
The next morning when you get out of bed, you aren’t setting your feet on a playground. You are setting your feet on a battle field. If you go into battle without your weapon, you will be destroyed! We need to arm ourselves with the word of God to not be overcome, but be overcomers.
Illustration: About 6 years back, I moved into my first apartment. Being very young and gullible, I took the easiest and cheapest one available. Little did I know that this place had blankets of mildew all throughout the air vents, drains, and window seals. I ended up leaving to a new complex, but soon realized I had breathing problems. Since I didn’t have insurance, all I could do was go to the emergency room when I had a problem. For three years I was using my emergency inhaler, five to six times a day. My body started getting immune to it which was another danger because if I ever had a real asthma attack, my body wouldn’t react to my medicine. Finally I went to an allergy specialist, where the doctor performed a special procedure.
They used an instrument called a laryngoscope which invades your deepest, unseen areas in your nose and throat, exposing the clogged, damaged, and diseased tissue that is troubling you.
God’s word is like this laryngoscope. It invades the unseen areas of our lives, exposing the diseased and damaged spiritual tissue that troubles us. Only with God’s word we do not need an appointment.
In this section today, the writer is presenting Jesus’ superiority over Aaron, the first high priest. Last week, we talked about how the Hebrew believers were turning from Christianity and going back to their original practices of Judaism. They were being persecuted for their faith from the traditional-minded Jews. The traditional-minded Jews would not convert to Christianity.
Traditional-minded Jews hated Christianity because it taught:
- God has a Son who is also divine, though the Bible says there is only one God.
- Now that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, had come, Jewish laws are obsolete and that faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation.
They were not only being persecuted by Traditional-minded Jews, but also by the Romans. The Romans outlawed many religions at this time and Christianity was one of them.
The Roman Empire outlawed Christianity because:
- Cannibalism: This rumor stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper.
- Incest: Christians called each other “brothers” and “sisters.” They also greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek, which was typical in Middle Eastern culture.
- Treason: Christians worshipped Jesus as Lord. They refused to worship the emperor.
Note: Christian perseverance paid off! Roman emperor, Constantine, legalized Christianity about 150 years later. And about 10 years after that, it became the Roman Empire’s official religion.
Jesus Christ has a superior title: In O.T. times, they had priests and they had a high priest. The high priest was the only one allowed to enter the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement to offer sacrifices for themselves and then their people. This was the holiest room in the Jewish worship center.
The writer, here, gives the salutation of “Great High Priest” to Jesus Christ. No Old Testament high priest could ever claim the name of “Great High Priest.” So what does our Lord’s greatness consist of?
He has a greater position – Aaron and his successors ministered at a tabernacle and the temple, only once a year entering the holy of holies. But Jesus Christ has “passed through the heavens.” When Christ ascended to the Father, He passed through “the heavens.” In O.T. days, before they knew as much as we know now, they mention three levels of heaven in the O.T.