Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4).
Within the religion of the Jews, there was no more exalted position that could be held among men than that of the high priest. In the days of the New Testament, the office of high priest held significant power. He was the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel
But the most important task of the high priest took place on Yom Kippur C the Day of Atonement. It was on this day that the high priest would enter into the innermost part of the temple and make a sacrifice for the sins of the nation.
Picture the scene. As the first rays of the morning sun break across the Mount of Olives, a priest standing on the Pinnacle of the Temple sound the trumpet. This is the signal that the morning sacrifices are about to begin. A total of fifteen animals are sacrificed on the massive altar that stands before the Temple. In the presence of thousands of witnesses, the high priest slaughters these animals with a ceremonial knife. The court runs red with the blood of the slain animals. A portion of the blood is poured into a cup.
At the appointed time, the high priest takes the cup and enters into the Temple. Passing through the outer doors, he finds himself in the Holy Place. To his left is a golden lampstand, casting its soft light through the room. To his right stands the table of shewbread. Before him stands the altar of incense, its coals still warm from the morning offerings. Beyond the altar of incense is the great double veil. Normally no man is permitted to pass beyond the veil. But on this day, the high priest passes through the veil to enter into the Holy of Holies.
Dominating this room is a single piece of furniture. It is the Ark of the Covenant. It is a wooden chest overlaid with gold. It has a lid of pure gold. This lid is known as the Mercy Seat. On each end of the Mercy Seat is the golden figure of an angel, bowed inward and facing the center of the Mercy Seat. This Mercy Seat represents the throne of God.
Here in the dim light of the Holy of Holies, the high priest sprinkles blood onto the Mercy Seat. In doing so, his is providing an atonement for the sins of the people.
OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14).
Over the years there had been many high priests. Generation after generation had served this exalted office. Each year, for over a thousand years, a high priest had entered the Temple and offered a sacrifice.
But we have something unique. We have something that the Jews never had. We have a GREAT high priest. There are two things that make Him great.
1. He is a great high priest because He has passed through the heavens.
Thee high priest of the Jews passed through the veils into the inner part of the Temple once each year. But our high priest has gone much further. Our high priest has passed through into heaven itself. As exalted as the position of the high priest of Jerusalem was considered to be, the position of Jesus Christ is much higher.
2. He is a great high priest because He is the Son of God.
This is the title that is given to Jesus. He is called AJesus the Son of God.@ No high priest was ever able to take for himself the title of the Son of God. At best, the priest was a servant of God and a temporary mediator between God and men.
Because of these two truths, we are given an exhortation. It is an exhortation to hold fast to the faith. The reason that this exhortation is given is because the readers were being tempted to abandon their faith.
Hard times had come upon the church. Believers were being persecuted for their faith. And some were beginning to think that it might be easier if they put aside their beliefs about Jesus and went back to their Judaism with its ceremonies and rituals.
The exhortation that is given here will be repeated in verse 16. They are essentially the same. There is a real parallelism here. It is known as a CHIASM.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God...
Let us hold fast our confession
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace