Summary: Jesus is our sympathetic, duely appointed, eternal, obedient, and perfect Priest.
Jesus: the Greater High Priest
SCRIPTURE READING: Hebrews 4:14-16
Up to this point we have seen in Hebrews, the message that Jesus is GREATER…
· Chapter 1 – Greater than Angels and Prophets
· Chapter 2 – The Greater Man
· Chapter 3 – Greater than Moses, and provides us a Greater Rest than the Israelites had in the Promised Land.
· Chapter 4 & 5 – The Greater High Priest
What do you picture when you think of a Priest? Chances are you picture a certain kind of clothing. There’s probably some truth in the expression, “clothes make the man.” If you think of a police officer, a fireman, a soldier --- or even a ball-player, you picture a certain uniform. When you think of a Priest you probably picture a long black robe with vestments and a stiff white collar.
That’s not what the Jewish Christians pictured when they heard the word Priest. They pictured a man dressed in a white linen robe with a robe of deep blue over it. He would have a breastplate with 12 stones on it, and a golden frontlet. They would picture the High Priest, entering the Holy of Holies in the Temple.
Only the High Priest was allowed to pass through that Curtain and make sacrifices for the sins of the nation on the Day of Atonement. Only the High Priest could go before God as the people’s Representative. Only the High Priest could offer sacrifices as payment for the nation’s sins. If you were a Jew, you looked to the High Priest as your one and only hope of salvation.
The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is now the one and only High Priest for all the world. Let’s look in Hebrews 4 and 5 to see why Jesus is the GREATER High Priest. For one thing, Jesus is a SYMPATHETIC PRIEST.
1. A Sympathetic Priest Hebrews 4:15
Hebrews 4:15 says 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
The Jewish people wanted to have a Sympathetic Priest --- but they didn’t always get it. In fact, the High Priest in Jesus’ day was an embarrassment. Annas had been the High Priest, but the position had devolved to his son-in-law, Caiaphas.
· We know about Caiaphas because he played a central part in plotting Jesus’ death.
· But Annas was no sweetie-pie either. Annas got his power by compromising with Rome. He got his wealth by turning the Temple into a Shopping Mall --- full of tables that sold merchandise to worshipers. (These were the same tables that Jesus overturned in the Temple saying, My Father’s house is a House of Prayer, but you have made it a Den of Thieves!)
The point is that neither Annas, nor Caiaphas had any Sympathy for the people. All they really cared about was their own power and wealth. What a contrast we have in Jesus Christ! He put aside the power and wealth of Heaven to come and live on earth as a human.
Hebrews 5:1-4 describes the qualities of this new High Priest. Verse 2 says, 2He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.
The original Greek word for gentle is “metriopathein.” It literally means taking a middle course between apathy and anger. Think about how we tend to react when some ignorant person does something wrong. It’s very common to get ANGRY with them. Or if we don’t get angry it’s often because we just don’t care at all, and we’re completely APATHETIC.
But Jesus, our “true High Priest is not indifferent to moral lapses; neither is he harsh. He is able to take the position only because he shares himself in the same ‘weakness’ as the sinner on whom he has compassion.” Leon Morris, Expositor’s B.C. p.47
2. An Appointed Priest Hebrews 5:5
Hebrews 5:4 says that Jesus is not only a SYMPATHETIC Priest; He is an APPOINTED Priest. 4No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.
Now, this may not mean much to us, but remember … Hebrews is called Hebrews because it was written to Hebrews. And all Hebrews knew that no one could claim to be a Priest unless they were duly appointed descendents of Aaron.
Anyone who attempted to be some kind of “self-appointed” High Priest was going to be in serious trouble. The Hebrew Christians were familiar with Old Testament examples of people who tried to usurp Priestly Authority. Every one of them met a bad end.
--- like the 250 princes of Korah’s family who decided they had the right to be Prophets and Priests just like Moses and Aaron. The earth opened up and swallowed them! (Numbers 16)