Summary: Jesus has bridged the gap between us and God and has made a way for us to come before God and worship Him
Jesus The Priest: “Portraits of Christ” series: Hebrews 4:14-16
Jan. 26/27, 2002 – Steve Simala Grant
I know we have heard a lot already this morning, and experienced a wide range of emotions. We heard from Matt, one of our pastors and friends, who has felt God leading him to resign and complete his education and then move back to BC where he and Dawn’s families are. We react to that with a whole range of emotions, including shock, sadness, and uncertainty about what happens next. I don’t mind sharing that we used a large number of Kleenexes at our staff meeting this week.
We have also heard Janice’s testimony this morning, heard how God has been working in her life for many years and some of the exciting things He has been doing lately. And we react to that with a whole range of emotions also – excitement, gratitude, hopefully even a desire for each of us to experience God more in our own lives.
I know that we come together each week out of a variety of experiences and emotions, and today we have heard these two specific things which give rise to a whole bunch of other emotions. I believe that a big part of our job in worship is to enable us to bring all of those things together before God and allow God to speak to us. And it is somewhat fitting that the portrait of Christ I want to look at today is that of Jesus as our priest. You see, the major job of a priest is to facilitate worship – to enable God’s people to come before God and have communication and conversation – to bring an offering of worship and also to find strength and encouragement and healing and power. That is what Jesus has done for us – He has bridged the gap between us and God and has made a way for us to come before God and worship Him.
It might be helpful to begin by backing up from Jesus into the OT for just a moment. After leading His people out of Egypt, God provided them with a detailed description of how to worship Him. A significant part of this description was the setting aside of a large group of people (those of the tribe of Levi) to be “priests.” Their job was to serve the Lord in His Tabernacle (and later His Temple), to offer the sacrifices brought by the people. So the people would bring their offering of grain, or of animals, give them to the priests who would then present them to God. In it’s simplest form, the responsibility of the priests was to present the people to God. They really functioned as a go-between.
That is a really simplistic overview, but I think is enough to enable us to understand Jesus as our priest. I realized too late this week that my title is wrong: it was “Jesus the Priest;” it should be “Jesus the Great High Priest.” That is the title my NIV Bible gives to the passage of Scripture I want to look at – Hebrews 4:14-16. These three verses introduce the next five chapters of the book of Hebrews, which are a detailed discussion about Jesus as our great high priest, and I would encourage you to go home and read all the way to chapter 11 this afternoon or evening; you’ll get a much more complete picture than I can paint this morning. But even in these 3 short verse, the author gives us a lot to chew on. First, 6 descriptions of our priest, then 2 consequences of what this means for us.
1. Who our Priest is (6 descriptors):
A. “a great high priest”
In my really brief background above, I didn’t mention that out of this entire group of priests, one was chosen for a unique role – one priest was chosen by God to be the High Priest. This one man had additional responsibilities, most notably for our purposes was an annual duty on behalf of all of God’s people. This is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Leviticus 16 describes in detail the responsibilities of the High Priest on this day, with the overall purpose being that on this one day all of the sins of God’s people would be recounted and atoned for. Part of his duties on that one day was to take two goats, to sacrifice one and on the other to place all the sins of God’s people – he would put his hands on the head of the goat and recite out loud all the wicked and rebellious actions of God’s people. Then that goat, now known as a “scapegoat,” would be led out into the desert and released, symbolizing the carrying away of all the sins of God’s people. That being done, the High Priest was allowed to enter into the Most Holy Place, or The Holy of Holies – to enter the very place where God dwelt – to make sacrifices for the sins of the people. This was the only day entrance was permitted, and the High Priest the only man permitted to enter.