Summary: Christ fulfilled the meaning of the Old Testament priesthood when he offered himself as a once-for-all sacrifice for sin.
“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”” (Hebrews 5:5–6, ESV)
We continue our series on JESUS - BC. One of the OT pictures of JESUS is a Jesus as our Great High Priest. We will study this today, but FIRST... We have to get a picture of how first Century Jews understood PRIESTS
IMAGINE you lived in JERUSALEM a the time of Jesus. It’s CAREER DAY at your school. Children have invited their dad’s to tell what they do. You might expect to hear from a Carpenter, a Fisherman or perhaps a shepherd or olive grower. And maybe you would also hear from a PRIEST.
I would like to explain the concept of a priest in the time of Christ. We will look at the PURITY of a priest, the PURPOSE of a priest, and the PRACTICES of a priest.
First - the PURITY a Priest:
A priest was from the tribe of LEVI. They had to prove their lineage. We are reminded of this during the time of the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian captivity. After 70 years of being absent from the land - years when records would have been difficult to maintain, only those priests who could document their ancestry were allowed to serve. “These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.” (Nehemiah 7:64, ESV)
In addition to having a certifiable ancestry, a priest had to meet the additional physical standards:
No blemishes or defects. Leviticus 21:17-23
Could not touch anything dead. Lev 21:1-6
Could not drink wine while in the Tabernacle/Temple. Lev. 10:9
Could not defile themselves by eating what was torn. Lev 22:8
No sojourner or strangers could eat of their portion. Lev 22:10
These standards were not meant by God to discriminate against anyone. There was nothing shameful about having a birth defect, for example. However, the priests represented God’s holiness, and so to mark their distinctiveness, these strict standards were in place.
Second, notice the PURPOSES for PRIESTS
The FIRST was Reconciliation. The priests offered sacrifices so that the people could be reconciled with God. They represented God’s HOLINESS.
“They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.” (Leviticus 21:6, ESV)
“Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: ..... “And I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers.” (Ezra 8:24, 28, ESV)
Josephus tells us The HIGH PRIEST wore on his forehead a GOLD PLATE with the words “Holy Unto the LORD”
The SECONE purpose was Mediation. The priests helped to bring the people to God. The Hebrew for priest is Cohen. This meant, “One who stands up for another and mediates his cause.” (Edersheim, “The Temple, 85)