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)
Finally, our career day speech by a first century priest might end with the priest informing us of the PRACTICES of a PRIEST
There were 24 Courses of priests established by David. “According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded.” (2 Chronicles 8:14)
At the time of CHRIST, ½ of the COURSES of Priests lived in JERUSALEM.
They would serve in the TEMPLE for 1 week at a time, EVERYONE serving at TABERNACLES.
The story of the birth of John the Baptist gives us a glimpse into the life of one of the OT priests - the father of John, Zechariah. We see the rotation of Temple service, and the great honor that it was to serve in the Temple. Luke 1:5, 8-11 “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:5, ESV) “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” (Luke 1:8–11, ESV)