Summary: Jesus is our eternal high priest, superior to the Levitical priests of the Old Covenant.
In the recent Oscar-nominated film, “Bridge of Spies,” Tom Hanks portrays James Donovan, an American lawyer who is recruited during the Cold War to defend accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel on charges of espionage, and who was later approached to negotiate with the Soviet Union over the release of American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers. Risking his reputation, and ultimately, his own safety, Donovan succeeds in having Rudolf Abel sentenced to prison rather than executed, and eventually, is able to secure Powers’ release in exchange for Abel.
In the film and in real life, Donovan played a key role in international events, acting as an advocate for Rudolf Abel, and as a mediator between the United States, the Soviet Union and East Germany. In the first case, he represented the interests of an accused spy before an American court, and in the second, he represented the interests of the United States and Gary Powers in negotiations with foreign governments. But in both situations, he spoke and acted on behalf of those who not only could not defend themselves, but who were also unquestionably guilty.
In this week’s passage, we have an example of another successful mediator, Jesus Christ. As a priest, he stands between a just God and those who are accused of defying God’s laws. He pleads on their behalf for forgiveness and mercy, based not on their innocence, but on the fact that he has already fulfilled the sentence in their place. The question for each of us is whether we are placing our trust in Christ as our advocate before God the Father, or whether we intend to represent ourselves on the day of judgment.
For several weeks now, we’ve been studying the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. We don’t know who wrote this book. But we do know that the author of Hebrews, whoever he was, had a difficult task. The challenge he faced was how to persuade first-century Jews to embrace Christianity, to become followers of Jesus Christ. And here is the problem: from their point of view, they already had a perfectly good religion. In Judaism, they had a religion which:
• had been directly ordained by God (not of man’s devising)
• promised forgiveness of sins
• assured them of God’s love
• organized their lives, publicly and privately, through a legal code and a body of moral laws
• contained a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for religious ceremonies
• provided a world view and cosmology, which explained where they came from, and how the world came into being
• last but not least, had great stories and wonderful hymns
In short, Judaism contained pretty much everything that you would want in a religion.
It also had antiquity going for it; Judaism had been around for over thirteen centuries.
It was an ancient faith, not a recent innovation, as Christianity appeared to be.
And so the author of this book had a high bar to clear if he was going to persuade adherents of the Jewish religion to abandon the faith in which they had been raised, the faith which permeated every aspect of their lives — their family life; social life; civic life; religious life — to persuade them to leave all that behind and embrace Christ as Savior.