Summary: Jesus is our Great High Priest
The Throne of Grace
July 10, 2011
The Bible is an account of how God has rescued His people and taught them to worship Him.
When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God rescued them with signs and wonders and then gave them His laws. The people couldn’t keep all the laws, and so God set up a priesthood in which priests (from the tribe of Levi) would offer animal sacrifices on behalf of the nation to atone for their sins.
They built a tabernacle and at its center was a place called the Most Holy place. Inside the Most Holy place was the Ark of the Covenant, and on the Ark was something called the mercy seat.
And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat (Ex. 25:22).
It was the place where God met with the people!
Once a year (and only once a year) the High Priest (and only the High Priest) entered into the Most Holy place to offer sacrifice. He had to go through all the ceremonial washings and sacrifices, he had to wear special clothes, and he had to burn incense “that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat […] that he die not” (Lev. 16:13).
If he failed to everything exactly right he immediately suffered the judgment of God and died!
Now all of these things are shadows of the real things to come. Think about it:
We’ve been washed by the blood of Christ just as the priest’s washings foreshadowed.
We’ve entered into the presence of God through our Tabernacle (Jesus) just as the priest did once a year.
We’ve been given special clothes of righteousness through Christ just as the priest donned special apparel.
We’ve received the benefit of substitutionary sacrificial atonement just as the priest and Israel.
What a joy in what Christ has done!
The writer of the book of Hebrews takes full advantage of this imagery and goes to show that Jesus Christ is not only a priest, but the Great High Priest. All those things the priest had to do in his imperfections, Christ fulfilled in His divine perfection!
And now there’s great hope for all believers whose sins have been atoned through this Great High Priest:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Heb. 4:14).
Our faith holds fast because Jesus is our Great High Priest (:14)
There really can’t be any confidence if a man is your only hope. What if he fails? What if he doesn’t want to do it?
But our Priest isn’t just some man. This Jesus is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He was declared by God to be the Priest and He is and always has been perfect. He’s not just a priest; He’s the High Priest. He’s not just the high priest; He’s the Great High Priest!
Not only that but He’s already died once (He has passed into the heavens), so death no longer has any mastery over Him. He lives forever, and so His priesthood will never end.
Not only that, but being in heaven He sees the face of God clearly. There’s no smoke of incense obstructing His view. He has full access to the Father without any of the restrictions of the earthly priests. This means that He’s our advocate before the Father, and He has direct access!
He has washed us and made us new; He has dressed us in His righteousness so that His works become our works; He has given us direct access to the Father by His substitutionary atonement!
What confidence we have in this Great High Priest who always speaks on our behalf. None of Satan’s accusations stand because we have one who ever intercedes and pleads our case.
Our faith holds fast because Jesus understands our trials (:15)
15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
This has already been mentioned in Hebrews once before:
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18)
This word for “tempted” has a couple different meanings. It could mean to have an urge from within to commit sin. If I walked by a table covered with money and no one was looking, I might be tempted to take a couple dollars for myself.
It’s just a natural temptation because I have depraved flesh—what’s been called the Adamic nature. But Christ doesn’t come from Adam; He was conceived of the Spirit, and so He has no Adamic nature. He is the infinite and changeless God, and it’s not possible that He should sin.