Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

Jesus the Great High Priest

When God brought Israel out of Egypt and established a covenant, He also established a priesthood through the levitical family of Aaron. Aaron and his sons were anointed and consecrated through sacrifice, with Aaron as the first High Priest. The tent of meeting was made so that God would meet with the people and sanctify His glory (Exod 29:43). Yet only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place where the ark of the covenant was kept. This would only happen once a year on the Day of Atonement when the High Priest would offer a sacrifice for himself first, then for the people. He would enter behind the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood with his finger in front of the mercy seat on the ark. This was so that  “atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins” (Lev 16:34). It was a meticulous process requiring great attention and care.

The priesthood approached God on behalf of the people. They served as a buffer because no one could enter directly into God’s presence due to sin, and even the High Priest had his own sins for which to atone. While God was among the people, the veil represented a barrier that only the High Priest could breach once a year. There were continual reminders of sin and the walls that it puts between God and humanity. Would this ever be resolved? Yes, and the resolution is the story of Scripture.

God enacted a plan to allow people to draw near to Him, but it required another High Priest to make atonement for sin. This High Priest, however, needed to be perfect, unlike those beset with weakness and who had to make sacrifices for their own sins (Heb 5:3). The Aaronic priesthood served God’s purposes, but it also pointed to One who was much greater. Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest, and He could sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). This is what gives us confidence to draw near to the throne of grace and receive mercy to help in time of need (v 16).

While Aaron pointed to the greater High Priest, we run into the issue that Jesus was not from the family of Aaron. How, then, could Jesus be our Priest? First, like Aaron, Jesus was called specifically by God to do this. Second, for there to be a change in the Aaronic, levitical priesthood, there had to be a change in the Law (Heb 7:12). This change was signaled long before the Aaronic priesthood existed, even back to the days of Abraham.

After Abraham returned from battle, He met Melchizedek, a priest and King of Salem (Gen 14:17-20). Melchizedek blessed Abraham and received a tithe from him. While this first passage says little about Melchizedek, we later learn that his priesthood is the one on which the Lord’s priesthood is patterned. The psalmist wrote, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind. You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa 110:4). Jesus could not have been a levitical priest, but He is a priest after the order of one who blessed and received tithes from Abraham, from whom eventually came the levitical priests. Since the lesser is blessed by the greater, we learn that the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek takes precedence over Aaron’s (see Heb 7:1-10).

What this means is that the priesthood of Jesus is even greater and “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Heb 7:22). It also means a permanent, eternal priesthood for Jesus, who was raised from the dead: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:23-25).

What makes Jesus’ priesthood even more special is that He not only is the High Priest, He is also the sacrifice who makes atonement for our sins with His own blood. He is Priest and King, ushering in a better covenant with a better sacrifice. The temple He entered was not the physical one in Jerusalem, but heaven itself where not only did He go behind the veil, but he tore the veil down to open up a new and living way (read Hebrews 9-10): “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb 9:24). Because of this, we may have “confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19). We are then called upon to remain faithful to this calling. Because of Christ’s priesthood, we have access to God.

Praise God that we have such a great High Priest and atoning sacrifice in Jesus Christ!