Jesus Christ as Our High Priest
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
The reality we all face in this sin-stained world is the truth that there is nothing of our own will or action that can remove our innate sin nature. Nothing. Now, you may be asking yourself, “Well where is the hope in that?” The only answer is written in the blood of Jesus Christ that was spilled on the cross of Calvary. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven (Heb. 1:1-4). That is the answer to our sin nature. Jesus as our High Priest sits and watches; He sees and knows everything and intercedes on our behalf. Unlike the priests from the times of the Old Testament, who never finished making sacrifices, Jesus has finished His sacrificial work. His sacrifice on the cross was final and complete.
Old Covenant – Priests and Temple Sacrifice
In the the Old Covenant, the people of God knew the idea of a mediator only through the shadow of the Old Covenant priests, and particularly the high priest of Israel. The high priest was the only individual who could enter the innermost part of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies, and that was only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). The priests were to offer sacrifices of various kinds- sin, burnt, grain, peace, and trespass offerings- (Lev. 1-7) which all ultimately pointed forward to Jesus and His complete sacrifice for our sins. God specifically set aside the Levites, one of Israel’s twelve tribes, to perform specific daily rituals and duties. However, these chosen Levites were still corrupted because of their sin nature. Some of them worshiped idols and stole from others (Ezek. 22:26; Jer. 2:8). Pastor David Mathis clarifies that,
The first covenant, with its earthly location and priesthood, was good and effective for a season, as God intended. Through animal blood, it brought God’s people, represented by the high priest, into his presence each year. However, the new covenant is better. Through Jesus — the superior priest, who cleanses us fully (inside and out), by means of his superior blood — we are invited to approach the very throne of God himself not just annually but weekly, daily, and at any moment (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The final answer came in the New Covenant, where the priestly line would come from the order of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20), and the order of sacrifices under the Law would cease in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus would come, not from the fallible order of the Levites, but from Judah. Jesus reigns and He will not be succeeded by another priest; for His perfect life is the resounding end to temple sacrifice and atonement. He is our new and final High Priest.
New Covenant – Jesus as our High Priest
Jesus as High Priest atoned once and for all for the sins of humanity by offering His own life as the substitutionary sacrifice that satisfied the wrath of God. The atonement of the New Covenant is far greater than any atonement that came through the Levitical priests. The Law would no longer need to be fulfilled by earthly practices, but rather would be abolished forever because of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice (Gal. 3:10-14). For the Lord declares, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). Christs’ sacrifice was effective because His life was perfect and He did not remain dead, but rather was raised to eternal life at the right hand of His Father in Heaven to intercede for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 8:1-2).
Both Christ’s full humanity and full divinity are necessary to fulfill this role as the great High Priest. As Christians, our confidence is not in our own abilities or works, but rather in the High Priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and was tempted just as we are, yet lived without sin (Heb. 4:14-15). He is our assured hope and anchor for our soul because He alone meets the requirements for a full sacrifice (Heb. 6:19-20). Jesus makes the propitiation for our sins, and by His own blood secures the covenant and enters the most Holy place where He reigns today (Heb. 9:11-12). To be seated at God’s right hand implies the greatest of honor and authority which Jesus possesses in His perfect union with the Father. Jesus’ divinity is further expressed in Hebrews 7:26-28, where it is written,
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once and for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. – Hebrews 7:26-28
The Truth for Today
So, what does this mean for you today? Well, if you are in Christ, you have a mediator who has secured eternity for you at the price of his own life. It is as Dr. Brandon Crowe, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary writes,
Jesus’ sacrifice provides the solution to a problem that we often find in the Old Testament: even where sacrifices may be offered, people’s hearts (including those of the priests) were often far from God.
Praise be to God who saw us in our affliction and had a plan for redemption before time began. The fruition of this plan was Jesus Christ. Those who come to faith and submit their whole lives to Christ have a changed heart that is filled with the guiding direction of the Holy Spirit. We no longer need to perform ritual sacrifices, but we give our lives in obedient sacrifice to the calling of the Lord. It is through His grace and mercy we are being sanctified through the Spirit to bring others into the loving embrace of the Father and the presence of the priestly King, Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:11-14). He is our confidence and peace so that we, as redeemed sinners, can enter His presence with boldness now and for eternity (Heb. 4:16). This redemption allows us to sing joyfully the song “Before the Throne of God Above,” knowing that Jesus reigns as our loving High Priest. And because of this truth, the Lord will never reject us.