2016-12-18 The Eternal High Priest

HEBREWS 4:14-5:10                                                                          DECEMBER 18, 2016

“THE ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST”

The advent season is meant to prepare us spiritually for the celebration of God coming in human flesh to save his people. Our culture has changed this celebration into a time of giving presents to one another focusing on celebrating our family ties. Anyone who challenges this assumption is often labeled a scrooge. Yet, we do realize that Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), is the greatest gift that we have been given!

In order to broaden our appreciation and praise to the LORD for sending his Son Jesus to this world he created I want us to take a closer look at part of God’s plan. During the Old Testament God provided three separate offices that spoke for God, provided mediation with the Holy God and one who led the people and the nation in this world when interacting with non-believers. We know these offices as prophet, priest, and king.

In the Old Testament scriptures, we come across the priesthood of Aaron and that the priesthood was passed down from father to son. Being a priest meant that you interceded with God on behalf of the people and presented their requests to God. The role of a priest was similar to having an agent represent you. Yet in this instance, the agent, the priest, is acting on your behalf of the Almighty and Sovereign God. In approaching God the priest had been given an extremely difficult and exasperating group of clients. The clients were in no position to bargain with a holy and perfect God and must rely on the goodness and mercy of God. Unfortunately, it is similar to being stopped by law enforcement when driving your car, knowing that you are indeed guilty of speeding. At that moment you do not want justice but mercy. You want the law enforcement officer to be kind and forgiving.

From the Message in Hebrews 5:13 “Every high priest selected to represent men and women before God and offer sacrifices for their sins should be able to deal gently with their failings, since he knows what it is like from his own experience. But that also means that he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the people.” One of the problems is that one would need to fill the office of priest with only the most moral people. However, the scriptures are filled with examples of priests who were immoral in every way. We still continue to know of priests and ministers who are immoral and should not be holding such a responsible office. This presents a problem.

So what did God plan to do with having imperfect, sinful people as priests? Hebrews 5:4-6 (NIV) 4 No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 6 And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was a unique individual and is mentioned only in Genesis 14. The author of Hebrews provides us more information on this person and why he is important in understanding Jesus being a priest from the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:1-3 (NIV) 1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” In this way, Jesus serves forever as our priest in interceding before God on our behalf. Jesus is the perfect high priest.

Yet in spite of Jesus being God, thus being perfect, he does understand our human failings as he became human and lived on this earth. Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV) 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!” Jesus understands our human frailties and shortcomings. Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV) 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God decreed that our sins must be atoned for, wiped away as if they never existed. For this to occur, the shedding of blood was necessary. Leviticus 17:11 (NIV) 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Hebrews 9:22 (NIV) 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”The problem is that we also needed a perfect sacrifice that would satisfy God’s holiness. Hebrews 10:11-14 (NIV) 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Since Jesus is our priest forever, we no longer need to have the office of priest. This is why most Protestants do not even use the term priest. This is why I am called to be a minister or pastor because of Jesus, our great high priest, eternally intercedes for us. This is also why we do not pray to Mary or to any other saint. Why should we go to anyone else when we can go straight to Jesus, who is the perfect priest and mediator? It would be foolish indeed!

In his book “Written in Blood”, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. This was in the early days of blood transfusions when they did not have the means of saving blood and so they would give it directly from one person to the next. The doctor explained that his sister had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor. The doctor asked Johnny, “Would you give your blood to Mary?” His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said. “Sure, for my sister!”

Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room. Mary was pale and thin while Johnny was strong and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube. When the ordeal was almost over, his voice, slightly shaky, broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?”

Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated and why his lip had trembled when he’d agreed to donate his blood. Johnny thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that great moment, he had made his greatest decision, to give up his life for his sister. John 3:16 (NIV) 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Hebrews 10:19-23 (NIV) 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Jesus, the Son of God, was born into this world to become the perfect high priest and at the same time the perfect sacrifice to atone (take away) our sins. May we indeed prepare for Christmas, to worship and adore the One who gave his life so that we might be saved. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Let us pray.

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