The Ultimate High Priest

Hebrews 5:1-10

March 28th & 29th, 2009


          The religious leader who today has   the highest name recognition and arguably the most significant influence is probably the Pope.  In Jewish community at the time of Jesus, the religious leader who had the greatest significance was the High Priest.  In Israel’s history King David, and even Elijah were very important, but few if any could match the practical and present significance of the High Priest.  Why?  The High Priest was in a very tangible way the go between, before God and humanity on things of great significance.  It is the High Priest who would enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and take the peoples sacrifices to the lord.  It is the high priest who had with him what the Old Testament called the Umin and Thummin, which were in some way shape or form able to discern the lord’s will.  On his Journey to Calvary it was Jesus himself who would appear not only at the judgment seat of Pilate, but also the High Priest, Caiaphas.    Why is this biblical history lesson important?  Over twenty times in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is referred as being the  High Priest.  Everything people looked to in a high priest, Jesus brought and brings to the table.  While we don’t use priestly language, or even have its equivielent in the world today, there are tremendous things we have in Jesus because he is our high priest.   It is also interesting to note the contrast between Jesus as our high priest in Hebrews, and James and John seeking to become great in their own terms in the Kingdom of God as seen in today’s gospel reading.

          The first thing we see is that Jesus was chosen/appointed to be our High Priest or Savior.  “”Every High priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf o men in relation to God…..(verse 1) So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”.  Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, humbly followed the will of the Father.  Granted, it was his will to, but it wasn’t merely his self appointment to be a Savior.   Contrast this humility with the disciples in our gospel reading, they like us, want to tell Jesus what things should be like…”we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you”.   Sound familiar?  It was as if they were saying “ Lord if you’re going to be my Savior, someone whom I can trust then this is what I expect.  A  life that is smooth sailing, a life where I don’t have to give up much, a life…..” well you get the point.   The first humans Adam and Eve, along with the disciples in todays reading thought they were in charge, and were not willing to humbling receive the good gifts of God .  Yet   Jesus the ultimate of High Priests was appointed, called to his position.  

          Secondly, since he came as a man he deals gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  While Jesus has no sin, he does experience on his Calvary journey the weakness, the pain, the sorrow, the weeping that humanity faces.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been empted in every way, just as we are-yet without sin.  Therefore 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”. (Hebrews 4:15-16)   You see what has happened here is that the great High Priest Jesus, God himself, has made himself accessible to each of us.   He is there to come to rescue and help those dealing with health difficulties.  He is there to forgive those who out of weakness sinned against him and others.  He is there to give hope to the grieving.  He is there to bring meaning into everyday life.  Jesus comes down to our level, and stoops to our weaknesses in order to be our strength.   He isn’t’ just anyone, he is the great high priest, who prayed with tears, so that when we pray with tears we can be confident that Jesus was in the same boat as we are.     Jesus is there to help us when the unthinkable happens, when our greatest or even “almost our greatest” fears are realized.    Now notice how different the disciples are, he says can handle what I’m going to handle, can face the just wrath of God on your own.  They, incredibly say, yes we are able……. Again, they like so many of us, say we can handle it Lord, whatever comes our way.   There is a sense of entitlement with the disciples.  Jesus is our High Priest, he knows we can’t do it ourselves.

          Jesus as High Priest also was the priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Now Melchizedek was a priest that Abraham encountered in what is present day Jerusalem.  He came to represent, the eternal priesthood.  That is, the person who came in the place of Melchizedek, would be the once for all final priest.   Jesus has entered not the earthly temple, but heaven itself.  He has come from the other side, for us.  Hebrews 6:20 says he has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.  In other words,  unlike the priests and religious leaders of that day  Jesus wouldn’t have to offer sacrifices again and again, but his would be the once for all sacrifice.  The final one.  Whereas the priest would again and again offer sacrifices which couldn’t really take care of sins, Jesus would do it once and for all.  All our sacrifices of time, talent, and treasure now can be used for our neighbor, and are not necessary to satisfy our God.  Jesus sacrifice is more than enough, and to show you that, he gives you the gift of his body and blood.  To show you that he gives to all repentant sinners, that peace which the world cannot give.   A High Priest, was there to help God’s people look forward to the greatest sacrifice at all.  The almighty God, and his mercy, became accessible through the High Priest.   We have the ultimate High Priest, who Hebrews says lives to intercede for us.   He is the one who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.  He is the one who bids us to live out this service, in the lives of others.  The humble, appointed high priest, who became one of us even in our weaknesses, is the forever high priest, who hung between earth and hell so that we might truly live.  His sacrifice, more than covers us in the mercy and love of God.  Thanks be to God for the ultimate High Priest.