"The Great High Priest"
Jesus is many things as the Hebrew writer compares him to the Old Covenant. One of the comparisons is to the high priest. What makes Jesus our Great High Priest?
The Great High Priest
A. I would guess every person in here has crossed a bridge somewhere in the greater Pittsburgh area. In fact Pittsburgh is known as the “City of Bridges” with 446 of them.
B. One marvel, when it comes to bridges, is the Confederation Bridge which connects New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It is about 8 miles long and considered to be the longest in the world. But that bridge wasn’t built until 1997, until then you had to take a ferry. But here is my point. I don’t care how many bridges there are in Pittsburgh or that the Confederation Bridge is the longest. Bridges do not simply connect land to land; they connect people, making face-to-face relationships possible.
C. Some journeys can’t be completed without crossing the right bridge. Jesus is our bridge to God. We are far more familiar with bridges than we are a Jewish High Priest. But the idea of the high priest was one of connecting the people to God – a “bridge” between sinful man and a holy God. That is idea we read in Heb. 5:1.
D. There is so much about what a high priest did in the days of ancient Israel that get lost in modern Christianity. Our study today will help us to see some of the great things a high priest did and why Jesus is our Great High Priest.
I. Jesus, Our Bridge To God
A. When sin came into this world, mankind had a problem it could never solve by itself. God never stopped loving us, just because we stopped loving Him. We chose to sin, but God chose to fix our sin problem. So many people see God throughout the OT as a vengeful and angry God, but what we see is a God who is holy and just. In that justice, sin had to be held accountable by the sinner. So yes, God’s wrath on sin, was seen more clearly throughout the OT, but so was God’s desire to help those who sinned by providing a way for them to atone for their sin through sacrifices.
B. God took the initiative to help us by creating a priesthood that would stand in gap between man and God. Their role was to help the people deal with their sin by offering sacrifices for the people. They helped people understand God in their lives. They served as God’s representative for the masses. But the High Priest served as the representative of all the people and on one special day each year offered the atonement for all the people.
C. The Day of Atonement did not start with the High Priest choosing a scape goat and a sacrificing another, it started his him making sacrifices for his own sin, just as he would do for all the others. The Hebrew writer put it this way (Heb. 5:2-4). The bridge between man and God has begun with Aaron, but it was not completed for many years to come.
D. Listen to Heb. 5:5-6. Now come back with me to the reading we had just before I began (Heb. 4:14-16). The bridge was completed when God became flesh, dwelt among us, and then became both the sacrifice and the High Priest. Because of who Jesus is, the Hebrew writer tells us to respond with two actions; the first is “Let us hold fast our confession.” The NIV uses the phrase, “The faith we profess;” the New Living says, “to what we believe.” However you render this phrase, because of who Jesus is, I cling to him. And like Thomas, I say, “My lord and my God.”
E. The second action is to “draw near to the throne of grace.” The calling is for us to have boldness and confidence to enter the holy of holies and spend time with God. The writer will give us more details on this later, but because Jesus is our great High Priest, we don’t need people to intercede for us and we don’t need animals sacrificed for us. All that took place in Jesus, our bridge to God.
II. The Teaching High Priest
A. I want to share one more thought with you. And that is Jesus also does what the High Priest did for all the people, he teaches us by example. The writer zeros in on that by telling us about the humanity of Jesus (Heb. 5:7-10).
B. How many of us have had times in our lives where fell before God in tears and prayed crying out for help? I cannot understand what took place at the cross when Jesus bore my sin in his body. I cannot fully understand the cry of “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” I can know that Jesus trusted the Father and know from the Psalm that is quoted that good was coming, but I don’t know understand all the pain that he bore. I do understand he chose to die so I could live, and then defeated death that I might live forever with him. That much I do know.
C. My guess, the Hebrew writer was thinking of the story of Jesus in the garden on the night Judas would betray him. We are told that Jesus went a little farther on his own and kneeling prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” With tears and sweat dropping to the ground Jesus cried out.
D. Paul would write (Phil. 2:8-11). I don’t know if the Hebrew writer was thinking of those words also, but they all fit out text. Jesus learned obedience by suffering, and then became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.
A. Jesus, our great high priest. The bridge that took the chasm of sin and with outstretched arms allows me to come God. There is no one like Jesus.
B. Today, we honor him in worship by taking of his body and blood and communing with God through him. We sing praises to God because of what power that came to us by our high priest making atonement for our sin. This is a great day. A day that lifts us up to heavens and brings us before the throne of God. If we can help you claim the joy of your salvation, come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister