The priests of the Old Testament were held in high regard by the Israelites – and with good reason. It was the priests, taken from the tribe of Levi, who stood before God on behalf of the people and offered sacrifices before God for the sins of the people. It was the priests, who both in the case of sin and leprosy had to declare, as the representative of God, one clean.
How highly exalted the high priest was especially, and how privileged. Only one man could enter into the Holy of Holies, that perfect holy cube where the Ark of the Covenant was last seen. And the high priest was that man. The high priest was so highly regarded by the Israelites that even St. Paul apologized when he had spoken harshly to the high priest (though Jesus Christ did not, when he rebukes the high priest!)
But consider how small and weak the priests and high priests really were. They offered morning and evening sacrifices for sin, and then had to do it all over again the next day. They offered occasional sacrifices for sin – again and again and again. These priests were so weak that they had to offer sacrifices first for themselves, because they themselves were sinful and impure.
Only one of them could enter the Holy of Holies, the high priest, and even he could only enter one day a year, on the Day of Atonement. For the rest of the priests, a mammoth veil, 60 x 30 feet and 4 inches thick, separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and for the rest of the people, even the Holy Place was separated from them, and they could never enter. And if you were a woman or Gentile – forget it!
Now consider for a moment, the true High Priest, the one who was not afraid to rebuke the high priest of the old and dying covenant. Consider Jesus Christ, your great High Priest. He is a holy High Priest, being the only priest who did not first have to offer sacrifices for His own sins. Instead, He took upon Him the sins of the world. He is a High Priest who is undefiled and separate from sin and sinners. What the Old Covenant temple and priests could only picture, Jesus Christ has in fact become. While those priests had to offer sacrifices for sins every day, including for their own unholy selves, Jesus Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all.
Those priests all died, and the temple has been dead and buried now for almost 2000 years. But Jesus Christ lives forever, and His ministry is eternal. He has become higher than the heavens (verse 26), and in fact He sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. The golden cherubim and the mercy seat of the old temple were only pictures (albeit, sacramental and powerful pictures) of what Jesus Christ actually is.
As Bible-believing, orthodox Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father. But many of us have never given any thought to what in heaven’s name is He doing up there? If you believe the pop theology that is dominant in much of American evangelicalism, Jesus Christ is in heaven, but He isn’t exactly ruling. No, Satan is alive and well and living on planet Earth, and the earth and all that dwell therein belong to him. In fact, the world is getting worse and is becoming more and more his.
So what’s Jesus doing in such a scenario? Wringing His hands and saying “Oh dear, oh dear. I wish there were something I could do about this.” Or maybe He’s pleading with the Father: “Send me in Coach – I know I can win the game for You.”
Or maybe He’s actually already ruling, and the earth is under His feet. Maybe He’s already emerged victorious over sin and death and Satan and is reigning at the right hand of the Father.
And maybe He’s continuing to act as our High Priest. But if so, what is He doing, since He’s already paid the once for all sacrifice? In our rush to make sure that we don’t become Roman Catholics and believe that He is being re-sacrificed, we allow Him no priestly ministry at all. It’s all done, and there’s nothing left for Him to do until He returns in glory. I almost feel sorry for the Christ that we imagine this way. Imagine – you’ve humbled yourself to become a man, are miraculously born, suffer, and die for the sins of the world, are resurrected by the power of the Father, ascend to His right hand where you are now seated, send the Holy Spirit to Your disciples, and now . . . . And now you’ve got to sit and wait for who knows how long (not even You know) until You can come back and scoop everybody back up into heaven.
This is the implied theology we sometimes carry around in our heads. But the writer of Hebrews describes a different Jesus Christ, one who always lives for us and continually makes intercessions for us (verse 25.) The ministry of Jesus Christ didn’t end with His session at the right hand of the Father: its real power was only beginning. On earth, through the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ is continuing to minister to the world, doing the things He has commissioned us to do. And in heaven, Jesus Christ is acting as our High Priest, interceding for us to the Father.
Do you remember how encouraging it was to you when you discovered, during a difficult time, that many saints on earth had been praying for you? But what if you remembered that Jesus Christ Himself, your High Priest, the perfect Sacrifice and the price for your sins, was sitting right next to the Father, praying for you?
This is the picture of Jesus Christ you are to remember every day. Whenever you remember the picture of Jesus Christ in glory, as seen for example in Revelation 1, you should also remember this picture of Jesus Christ interceding for you. Because He always lives to make intercession for you, you are to remember that He is able to save you to the uttermost, if you come to God through Him (verse 25.)
Come to Jesus Christ, this Jesus Christ, today. Come to the One who rules over heaven and earth. Come to the One who has offered Himself up as the perfect Sacrifice for your sins. Come to your High Priest, who is able to make effective intercession for you before the Father.
Prayer: Father, I come before You, asking that You hear the deepest desires of my heart. Hear me, O Lord, for Your mercy is great, and according to the multitude of Your mercies look upon me; through the merits and mediation of Your blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Spend some time today picturing Jesus Christ in heaven interceding for you. Let this picture become a part of your theological and psychological memory so that you will not so quickly forget it. You might want to find an appropriate hymn to sing to help fix Jesus Christ as your High Priest in your heart. A good example would be the Gloria in excelsis.
Resolution: I resolve to come boldly before the throne of grace and before my High Priest, offering myself, my praise and thanksgiving and petitions, before the One who intercedes for me.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day