Jesus, Our Eternal High Priest

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Passage: Hebrews 7, Hebrews 8:2
Main Idea: Jesus is an eternal high priest who grants a better offering than the Aaronic priesthood.
Message Goal: Encourage individuals to place their hope in Jesus Christ, the highest priest.

Introduction: The Position of High Priest

The chief priest is the priest that is considered the “greatest priest” or “head priest.”

The primary function of the high priest was to administer and direct the sacrificial system. He alone was allowed to go behind the veil of the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:2). He dealt with the sin offerings whose blood was brought into the sanctuary of the temple (Lev. 4:3–21). The high priest’s responsibilities included all the sacrificial activities that took place inside the temple, either with his direct involvement or under his supervision.

The restrictions on the high priest were more pronounced than those applying to the ordinary priest. He was to take more care in issues of ritual purity and marriage. For example, in regard to marriage all the restrictions of the priests applied but with the further requirements that he was not to marry a widow and he was admonished only to “take to wife a virgin of his own people” (i.e., Israel, Lev. 21:13–15). He could not observe the external signs of mourning (i.e., letting hair grow, rending clothes) for any person, and he could not leave the sanctuary when news came of death even of a parent. He could not defile himself by contact with any dead body, including a parent (vv 10–12). If he should bring guilt upon the people, he had to present a special offering (Lev. 4:3ff.). Sins affecting the priesthood in general had to be expiated by the other priests as well as himself (Nu. 18:1). He had to wash his feet and hands when he went to the tabernacle of the congregation and when he came near to the altar to minister (Ex. 30:19–21). He had to abstain from holy things during his uncleanness (Lev. 22:1–3) or if he should become leprous (vv 4, 7). He was to eat the people’s meat offering with the priests in the holy place (Lev. 6:16). He had to help to determine whether the leprosy was present in the human body and in garments (Lev. 13:2–59), and to adjudicate legal questions (Dt. 17:12).

Dictionary of Bible Themes (7377 high priest, in OT)
The OT emphasises the spiritual importance of the high priest, especially as the one who makes atonement for the sins of the nation. It also sets out his duties and responsibilities. The role of the high priest Making atonement on the Day of Atonement Lev 16:3 See also Lev 16:1-34 Teaching Dt 33:10 See also Ezr 7:12; Ne 8:2 Providing oracles Lev 8:8 See also Nu 27:21; Dt 33:8 Interceding Ezr 9:5 Administering the sanctuary Nu 3:38 Anointing kings 2Ki 11:12 Supervising censuses Nu 26:1-2 Encouraging soldiers Dt 20:2 Titles used to refer to the high priest The priest Ex 31:10 The anointed priest Lev 4:3 See also Ex 30:30; Lev 4:5,16; 16:32 The high priest Lev 21:10 See also Hag 1:12-14; 2:2-4; Zec 3:1-8; 6:11
Dictionary of Bible Themes (7378 high priest, in NT)
Under the Roman administration the high priest remained the senior Jewish leader, but his power was limited by Roman supervision. High priests of the NT Lk 3:2; Ac 23:2 Annas was high priest from A.D. 6 until deposed by the Roman official, Gratus, in A.D. 15. Though replaced by his son Eleazar and, in A.D. 18, by Caiaphas, his son-in-law, Annas retained his authority in Jewish eyes. Strictly, there could only be one high priest at a time. Ananias, the high priest of Ac 23:2, was not related to the family of Annas. Grandeur of the high priest Jn 18:10,15 The courtyard was within a palace; Ac 6:12; 7:1 The high priest was president of the Sanhedrin.
The role of the high priest seemed to change between the Old and New Testament. However, this point remained the same—the high priest was one of the most dominant levels of the Jewish people. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the high priest was the one who stood between the God and the nation.
However, we must conclude that the designation of high priest to anyone is a high one. It implies that the one who is called high priest is the means by which man can approach God. Furthermore, there are rules to which one is to be a high priest, as we will see later. Tonight our desire will be to acknowledge our high priest.
Fifty-Two Invitation Illustrations 34. The Priest Who Can Save

In a restaurant a group of men at one of the tables were conversing upon the subject of religion. The argument grew so lively that it became impossible for those at the nearest tables not to hear it. As it proceeded, the interest of the listeners became intense.

The argument was chiefly as to whether salvation was by works or of grace, and whether a person could be assured of his salvation in this life. One of the disputants firmly insisted that salvation is, “… by grace … through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Eph. 2:8).

Another contended that no man can know he is saved until he dies. As a final argument, he exclaimed, “Well, all I can say is this, I have placed myself in the hands of my priest, and he is responsible for my salvation.”

At this point an elderly man rose from his table nearby and said, “Gentlemen, I believe I am known to you as a lawyer and a Christian. I could not help hearing the argument at your table, and I feel bound to say that our friend is perfectly logical in what he has said. I also have placed myself in the hands of my Priest, and He is responsible for my salvation. My priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith I have committed myself into His hands, and ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him’ ” (2 Tim. 1:12).

This settled the dispute. Such a statement from a man known to all for his high legal and Christian rating had an instant effect. Undoubtedly some men there heard the gospel for the first time as it was preached in a restaurant by an exponent of the law.

The question we are left to answer is: Why is Jesus our great high priest? And how did He become it?

Man as High Priest

Understands the weaknesses of others well, because he shares them (Hebrews 5:2)
Must offer sacrifices for the sake of himself (Hebrews 5:3)
A priest by natural birth (Hebrews 5:4)

Jesus As High Priest

Jesus passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14)
Jesus is our “forerunner” (Hebrews 6:20)
The word forerunner is a reference to the one that goes before, which means not only does Jesus go into the holiest of holy. Rather, He goes in with the intention of us going in after him.
Jesus is a priest with the superior ministry (Hebrews 8:6)

Hebrews 7

The critical element to understanding the superiority of Jesus’s priesthood is the character Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (see Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5-7). Melchizedek means “righteous king” or “my king is righteousness.” The reference to king of Salem means “king of peace.”
The underlying idea is that Melchizedek obtained an eternal priesthood.
Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe (Hebrews 7:4, c.f. Hebrews 7:5-9 see Levi’s tithe to the priesthood of Melchizedek)
Melchizedek was Abraham’s superior (Hebrews 7:7)
Contrast between the Levitical and Melchizedek priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-17)
Better hope given to those who trust in the priesthood of Christ rather than the law/ Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7:18-28)

Conclusion

What does Jesus being our High Priest mean?
I am not required to offer sacrifices for atonement, but sacrifices of thankfulness.
My sacrifices are eternal and heavenly.
New found hope in Jesus Christ, better than anything before.
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