Hebrews 5-7, Part 6
I awakened long before sunrise and lay staring into the darkness. The lab results from the CT of my heart were devastating, and I now feel like a walking time bomb. How much time do I have left? I have no idea. But, my “risk of heart attack” is so high that the number is more than three times the standard for “high risk.”
Suddenly life feels fleeting, and I feel woefully fragile.
In this dark moment, I remember a significant fact: I have a high priest, the best high priest possible, One who loves me enough to die for me himself. He’s my only way to eternal life after my heart stops beating.
I’m aware now of the importance of Jesus’ high priestly role in a new way. When death and the coming judgment were perhaps twenty to twenty-five years away (or so I thought), it felt academic. Now it doesn’t. Nope, not at all.
Like the human high priests who went before him, Jesus was also worn and beat up by the trials of life. He himself also faced death, sweating great drops of blood over it. Therefore, Hebrews 5:2 tells us that he can “deal gently with the ignorant and wayward,” for he too is human, though he never sinned. Since I’ve often quite ignorant and wayward, this is a relief.
He was tempted in all things as we. He knows exactly how we feel.
Jesus knew the feeling of death’s inevitable approach. He faced it and carried out his mission all the way through the death and afterward. Having been tried and having shown himself perfect, he learned the obedience of a human man through all he suffered. His victory over the humanness of sin is our victory. And thus, “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9 ESV).
Hebrews 6 calls all of this information “the elementary doctrine of Christ” and also informs us that we must “go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” In other words, the first five chapters of Hebrews are the basic stuff, the grade-school level information, the so-called “milk,” rather than the “meat.”
This, then, must be understood:
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).
Lying in the darkness, I need grace to help in my time of need. I come boldly and find great comfort in knowing that Melchizedek was a Gentile. At that time, no one had yet descended from Abram, so the Jewish nation existed only within Abram’s body. Melchizedek was not only a model of the coming Messiah, but evidence that Gentiles have always been invited to the party, too. I’m a Gentile.
When you get bad lab results, you feel mighty glad to have been invited to the party! In the darkness I thank Jesus for Melchizedek. I thank Jesus for himself — for who he is, for his deep and abiding love for us, for his desire and willingness to come and save us. I thank him for offering himself up for me, for shedding his blood for us, and for mediating—standing between us and God. We can’t come to God any other way.
In the darkness he feels near and dear. He has already numbered my days, so he knows exactly how much time I have left on this earth, and he loves me enough to have suffered and died for me. He feels the same about you.
The Levitical high priests stood between God and Israel making bloody offerings to cover the sins of themselves and of the entire nation. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Therefore, the yearly Day of Atonement was especially significant.
However, after the sacrifice, sins immediately began accumulating again, for we are sinners in thought, word, and deed. Jesus’ offering, however, needs no annual renewal. It stands forever, for which I am and will be eternally grateful. This is why Jesus came to offer himself and his life blood as our eternal high priest, our mediator between God and man.
No other offering for sin needs to be made. None whatsoever. Ever.
Like Melchizedek, Jesus came from a different lineage than the Jewish Levitical priesthood. He was not of Levi’s tribe. He wasn’t descended from Aaron, but rather he came down from Judah’s line. Melchizedek’s presence as a high priest in Genesis prepared those who were watching for Messiah.
High priests were chosen and then served for life, but Jesus serves eternally. He created the world, he shepherded humankind from the moments when he walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve, and he continues to advocate and to plead for us before the Father in heaven until he returns for us.
From the Father’s right hand, he pleads our case even now, and he can do so because of his blazing pure holiness. Levitical high priests had to make an offering for their own sins and had to remain ritually pure, but Jesus is sinless, sitting high above any high priest who ever served. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet he never sinned. This is the highest degree of holiness imaginable, for Jesus is God in the flesh.
And thus, he qualified as the perfect offering for the sins of humankind. Only he could make that offering, for the whole of the world has committed errors aplenty. And, I’m one of those people. His offering was sufficient for me. The Lord knows I can’t get to heaven on my own merits!
The decision for Jesus to become our high priest was made among the Godhead before time began. It was Plan A. We get glimpses into these discussions in the book of Isaiah. In harmony, the Trinitarian God planned this, and the Son set his face toward redeeming a fallen people, a thankless job that would require his torture, death, and resurrection.
While high priests only represented the people of Israel and converts to Judaism, Jesus represents all of humanity, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. He was born specifically for the purpose of bringing both Jews and Gentiles into God’s kingdom.
Only the high priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies and then only on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:1–25). But, Jesus’ death ripped open the holy of holies, making a way for every single man, woman, and child to know God through faith in Christ’s work on the cross. He brings us right up to God in person.
Jesus' death ripped open the holy of holies, making a way for every single man, woman, and child to know God through faith in Christ's work on the cross. He brings us right up to God in person. Click To Tweet
The death of the high priest marked the end of an epoch, and it removed bloodguilt that would pollute the land. (Num. 35:25, 28, 32,33; Josh. 20:6). But, Jesus lives forever. There is no death of this high priest and no end to this priesthood. The Levitical high priesthood was made obsolete by Christ’s work on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins for all time.
Jesus’ entire life was an offering. Though he never sinned, he deals more gently with the human race than any human high priest ever could, for he understands our brokenness from an eternal perspective. He serves as both priest and as sacrifice — the ultimate act of love. His offering of himself is so effective that it could be applied to every human who has ever lived, if every human had accepted his offering by faith. Before time began, God designated his Son for this.
“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (Romans 8:33-34 NLT).
And, here’s the kicker, the final and most significant detail and requirement of Jesus’ role as our high priest and advocate before God.
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. [And it has been. We are of a new covenant.] 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but ON THE BASIS OF THE POWER OF AN INDESTRUCTIBLE LIFE. 17 For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:11-17 ESV; quoting Psalm 110:4).
Jesus rose from the dead. He appeared before hundreds. He traveled, ate meals, and imparted instructions. He turned the world upside down. His life proved to be indestructible. Clearly, he is God in the flesh.
Therefore, it doesn’t matter what my lab results say, or whether my heart shuts things down long before I had hoped. I have an Advocate. I have a High Priest, and he is God in the flesh. He knows my days. He knows my beginning and my end. On the final day, he will raise my corpse to life, restoring my dead bones. I can entrust myself entirely to him and let it go.