Our Great High Priest

Our Great High Priest

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
–Hebrews 4:14

Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” This is a reference to the holiest sacrificial day on the Jewish calendar: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On this day, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies. And there, after making a sacrifice for his own sins, he would sprinkle the blood of an innocent animal on the mercy seat to cover the sins of the people.

That system was limited for several reasons. First of all, the high priest who made the gift was sinful himself. He had to make an offering for his own sin before he could offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Second, the high priest had limited access to God. He could go into the Holy of Holies only once a year, and there was no seat in there; he was not free to linger and talk with God. Third, the high priest was mortal. That is, he was subject to death. On Yom Kippur, the high priest had a rope tied around his leg and bells tied around his garment. When he went by himself into the Holy of Holies, as long as people could hear the bells, they knew he was doing his job, but if those bells ever quit ringing, they knew he had died. They would use the rope to pull the body of the priest out of there because they didn’t want to defile the Holy of Holies. The priest had a continual reminder of his mortality. After the high priest died, there was another high priest, and then another high priest. Fourth, the greatest limitation was that the high priest’s work was never finished. He had to come in year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

Compare the high priest to Jesus, our perfect priest. Jesus, in contrast to the high priest, was sinless. He never sacrificed for Himself. Second, He had unlimited access to God the Father. The Bible says that after He offered the sacrifice of His blood, He sat down in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father, and that is where He is today, praying on our behalf. Third, Jesus ministers in a superior tabernacle. The Old Testament tabernacle was just a picture of what exists in Heaven. Jesus is now in the very presence of God Himself.

The writer of Hebrews was asking these Hebrew Christians, “Why would you turn away from Jesus Christ and go back to a system with an inferior priest who offered an inferior sacrifice in an inferior place? It makes no sense.” Just as it makes no sense for people today to say, “I do not need Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins; I will make my own sacrifice. Surely giving money to charity, doing good things, or joining a church is enough to get me into Heaven. Isn’t it?”

Why would anybody give up Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice, the only way our sins can be atoned for, for an inferior system? Why would we turn away from Jesus, our bridge builder, and turn to an imperfect priest to serve as our go-between with God? It makes no sense.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Hope For Those Who Have Blown It” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.