The High Priest: When Your Best Isnít Good Enough
Imagine life as an Old Testament Israelite. Here are three things you’d know about yourself and God: (1) God had given you a law to obey—not just a set of outward rules but an inward moral code. (2) You regularly sinned against that law and deserved judgment. (3) You needed help to make things right with God, and that could get dicey.
That third point was always tricky because it depended on a system of sacrifices and priests. God set up the system. It was a good system. Nevertheless, any sharp student of theology at the time knew that killing an animal as a sacrifice for your sin really wasn’t enough to satisfy the holy God: “The person who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20, NLT).
Then there were the priests. They sacrificed offerings on behalf of worshipers, representing the people before God. Because of this, they were set apart and holy. Ideally, being holy meant that priests lived a moral life dedicated to God. But that never went as well as it should have. Some priests were corrupt. Others put politics before their Temple responsibilities. Perhaps because of this, God chose to show the holiness of priests by outward purity. They had to be free of physical blemishes. They could marry only virgins. They had to wash themselves and wear clean clothes to do their work. Before the high priest brought blood into the Temple’s Most Holy Place, he was scrubbed from head to toe. It was an incomplete solution to the problem of sinful priests, but if you were an Old Testament Israelite it was the best you had.
You had to have faith that God was pointing to something better. Just hoping that the existing system was good enough wouldn’t get you very far.
Then came Jesus. He’s the true sacrifice for sin. He’s the guy all those sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to. His blood paid for all the sins of those who believe in him, because he was a perfectly innocent man who took our place.
Since Jesus also offered the sacrifice—by giving himself up to die—he’s our Priest as well as a sacrifice. The Bible says he “has been made the perfect High Priest forever” (Hebrews 7:28, NLT). He’s alive in heaven, representing us before God.
Here are some of the things the Bible says about Jesus the High Priest:
- “Because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:24-25, NLT).
- “We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands” (Hebrews 8:1-2, NLT).
- “Our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. . . . For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12, 14, NLT).
Look through those verses again. Notice the words that are used: Forever. Perfect. True. Holy. These are words that lack any doubt. These are words of assurance. They’re words of confidence.
Jesus provides what the old system couldn’t. He gives us a salvation that’s assured. Rather than trusting in virgins and scrub brushes, we put our faith in a person who is absolutely certain to have God’s full approval. We never have to wonder if clinging to him is good enough.
What about your Christian life? Do you tend to do your best and hope it’s okay? Do you worry when you fall short? Do you wonder if your superficial fixes are enough to cover your internal faults?
There’s only one path free of doubt. That is to trust only, wholly, desperately in the one perfect High Priest. Turn to him, again and again, daily. There is nothing more sure in all the world.
This article is part of a series on the names of Jesus. Next time: King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.