Jesus “The High Priest”
by Pastor Bert Hitchcock
In most religions, including parts of Christianity, there are individuals who are separated from the common people and considered the holy ones; they are often called “priests”. Supposedly, these priests stand between common people and God; representing God to the people and representing the people to God. But these human priests have two, limiting weaknesses.
First, they are often, even from childhood, set apart from the kind of life everyone else lives. They probably never do the same kinds of work; they may by shielded from life’s troubles; and they probably receive very different education. So, when common people encounter problems – when they cry out for help that only God could give – it may never occur to them to seek out a priest. They may think, “The priest doesn’t know anything about the real world – he has no experience with the problems I’m facing!”
Second, in spite of the aura of holiness surrounding priests, the truth is, they have their own sin to deal with. The outward trappings of religion, can hide terrible trouble inside – weaknesses which actually alienate them from God, more than common people are alienated. And so, whatever ritual help they may have to offer, it is powerless to actually minister grace and healing to needy souls.
But Jesus is a different kind of High Priest! He does not have those two common weaknesses! When he lived in our world, he walked in our shoes. As a boy growing up in a carpenter shop, he undoubtedly smashed his fingers, splintered his hands, and experienced the weariness of labor that everyone else knows. Then as an adult, seeking to serve his Heavenly Father, he faced betrayal, rejection, hatred, persecution, and even the pain of death, like no one before or since.
But through it all, this Jesus – tempted as he was, like everyone else – never sinned against the Father – never broke God’s laws. So, while he suffered outwardly, he was not alienated from the Father by his own sin.
That alienation from the Father would come only on the cross, where he willingly took upon himself our guilt and paid our penalty, in order to make atonement for us and reconcile us to His Father. And after his death, the Father raised him from the dead, proving that his sacrifice was sufficient – that God was pleased.
So now that Jesus is ascended to the Father’s right hand, we have a Great High Priest unlike any earthly priest ever! For Jesus the High Priest does not have the common weaknesses of all other priests: He is not distant from us for he actually walked in our shoes. But since he does not have his own sin to deal with; he is able to rescue us from our guilt and despair. And so he prays to the Father for us; he sends his Spirit work in us; and he invites us to come to him and find help.
That is the wonderful promise of Hebrews 4:
“We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the
Son of God . . . We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Charles Wesley set forth that wonderful truth of Jesus’ high priestly work and the bold faith it should give us, in the hymn Arise, My Soul Arise.
Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice
in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my Surety stands; before the throne my Surety stands.
My name is written on his hands.
He ever lives above,
for me to intercede,
His all redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds he bears, received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers, they strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry, “forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
My God is reconciled;
His pardoning voice I hear:
He owns me for his child I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh, With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.