As believers in Christ, we don’t often think about priests.
We think about them when we read the Old Testament — particularly the Pentateuch — and as we read through and attempt to comprehend the various duties of the priests and the function of the Law in Israel’s spiritual life. It all seems rather confusing most of the time.
This we do know: the priests served as intermediaries for the nation of Israel. Annually the priest would offer sacrifices and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the nation on the Day of Atonement to seek God’s propitiation for the nation’s sins during that year. And daily the priest would also offer sacrifices for individuals who had become ritually unclean or who had sinned. So the priest was an intercessor for Israel and all Israelites.
But when Christ came, the priesthood ceased. Why? Because Christ did as High Priest what no ordinary high priest could ever do, as Hebrews 7:23ff summarizes.
Jesus is a better High Priest because He never dies. Every other priest would die, so there was a need for a continual succession of priests (v. 23). Not so with Christ. His priesthood is perpetual because His life is eternal (v. 24). So he can save — what no other priest could do — eternally (v. 25).
Jesus is also a better high priest because he is holy, innocent, and undefiled (v. 26). No other priest was holy or innocent. Every human priest had to seek atonement for his own sins and cleansing for his own purification from defilement before he offered sacrifices for others. Not so with Christ. He is inherently and infinitely and eternally holy, qualifying Him again to serve as a perpetual priest for His people.
Jesus is further a better high priest because He is separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens (v. 26). He is of a different class of man than every other priest. He is a man, but he is not a sinful man. He is not a sinner and He has no ability to sin. And because of that, He is exalted and worshipped not as a mere man, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is above all men and worthy of their worship as the One who rules all things in conjunction with the Father and Spirit.
And finally, Jesus is a better High Priest because what He did (satisfying God’s wrath with the sacrifice of His own life — thereby serving as both the High Priest and the sacrifice), He did once for all (v. 27). Every other priest made repeated sacrifices for both himself and Israel. But Christ — the One who is both Priest and Son (v. 28) — made one sacrifice and God was eternally satisfied.
And of this work, the writer notes that it is fittingfor us to have such a high priest (v. 26). That is, it is suitable, appropriate, and pleasing for us to have such a One to serve as our high priest. There is no one more able to accomplish what He did. Jesus Christ is exactly what we needed. And because He did what He did, and because He is the God-Man that He is, we never need any other priest. Every other priest is weak and incapable. Christ is supreme, perfect, and eternal (v. 28).
What a great Savior we have.
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