Jesus the Priest

Christ the Priest

Hebrews 10:1-18

“For by one offering, He has perfected those who are sanctified for all time.”

 

            In the Old Testament, the Priest played a critical role as the mediator between God and the people.  Because God is infinitely holy, he cannot be associated with or tainted by sin.  Because of sin, people could not gain access to the presence of God.  They needed a mediator.  To provide for this, God made provision for the Priests to serve as the mediator.  They would represent God to the people but also represent the people before God.  As representatives of the people it was their responsibility to perform the sacrifices necessary to atone for the sins of the people.  Furthermore, they would intercede on behalf of the people. 

            The sacrifices they performed were to provide the means for the people to obtain forgiveness from the guilt of their sin so that they might avert the justice of God.  All sin was a violation and rejection of God and his character.  Because he is holy and just, sin incurred guilt that required punishment.  Through the substitutionary sacrifice of the animal, the payment of sin was averted.  However, these sacrifices were never completely and never fully obtained complete and lasting forgiveness.  Consequently, there was the need for continual sacrifices to be made.

            However, when Christ came as a priest he went as the final and complete priest on behalf of the people.  The Old Testament sacrificial system was never designed to accomplish complete forgiveness of sin. Instead, it served as a continual reminder that they were sinners and that only in the substitutionary death of another could their guilt and judgment be averted.  Thus, the daily and yearly sacrifices were to point the people to the need for a final and complete sacrifice that would fully satisfy the just requirements of God.

            When Christ came, he came as our final High Priest.  Because he was entirely God and fully man, he became the ultimate mediator for us.  He was provided the definitive and complete substitutionary atonement for our sins through his death.  In other words, in his death, he fully satisfied the justice of God by paying in full the guilt of our sins.  He was the final sacrificial lamb.

            It was fitting that the ones to whom the birth of Christ was proclaimed were the shepherds in the region of Bethlehem.  These were not ordinary shepherds.  They were the shepherds responsible for caring for the sheep that would be used in the temple to be sacrificed for the people's sins.  As caretakers for the sheep to be used as the atoning sacrifice, it was highly symbolic that they were the first to visit the final lamb who would bring salvation and forgiveness for our sins.  It was fitting that they be present when the last High priest would be born.  While the Magi came to affirm that Jesus was king, the shepherds came to affirm that he was both our priest and our substitutionary sacrifice.

            As we celebrate Christmas, we must look beyond the manger and see Jesus as our high priest.  Because he is the final High Priest who provided the final sacrifice in his death, he is the only way we can gain access to God.  Without faith in Christ, we do not have a mediator with God, and we still face the judgment of God for our sins.  But when we accept by faith that he is our mediator and our sacrifice, we have the assurance of our forgiveness, not because of anything we have done, but solely based on what he has done.  In celebrating our Christmas, we need to celebrate that our sins are forgiven and we now have access to the living and holy God.

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