Our High Priest (Part 2)
© C. O. Bishop 3/25/17 THCF 4/16/17
Hebrews 5:1-10; Psalm 110:4; John 17:1-26
Last time we introduced the subject of Jesus as our High Priest. The Jewish Christians who received and read this epistle probably were at least a little put off by the idea of anyone except the heirs of Aaron becoming a high priest at all, let alone being labeled as THE High Priest for eternity. The writer is taking care to establish the credentials and qualifications of Jesus, as well as to demonstrate that this was actually predicted in the Psalms…that a different priesthood was ordained by God: one that both predated Aaron and supplanted the priesthood associated with Aaron and the Levites. In Psalm 110:4, God said “…thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” You may recall that Melchisedec was a mysterious priest-king who showed up in Genesis chapter 14, blessed Abram as he returned from the battle of the five kings, fed him with bread and wine (odd…why that specific meal?) and received a tithe of the spoils from Abram.
Now, 500 years later, King David refers to that obscure person, and says that someone is declared to be ordained an eternal priest after the order of Melchisedec.
The Jews had probably simply read over the verse in Psalm 110, every time they came to it, and found it mildly puzzling; but so obscure as to be dismissed without a great deal more thought. So the writer builds his case, moving from the known to the unknown, as any good proof will do: He discusses the Aaronic priesthood, and then compares it to Christ, reflecting on that passage in Psalms. The verdict? Jesus is better! He is the Great High Priest!
So, What does the Great High Priest Do?
5: 1For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
A priest represents Man before God, as his primary occupation. He brings sacrifices for sins, and brings worship offerings, and makes intercessory prayer for the people he represents. He is a spokesman for Man before God. A prophet, in contrast, is a spokesman for God before Man: Jesus was both.
Perhaps it is not terribly important in this context, but: the “gifts” mentioned here are worship offerings. They are not to be confused with the “sacrifices for sins.” That was part of the error of Cain, if you remember that account. Cain insisted on bringing a worship offering when he had not yet dealt with his sin. Abel brought a blood sacrifice for sin. Cain thought he should be able to bring a non-blood offering. And he could have, provided his sin was already atoned by blood. Abel was accepted by God, under the blood of his sacrifice. Cain was rejected because he ignored the sin issue. The fact is, we cannot approach God at all, except under the blood of Christ. But from that position, we can offer worship and prayer, and seek His Mercy and Grace.
Jesus could bring clean worship because he was never a sinner. But he offered His own blood to provide both salvation and sanctification for us. We are not only not going to be condemned for our sins (because we are saved); we are free to approach the throne of God, in Christ (because we have been made holy in Him…sanctified…set apart for God’s service.)
When we humans ignore this difference between sin-offerings (blood sacrifice) and worship offerings (everything else), we are attempting to bypass the Cross, approaching God with worship while ignoring the issue of our own guilt. When people do that, they are guilty of the same sin as Cain, and, frequently react with similar indignation when confronted with their error. They say, “I don’t need that! I’m a Sunday School Teacher! (Or whatever they think makes them acceptable to God.)” I had a very elderly woman angrily pound the armrest of her wheelchair and repeat that claim, when offered the Gospel: “I’m a Sunday School Teacher!” It was a pretty sad encounter, for me, because she was very near the end of her life, and was completely untouchable where the Gospel was concerned. The fact is, it doesn’t matter one bit what you have done, if you are rejecting what Jesus has done! This is the core issue in the error of Cain.
So, then: still speaking of the Aaronic priesthood, the writer declares how the high priest is supposed to feel toward people…how He is to respond:
How does The Great High Priest respond to the People?
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
Even the high priests of history had a responsibility to respond well to the people. There was never to be any arrogance or judgmental attitude toward the ignorant masses, or for the rank and file among sinners, the “losers” of society. The high priest was to recognize his own need for compassion from God, because he himself was also a sinner, witnessed by the fact that, every time he approached the holy place, his first act was to bring a sacrifice for his own sins, and then he could offer sacrifices for the people.
Jesus lived as a man and could have compassion upon sinners, though He himself was not a sinner. He was called out from among men, though fore-ordained to the task, and he offered one sacrifice forever—himself. The Old Testament priests offered many sacrifices, continually, both for themselves and for those they served.
Jesus stands in contrast to those priests, in nearly every way except the compassion…and in that specific area, He exceeds them all. But He did not have to make offering for himself, in that he was not guilty of sin. He offered one perfect sacrifice forever, and, unlike the Aaronic priesthood, He lives forever to continue His ministry of intercession. Aaron and all his successors, whether good or bad, all died, so there was no lasting continuity.
The High Priest is ordained by God, not Men
4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
It is true that Jesus came because he was sent…he did not move on his own initiative. But, when we compare this idea with the doctrine of the Trinity, it becomes complex to the point of being paradoxical. If I bear in mind that the Son, given in Isaiah 9:6, 7 is called the everlasting Father, and, thus, was also the one who sent Him, I simply get a headache. I have long recognized that, by human standards, that is an irreducible paradox.
I no longer make any attempt to “unravel the secrets of the Trinity.” God declares that it is an eternal fact. Either I can accept it, and move on to learn more, or I can stumble over it, insisting that I should be able to understand everything about God! (Really? I don’t even understand everything about humans, nor human inventions, such as cellular phones and televisions…nor most anything in the natural universe. How can I be so arrogant as to insist that I be given a full explanation of the nature of the Eternal God who created me and who rules that Universe?) And yet I have heard humans angrily insist that if “it doesn’t make sense” to them, then it must not be true. The fact is, God the Father sent God the Son, who is co-equally God, to live a human life on Earth, empowered by God the Holy Spirit, who is also co-equally God. And when God the Son died at Golgotha, God the Father separated Himself from God the Son, and turned away, so that God the Son said, “My God, My God…why hast thou forsaken me?”
Do I understand all of that? Nope! But I accept all of it, and believe in it. He is not only the High Priest, but my only hope.
And, interestingly, he is assigned a position in a priesthood that predates Judaism, and which was ordained by God before Abram ever had a son.
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
We will speak more about Melchisedec later on…he is an important figure in history, and quite a mystery. I have my own opinions regarding Melchisedec, but not everyone agrees, so we will wait until chapter seven to discuss it. The writer continues speaking about the ministry of Jesus:
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
We have a small window into the soul of Jesus, here, at Gethsemane: we see that he really did not look forward to the experience of the cross. He dreaded the pain and the shame and the rejection, just the same as we would. He begged to be released from the responsibility, and was denied. He “learned obedience” through the things he endured. His ministry and office were thus made complete…his priesthood was perfected. He was already sinless (and perfect in that respect) from eternity past. But his office and credentials as High Priest were completed (made complete—made perfect) in his sufferings, as he had to also be the sacrifice.
I find the complexity of the ministry of Messiah just about as mind-boggling as that of the Trinity: when it says that he is “all in all”, it is really true. He is our prophet and priest and king…but in the role of priest, he is priest and God and sacrifice. He is the only actor in our salvation. We either lay hold of what He has done, by faith, or we reject it in unbelief….and the choice is ours to make.
The High Priest also intercedes on our behalf. What about intercession? Where did Jesus intercede for me? Turn to John 17:1-26.
The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus the Messiah
Let’s read it:
17 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Conclusion: Seven points from His Prayer:
- Jesus prayed for his own, not the World (verse 9.) He died for the World, but He prays for the believers…the Church.
- Jesus said that He was not of the world, and that we are not of the world, either. (Verse 16) He also said the world hates him and us, because we are not of the world. (verse 14)
- He prayed that we (believers) would be “sanctified (made holy) through the truth”, and He said that God’s Word is truth…the specific truth that can change our lives. (Verse 17)
- He prayed not only for the eleven disciples, but also for those who would believe through their word: us! You can be encouraged, knowing that Jesus prayed for you, personally, and is still doing so today! (Verse 20. Compare Hebrews 7:25)
- He prayed for the Unity of the Church; with the specific intent that the World would know that Jesus was sent by God. (Verse 21)
- Jesus has transferred something of His glory to us (verses 22, 23)…possibly the indwelling Holy Spirit? Whatever it is, the intent is that we are to have perfect unity. This may connect with Ephesians 4:3, where we are admonished to “…endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
- We who believe, have known that God sent Jesus, personally. He will continue to declare himself to us, so that we will be filled with His Love, and with Himself.
None of these things are matters of idle curiosity—fun things to know and tell: they are vital to our happiness and peace. We need to know these things, and be convinced of their truth. Our high priest prayed these things regarding each believer, personally. We can either say “Amen” to His prayer by entering in, and enjoying all he has to offer, or we can hang back in doubt and confusion, and constantly fall short of his intended grace and glory in our lives.
The choice is ours.
Lord Jesus, help us to make wise choices daily: to place our faith in your finished work at the Cross, and to look to you daily for direction. Help us to choose to love one another, and to choose unity as a way of life. Teach us to hunger for your written Word, so that our lives can be changed, and made over into your likeness. Make us the Men and Women of God that you have called us to be.