It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man; the prophet, priest, and king; head and saviour of the church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. (LBCF 8.1).
In a previous post, the central motif of Hebrews was identified as pointing readers to the superiority of Christ over Jewish religion. This was done by juxtaposing Christ with angels, prophets, Moses, the Old Testament Priesthood and Levitical order with its rituals and sacrifices and draws a conclusion at every point with the superiority of Christ over all these.
Jesus Christ in his work of redemption holds a mediatory role as a High Priest interceeding for believers and bringing reconciliation between sinners and God. In Hebrews 4:14—5:1-10, the author presents Jesus Christ to us as a High Priest comparing him to the Levitical Priesthood order of the Old Testament. And as is consistent with the central motif of Hebrews mentioned earlier; Christ’s superiority over that priesthood order is revealed: “we have a great high priest” (Heb. 4:14).
Christ is not only presented to us as a high priest; but a Great High Priest. This points to Christ’s superiority in his role as a Priest. Also, Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchidzedek:“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”(Heb. 5:6). The difference between the Levitical Priesthood and that of Melchidzedek is that the former is hereditary while the latter is not. Melchidzedek is presented to us as “without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.”(Heb. 7:3). Also, as a Priest after the order of Melchidzedek, Jesus lives forever to make intercession for his own (Hebrews 9:27). This makes Christ a superior high priest after the order of Melchidzedek.
Who Is A High Priest?
High priest, Hebrew kohen gadol, in Judaism, the chief religious functionary in the Temple of Jerusalem, whose unique privilege was to enter the Holy of Holies (inner sanctum) once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to burn incense and sprinkle sacrificial animal blood to expiate his own sins and those of the people of Israel…The office, first conferred on Aaron by his brother Moses, was normally hereditary and for life.¹
The High Priest, as seen above in Jewish religious worship had a mediatory role. He stands in between God and the Israelites to offer annual sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people and for his own sins.
How The Author Presents Jesus As High Priest
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity … when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary…(LBCF 8.2)
The role or office of a high priest is a human role that is, a human being must occupy that office: “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God” (v.1). The high priest as we see is a mediatory role where another man stands as an intermediary between God and other human beings. And Jesus as we know was born of the Virgin Mary and lived on this earth as a human being. He is the God-Man, fully God and fully man–hypostatic union. The high priest is human so as to understand the plight of his fellow human beings: “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward , since he himself is beset with weakness”(Heb. 5:2).
In his humanity, Jesus understood the state of humans–our sins, weaknesses and frailties– and therefore sympathetic to our cause. The Bible is however careful to point out to us that he was a sinless high priest: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15). This distinction is important as it sets Christ apart from all the human high priests of Jewish religion who needed also to make sacrifices for their own sins.
Jesus Offered Himself As A Sin Sacrifice
For every high priest chosen from among men j is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Heb.5:1)
The main duty of the high priest was to offer yearly sacrifices on behalf of the people and his own behalf. Jesus Christ in this same role as a high priest offered himself up as a sinless sacrifice to God on behalf of his people–God’s elect. He suffered on our behalf. He not only suffered, but obeyed God’s laws for us fully (Heb. 5:8). Jesus’ death on the cross was to atone for the sins of humankind so they will be reconciled to the Father through faith ( Matthew 1:21)John 3:16
Appointed by God As High Priest
Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you. (Heb 5:5).
In the Levitical Priesthood order, no one personally appointed themselves as a high Priest, but rather it was God who established the priesthood and those who qualified to be priest. They are to be from the Priesthood family established by God (Exodus 28:1). Now in this same pattern, Jesus was appointed by the Father as High Priest. He didn’t take that honour unto himself as the Scripture testify. Jesus Christ is God’s appointed high priest.
The Only Mediator Between God And Man
Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation God has provided for sinful humankind to be reconciled to him ( Heb 5:9; John 3:16; Acts 4:12). Jesus himself said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”(John 14:6). Paul says “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim. 2:5).
Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest who reconciles sinners to God. Apart from him, no one can have access to the Father. And by his finished work on Calvary, we can access to the throne of grace:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:15-16).