We are in the second sermon of our Advent series on Jesus’ three-fold office: Prophet, Priest, and King. Last week, we discussed that Jesus is the Prophet of Prophets. In other words, He is the greatest of Prophets because He reveals to us God’s perfect Word. The Father called out at Jesus’ transfiguration: “This is My beloved Son, listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). In today’s sermon, we shall discuss the role of Jesus as Priest of Priests (the Great High Priest) as He intercedes for us on behalf of God.
What is a Priest?
God established the priesthood for Israel and the priests served as God’s representatives before the people. The priests must be sons of Aaron (Ex 29:9). God gave Aaron and his sons the men of the tribe of Levi to assist them (Num 3:6-12) in their responsibilities. This is how the priesthood came to be known as the Levitical Priesthood. The priests and Levites kept the sanctuary (Num 3:38), kept the lamp burning (Ex 27:20-21), burned incense (Ex 30:7-8), offered sacrifices (Lev 1:1-17), blessed the people (Num 6:23-27), purified the unclean (Lev 15:15-31), diagnosed leprosy (Lev 13:2-59), blew the trumpets (Num 10:1-10), carried the ark of the covenant (Josh 3:6-17), and taught the Law (Lev 10-11).
There were many priests in Israel and along with them one man served as high priest. In the Old Covenant, the high priest was the supreme religious figure in Israel. He oversaw the functions of all the priests. He was appointed by God. Hebrews 5:1 says, “For every high priest taken from among men is appointed in matters pertaining to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” The first high priest was Aaron (Ex 28:1) and after his death the office passed through his sons. Of all the responsibilities of the high priest, the greatest was to offer a sacrifice in the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The high priest was the only person who could enter the holy of holies and he could only do so on a specific day, in a specific way, with specific sacrifices (see Lev 16:1-34). The role of high priest was very significant as he was the mediator for the Jews before God so that God would accept their sacrifices and offerings.
A Priest Like Melchizedek
Only a son of Aaron could be a priest and only a man from the tribe of Levi could assist them. Why is it then that Jesus is a priest who is born from the tribe of Judah? (Matt 1:2, Luke 3:33). It is worth noting that the first priest mentioned in the Bible is not Aaron, but Melchizedek (Gen 14:18). Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. He was a priest and a king. The writer of Hebrews describes him in this way: “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,…made like the Son of God, He remains a priest forever” (Heb 7:3). We next encounter Melchizedek in Psalm 110:4, “The Lord has sworn an oath and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the pattern of Melchizedek.’” The priest prophesied in Psalm 110:4 is the Messiah and He would not be a priest according to the pattern of Aaron, but Melchizedek.
Eternal High Priest
Why did God decide to make the Messiah a priest from a tribe other than Levi? Because the Levitical priesthood is temporary and fading. The Levitical priesthood could not bring perfection (Heb 7:11). It was weak and unprofitable (Heb 7:16). The Levitical priests kept dying (Heb 7:23). In contrast, the priesthood of Melchizedek, which the Messiah is based, is eternal (Heb 7:24). The Messiah was to come from the priesthood of Melchizedek because Melchizedek is a type of Christ (He isn’t Christ, but foreshadows Christ).
Just as the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the priesthood of Levi, the priesthood of Christ (after the order of Melchizedek) is superior because it is based on better promises (Heb 8:6). Hebrews 2:17 says Jesus is “a faithful High Priest…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 3:1 says Jesus is the “Apostle and High Priest of our confession.”
The King Who is the Priest
The Messiah shall serve as Priest and King; uniting the spiritual (priest) and civil (king) authority. Zechariah 6:13 says of the Messiah, “Indeed, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the splendor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”
The Priest From Among His Brothers
We learned in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus “He had to be made like His brothers in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” We are told in Hebrews 4:14 that Jesus is our Great High Priest.
Come to Priest Jesus
The role of high priest in the Old Covenant was to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people of Israel. The Old Covenant was temporary, and the Lord promised in Psalm 110:4 that a Great High Priest would come and mediate a better Covenant: a New Covenant. The Old Covenant was put in place to show people their sins and cause them to turn to God, but the people could not keep the covenant. Therefore, a New Covenant was needed to address sin and show the need for a high priest who would make a perfect sacrifice for sin for us.Jesus is the Priest prophesied in Psalm 110:4. We know this because the writer of Hebrews explicitly states that Jesus is the “merciful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). God has sent His Son to be our mediator who intercedes for us by forgiving our sin and providing the sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God. As our Priest, Jesus intercedes for us. Whereas all the previous priests died and had to be replaced, Jesus remains a priest forever. Therefore, He is able to save His people to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). Come to Jesus and be reconciled to God.