“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we possess.” Hebrews 4:14
Last month we saw how Jesus, the Christ, was anointed to be our Prophet. The catechism points out that the sinner is not only in need of a prophet, that is, one who teaches us about the Father, but we also are in need of a high priest.
God originally created man good and in His image. At one time, Man loved God spontaneously. For a time, while in the Garden of Eden, we served God perfectly and lived in constant fellowship with Him. Sin, however, diverted that stream of life and polluted it. Our thoughts were no longer pure and focused on God. Instead, we became subject to sin and fell under bondage to Satan.
What we need is a priest to represent us before the Most Holy God. We need someone to make atonement for our sin and to restore us once again into God’s favor. In order to make that atonement, the priests of the Old Testament were directed by God to make sacrifices for the sinner. Whereas the prophet represented God to the people, the priest represents the people to God. Only the anointed priest was permitted to approach God on behalf of man and make the necessary sacrifices required by God.
The priesthood of the Old Testament era points us to the Christ, that is, “The Anointed One.” The Book of Hebrews is full of references to Jesus as the Priest over the whole household of God. The priests of the Old Testament offered blood sacrifices as commanded of them by God. Those sacrifices all pointed ahead to Christ, who by His one sacrifice on the cross removed all the sin of His people.
Because of Christ there is no more need for sacrifices of atonement; there is no more need for sacrifices of blood. All that is needed is the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Anyone who insists upon making a bloody sacrifice today is taking away from the glory and the value of the once for all sacrifice made by our only High Priest, Jesus Christ. The lamb upon the early altar pointed ahead to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. It was that great sacrifice, made by Jesus on the cross, that removed your sins and made you right with God. We must now recognize Jesus as the One anointed by God as priest and thereby enabled to make the perfect sin-offering for our sin.
What a difference between Jesus Christ, the true priest, and all the priests that foreshadowed Him. The early priests all came with the blood sacrifice of an animal. Jesus Christ, our only eternal High Priest came and poured out His own precious blood for our sin. We are redeemed; our sins are paid for not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood and died upon the cross for us. I Peter 2:24 tells us that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, “bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died unto sin, might live to righteousness.” Isaiah tells us, “By His stripes we are healed.”
We are also told by the Heidelberg Catechism that as our High Priest, “Christ continually pleads our cause with the Father.” Satan, the Law, and even our own consciences all accuse of before God. They all point out our guilt. Yes, we are guilty of sin and therefore guilty of deserving eternal punishment.
Our Advocate, Jesus Christ, stands at the right hand of God the Father and pleads our case for us. He is attentive to our every need. He is in the presence of God the Father every day! That is no small benefit for us! The Old Testament priests could enter into the Holy of Holies only once a year. Jesus is in the presence of the Holy One every day! That means that when our sin is brought before the Father, our anointed Advocate says, “Because of My broken body and shed blood—Not Guilty!” Only the One anointed by God to be our Advocate can say those words because He covered those sins with His own blood. They have been paid for.
What a marvelous treasure for every child of God to know that the Savior gave His life for us and that now He is in the Holy of Holies in the presence of the Father confirming the sacrifice which He made for us at Calvary.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He also serves as Editor of The Outlook.