Our Perfect Priest
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:15-16
Jesus assured his disciples that it was “for their good” that he was going away. (John 16:7) He urged Mary Magdalene not to “hold on to him”. (John 20:7)
Why did the risen Lord have to leave those he loved? Last week we looked at this question from ‘down below’ as it were; Jesus had to leave to send us the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s presence and power are indispensable in the living of the Christian life.
This week we think about the same question ‘from above’. Jesus has ascended to take his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, and the name that is above all names. He is our loving king and our perfect priest.
The job of the priest was to be a representative of the people before God. As God is holy and human beings are sinful, priests offered sacrifices to make the people acceptable to God. These sacrifices were commanded, but never really secured forgiveness “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4) rather, they pointed forward to the one sacrifice that truly counted- the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. All the sacrifices that came before were little more than an IOU note to God. They were a way of saying, “we see that we have wronged you, and the proper punishment for our rebellion, for our sin, is death.”
Only man owed the debt, only God could afford to pay it. In Christ we have the man who is God. Perfectly qualified to bridge the gap. The perfect Lamb. And the perfect priest who offered his life freely for those he loved. As a man, he suffered as we suffer. He has experienced trials and troubles, loneliness and loss. He has known hunger and thirst. He has grieved and bled like we do. And yet he triumphed where we have failed. ‘Like us in every way yet without sin.’
In New Testament times priests would be allowed into the Holy Place. The High Priest on one day of the year was allowed into the Most Holy Place to meet with God and intercede for his people. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, intercedes for us every day and night. “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
He is the one who knows us best, yet loves us most. He is closer to the Father than anyone. Unlike the priests of the past, he doesn’t have to bring offerings for his own sins, unlike priests of the past, his ministry will not end upon death.
Robert Murray McCheyne said famously “if I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” Take heart!
“Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea,
a great High Priest whose name is love Who ever lives and pleads for me.”
One final quote for you to reflect on and rejoice in this week:
“It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.”Louis Berkhof
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!
Yours in Christ’s service,
Ross Murphy – Pastor of Airdrie Ebenezer Evangelical Church