J e s u s, PRIEST
W E D N E S D A Y 3 | 2 0 | 1 9
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God called his people out of oppression to display his glory and his holiness. Upon rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt, God said, “I will make you a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Israel was to be holy as the Lord himself is holy. The only problem was that Israel failed to live up to this call, time and again. This was nothing new. Beginning with the fall in Genesis, a question that dominates the entire Biblical narrative is, “What will be done about human sin?”
At the center of this holy nation, there was an order of priests. We read in Leviticus 21:6 that these priests were to be “holy to their God.” This group was set apart within God’s nation to show what God required of Israel and, by extension, the entire world. Their sacrifices (to atone for sin) regularly involved blood and dead animals. This job was not pretty, but neither is sin.
Most of these sacrifices occurred outside of the tabernacle, and later the temple, where Israel could see what was required of them. The High Priest, the holiest of the priests, would enter the center of the temple, the holiest of places, on the Day of Atonement, the holiest of days. He would then offer sacrifices on behalf of the nation’s sins against God. As the High Priest would emerge from the temple, God’s holy nation would erupt in celebration that their sins were covered and mercy was extended.
Immediately upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus enters the temple, but instead of finding priests offering sacrifices, Jesus finds a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13) where those charged with caring for the needs of God’s people have instead turned and exploited those under their care. Jesus, outraged, overturns their tables and casts them out. The priests had failed to fulfill their role. A new priesthood was needed.
This wasn’t merely a new order, but a new priest, who would make a once and for all sacrifice on behalf of everyone, everywhere. Jesus lived a holy life without stain of sin. Additionally, on the cross Jesus took on himself the sin of all humanity and paid the penalty by giving his life to cover all sin. Upon his death, the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple was torn in two. In his resurrection, he showed his offering was accepted by God. Just as the priest emerged from the Most Holy Place, Jesus emerged victorious from the grave. The old priesthood was voided and a new one begun.
Jesus is our “Great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can now approach God with confidence. He has paid for our sins and made us into a holy place where he now dwells. Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest. He knows us. He knows what we need. He has taken on our sin so that we may take on his righteousness. Let’s now go and tell of this righteousness that comes through Jesus our Priest.