Our Great High Priest
What consolation and cheer it is to the hearts of the people of God to know that in this scene of trial and difficulty we have a Great High Priest Who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities; for He was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Since our Lord Jesus is both God and Man the believer is assured of His unchanging sympathy and constant compassion. As Priest His perfect humanity assures us of His sympathy and care; His Deity secures for us His unfailing presence and His unlimited power.
In our consideration of Him it is well to note that, first of all, the BASIS of His priestly work is His own sacrifice in death. In contrast to the priests of old who had to make an offering for their own sins, and that daily, He offered up Himself for our sins “once for all” (Heb. 7:27). He, the holy, guileless, undefiled One, offered one sacrifice for sins and is now “sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12, Darby). “Once in the end of the world (the consummation or crisis of the ages) hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). These passages express the sufficiency of His sacrifice and the greatness of His person. The priests, in times past, carried the blood of the victim into the holy place, thus typifying our blessed Lord entering into the presence of God by virtue of His own blood (Heb. 9:12).
The priestly work of the Saviour began with His resurrection from the dead. It is expressly stated that “if He were on earth, He should not be a priest” (Heb. 8:4). “It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:14). Our Lord’s priesthood did not depend upon genealogy like the Aaronic priesthood, but upon the mysterious combination of His Deity and His perfect humanity.
His APPOINTMENT to this high function was unique. In the case of Aaron the appointment to the priesthood honoured him, but in the case of our Lord Jesus in His priesthood, the Father glorified Him. Christ was called of God, or as the word really means, was saluted of God (Heb. 5:10). That Aaron was never so saluted is obvious from a reading of chapter 7, but in regard to Christ “the Lord sware with an oath,” made a complete declaration which cannot under any circumstances be withdrawn, that a change has been made in the constitution, that constitutes Christ a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews links together Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, in both of which our Lord is seen, first as the Son of God, and then as the Melchisedec priest. These doctrinal facts form the very basis of the epistle, one section of which (chaps. 4:14-10:22) deals almost entirely with this great theme.
The CHARACTER of the High Priest is another point of great importance and reveals His fitness to carry on His priestly work for His own. “For such an High Priest became us, Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). This is a wonderful statement and speaks of the suitability of His person for this service. Godward, man-ward, and selfward He has no compeer. He is the Chiefest among ten thousand, the altogether lovely One. We read, “He is separated from sinners” (R.V.), or placed beyond the reach of assault. This probably refers to His burial and resurrection. His ascension to God’s right hand is also noted for it states that He is made higher than the heavens. It is recorded earlier in the epistle that “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). There was nothing in Him to respond to the temptation of sin; in fact, it was impossible for Him to sin. Paul, the man of intellect writes, “He knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Peter, the man of prompt action states, “He did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22) ; and John, the man of intimacy, declares, “In Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
“He has passed through the heavens,” and now we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). His Name Jesus assures us of His sympathy and compassion. He passed this way before us as the Man Who knew the sorrows that led to prayers, strong crying, and tears (Heb. 5:7). What a Saviour we meet at the throne of grace! “He is able to succour them that are tempted (tried)” (Heb. 2:18). “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
In Melchisedec we see Christ as the King Priest, and as such He abides continually; there is no end to His priesthood, for He lives in the power of an endless life. Melchisedec has no recorded genealogy and this significant omission becomes the very ground on which the Holy Spirit presents to us the Deity of Christ. Christ as viewed in His eternal Godhead is without father or mother, without genealogy, therefore, without the beginning of days or the end of life.
It is interesting that the meeting between Melchisedec and Abram, as recorded in Genesis 14, took place before the offer of goods was made by the king of Sodom. Abram received strength and courage in his weariness to resist this temptation. We likewise may find grace to help in every time of need, and experience the fact that we are saved by His life (Rom. 5:10). Christ will keep us from falling (1 Peter 1:4-5).
Today our Lord Jesus Christ is seen as the High Priest over the House of God, through Whom we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:21-22).
May His compassion, sympathy, and care become greater realities in our daily lives, and the assurance of His unfailing presence and unlimited power stimulate and strengthen our faith in Him.