THE SACRIFICE AND THE PRIEST: WHEN THE PRIEST AND THE SACRIFICE COLLIDE

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through twenty-right of the seventh chapter. When we come to this pass age of scripture we find the continuation of that which the author of this epistle wrote concerning an Old Testament figure who there is actually very little written and spoken about. In fact, if you journey to the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find that only three verses are dedicated to this Old Testament figure. The author who wrote the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews felt compelled and deemed it necessary to use the account and example of this Old Testament figure to paint a picture and point to the reality concerning Jesus Christ. Not only did the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews use the account of this Old Testament figure to point to Jesus the Christ, but they also used it to paint a powerful picture and portrait of the priesthood of Jesus. Having come to the seventh chapter of this epistle already—as well as now having finished and concluded the seventh chapter—you will find the author has a great deal to say concerning Jesus Christ and the reality of Him as a priest of the most high God. In fact, I would dare say that aside from and outside of using His actual name, the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews used the title of priest and great high priest more than any other word when describing Jesus. In fact, I would dare state that consideration of Jesus as a priest of the most high God was perhaps the single greatest reference of this author within this epistle. This author spent only a little time writing concerning the work which Jesus performed and completed here on the earth, but spent a considerable amount of time writing concerning the ministry of Jesus as a priest of the most high God. When we read the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we must recognize and understand the tremendous emphasis the author placed on the role and function of Jesus as a priest of the most high God, for the author spends a considerable amount of time presenting the reality of this role and function in the here and now.

I have to admit that when I read the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews I am incredibly captured and captivated by the reality that for the author, the reality of Jesus Christ as a priest of the most high God took center stage. One cannot get very far into this epistle without encountering the reality and concept of Jesus Christ as a priest of the most high God, for the entire epistle is replete with examples and accounts of Jesus as the priest of the most high God. How absolutely wonderful it is to think about and consider the awesome reality that Jesus did come to the earth as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. How remarkable and beautiful it is to consider Jesus Christ as being sent of the Father that whosoever believers in him should not perish but have everlasting life. It is wonderful to think about and consider Jesus Christ as Savior of the world who not only redeemed mankind from the curse of sin and the law, but also restored us into right fellowship and relationship with the Father who is in heaven. The New Testament is replete with example after example of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer, and yet when writing this particular epistle the author sought to focus on the role and function of Jesus as a priest of the most high God. More importantly, is that this reality of Jesus as the priest of the most high God is completely different from the reality of Jesus as Savior and as Redeemer. When we write and when we think about and when we speak about such realities we must understand them in light of that which has already been completed in the past. When we think of Jesus as our Savior, and when we think of Jesus as Redeemer, we think about it in terms of a work that was already done and completed on the cross two thousand years ago. The work of redemption has already been performed and completed in the earth, and we must understand that that work was finished, full and complete. We dare not look upon the work of redemption and not focus on the amazing reality that that work has already been completed and finished. When Jesus cried out and declared from the cross “It is finished,” what He was emphatically declaring was that the work for which He has been sent to do had been completed and finished.

When I consider the reality and concept of Jesus as priest of the most high God, and when I think about it in terms of the work that was already completed, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which He proclaimed and declared in the hearing of His disciples. In the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to John we find the apostle John reciting the great high priestly prayer which Jesus prayed just before He was betrayed into the hands of sinners by one of His own. In fact, the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John presents us with, and brings us face to face with the awesome reality of Jesus’ view of His work upon the earth. The seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John is essentially a statement of finality and completeness before heading to the cross, and one that points directly to the reality of those words which Jesus cried out and prayed on the cross. We must recognize and understand that even those words “It is finished” are in and of themselves a prayer unto God, for they are a statement and declaration of finality and completeness before the Father. Consider if you will the words which Jesus prayed unto the Father prior to going to the cross where He died at the hands of sinful men. Beginning with the first verse of the seventeenth chapter of John’s gospel we find and read the following words:

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest. Me out of the world: Thine they were, and thou gavest them. Me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me of of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that you didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that you shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is true. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:1-26).

The words we find in this passage of Scripture are a powerful statement and testament to the incredible finality and completeness of the work which Jesus fulfilled and accomplished while on the earth. In fact, consider the language that is used at the very beginning of the prayer: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do…I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world” (John 17:4, 6). There is not a doubt in my mind that these words directly point to the powerful reality that Jesus Christ—even before He went to the cross—viewed the work for which He had been sent as having been completed. While on the cross, Jesus emphatically and boldly cried out and declared “It is finished,” thus indicating the tremendous and powerful reality that the work which He had been sent to do was finished. Notice the difference between His statements in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John where He declared “I have finished” and the words which He cried out from the cross when He declared “It is finished.” What a tremendous reality it is to consider Jesus’ words in what has become known as His great High Priestly prayer and the words which He cried out from the cross. On the one hand we find Jesus praying unto the Father and declaring that He had finished the work which the Father had given Him to do, and while on the cross Jesus simply declared that “It is finished.” While praying unto the Father Jesus made the powerful statement that He had finished the work for which He had been sent to do, while hanging on the cross He recognized and knew that that work had reached its culmination and that what needed to be done had been completed. When we consider the reality of Jesus Christ as Savior, and when we consider Jesus Christ as Redeemer, we tend to think about and consider it in light of a work that was already finished and completed. We do not need to wait for the work of salvation to be completed, nor do we have to wait a for the work of redemption to be completed, for these works have already been completed and manifested in the earth. Jesus Christ is indeed and is in fact the Savior of the world, and Jesus is the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ is in fact our redeemer, and we can join with Job who emphatically declared in the Old Testament book that bears his name, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the work of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer has already been completed and has already been finished upon the earth, and that there is no longer a need for sacrifice to be made for the remission of sins. In fact, even the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews wrote of the finality of the work of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer by writing concerning the finished work of making atonement for sins. Consider if you will the words and language which is found within this very epistle concerning the finished work of dealing with and handling our sins:

“…who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).

“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no mor conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when He said, Sacrifice and burnt offerings and offering fro sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said He, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering He hat perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:1-14).

It is clear from each of these passages of Scripture—and each which are found within this very epistle which was written unto the Hebrews—that the work which Jesus performed and completed regarding sins was completed and finished. There is no longer a need for repeated and multiple sacrifices for sins, for through the one sacrifice Jesus offered redemption and salvation have been made available. What an absolutely incredible and powerful concept and thought it is that Jesus Christ made one sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, and there is not, nor has there been a need for another sacrifice. ONE SACRIFICE WAS ENOUGH! Pause for a moment and consider that simple reality—the reality that one sacrifice was enough. This is actually something that is quite powerful and quite remarkable when you consider it, for in the Old Testament and under the Old Covenant there was the continual need for sacrifices and offerings to be brought unto the priests which ministered before the altar at the Tabernacle. What’s more, is that there was only one day within and throughout the entire year when the high priest could enter into the Holy of holies and move beyond the veil taking the blood with him as an atonement for the sins of the people. Under the Old Covenant there was a continual need for the blood of bulls and goats and lambs to be shed for the sins of the people, despite the fact that such could not cleanse or purge the conscience of those who brought their sacrifices and offerings unto the priests lol the Tabernacle. Until Jesus came to the earth, there was a continual and perpetual need for sacrifices to be made—perhaps daily, perhaps weekly, perhaps monthly, and perhaps even annually—for the individual sins of the people. What is so interesting about this is that it wasn’t the priests who brought the sacrifices unto the Tabernacle for and on behalf of the sins of the people, but it was the people themselves which brought their sacrifices and offerings unto the priests and unto the altar. It was the people themselves who brought their sacrifices and offerings unto the Tabernacle, and it was those who brought the sacrifices and offerings who would place their hands upon that which was brought, and kill it there at the Tabernacle. It was then the priest’s day and responsibility to take the sacrifice and to arrange its parts upon the altar and present it unto the living God. This would take place for forty years in the wilderness while the children of Israel wandered within and throughout that desert, and it would continue even once they entered into the land which the Lord swore unto their ancestors and forefathers.

What is so unique about Jesus Christ is that not only was He the sacrifice which was offered up for the remission of our sins, but He was also the priest who administered the sacrifice in order that atonement be made for man. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this, for as a priest of the most high God He administered the sacrifice that was needed for the remission of sins, but as the Lamb of God He was the sacrifice which was offered up before the Father. We must recognize and understand this reality, for the priesthood of Jesus begins with His administering the sacrifice which He Himself offered for the remission of our sins, yet that priesthood continues on—even after the sacrifice for sins was offered. It is necessary that we consider the tremendous reality of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Jesus as the sacrifice which was offered before and unto God before we recognize and understand Him as the priest which ministered the sacrifice. Consider that not once, but twice in the New Testament gospel of John we find John the Baptist emphatically declaring of Jesus His being the Lamb of God which took away the sins of the world. In the twenty-ninth verse of the first chapter we find the following words: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In the thirty-sixth verse of the very same chapter we find John the Baptist once more emphatically declaring and proclaiming of Jesus, saying, “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, He saith, Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). Perhaps no other passage in all of Scripture paints the powerful picture of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God and as the sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world than the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. It is within this chapter where we find what can arguably be the most complete rendering of Jesus Christ as the sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world. Consider if you will the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote in this particular chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter:

“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His tripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to His own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken. And he made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul and offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travel of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify man; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Hebrews 53:1-12).

Please don’t miss the very last verse of this passage of Scripture, for within this last verse we find the incredibly reality of what is in the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. In the twelfth and final verse of this passage within the prophetic book of Isaiah we find the Spirit of the Lord declaring of Jesus that not only was He numbered with the transgressors, and not only did He bare the sin of many, but He also made intercession for the transgressors. It is those final two statements which we must pay close attention to, for those final two statements point to the reality of the sacrifice and the priest. THE SACRIFICE AND THE PRIEST: WHEN THE PRIEST IS THE SACRIFICE AND THE SACRIFICE IS THE PRIEST! When we read the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote in the seventh chapter of the epistle, we encounter the awesome reality that Jesus is in fact a priest of the most high God, yet his priesthood is entirely and ultimately different from the priesthood which was found within the Old Testament. There was the Levitical priesthood which was found in the Old Testament, yet the priesthood of Jesus Christ was of such an explosive nature that when the author of this epistle sought to describe it, they did not appeal to Aaron, nor did they appeal to the Levitical priesthood, but rather to the account of Melchizedek. How absolutely incredible it is to consider the tremendous reality that when writing and speaking of Jesus as the priest of the most high God, the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews used an example from the Old Testament—one that was found in only three verses in the fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis. Within the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews—not only do we find the author continually writing and speaking of Jesus as priest of the most high God, but we find them using and appealing to the example of Melchizedek to demonstrate the tremendous reality of Jesus as priest of the most high God. I have already written how the author of this epistle within the New Testament seems to absolutely love the idea and concept of Jesus as priest of the most high God, and I would dare say the entire epistle hinges upon the reality of Jesus as priest of the most high God. Consider if you will the numerous references within the epistle concerning Jesus Christ as priest of the most high God:

“Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house” (Hebrews 3:1-2).

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

“So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee> As He saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and heard in that he feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him; called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:5-10).

“…whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 6:20).

“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when He was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all thigns according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” Hebrews 8:1-6).

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:12-14).

Each of these passages points to the tremendous reality of Jesus Christ as the priest of the most high God—one who is completely and altogether different from the Levitical priesthood which was found in the Old Testament. When we come to the seventh chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we find the author using the account of Melchizedek to directly point to the tremendous and awesome reality that Jesus the Christ is in fact a priest of a different order—a priest that is altogether different and set apart from the Old Testament priesthood of Aaron, which continually offered the sacrifices and offerings of men upon the altar. When you come to the fifteenth verse of this seventh chapter you will find the author bringing all of this to a head, and bringing all of this home concerning Jesus Christ—Jesus who not only is the sacrifice itself, which was offered once for the remission of the sins of the people, but who also was the priest and the mediator and minister of the sacrifice. What we find in the seventh chapter is directly linked and connected to what we find and read at the end of the ninth chapter, as well as what we find in the beginning of the tenth chapter. Consider if you will the words which the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews beginning with the fifteenth verse:

“And it is yet for more evident: for that after the similtude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifies, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; but the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 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. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefined, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son who is consecrated forevermore” (Hebrews 7:15-28).

Please don’t miss the language that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture, but that which is found in this chapter—particularly when it is linked to what is found in the rest of the epistle—points to the powerful picture and reality that Jesus Christ is not only a priest of the most high God, but is a priest of the most high God who is faithful and merciful. This Jesus began His ministry as priest of the most high God when he ministered the sacrifice which was offered upon the cross two thousand years ago, and yet that priesthood still endures today, and will endure forever. Jesus Christ was the merciful and faithful nigh priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and is one who is able to save us to the uttermost which come unto God by Him. What’s more, is that this priest is of such a nature that He ever lives to make intercession for us. When we speak of Jesus Christ as a priest of the most high God we must recognize and understand it in light of His being one who is able to succour al those who come unto Him, and all those who have need for grace and mercy. It is precisely because we have this faithful and merciful high priest that we can come boldly unto the throne of grace to receive that which we need when we need it. Oh that we would allow ourselves to get caught up in the tremendous reality that we do have a high priest which is seated at the right hand of the Father—one who is able to succour us through our trials, and one who is able to save us to the uttermost when we call unto and come unto Him.

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