The Great High Priest
“Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15)
The Old Testament is all about God’s relationship with Israel under the old, Mosaic covenant. This covenant was based on works; the people were dependent on daily ritual sacrifices for the cleansing of sin. They couldn’t even approach God themselves but instead had to rely on a priest to be their mediator before a holy God. It was a wearying system tinged with hopelessness. But after Jesus died for the sins of all, resurrected, and ascended into Heaven to be seated at God’s right hand, the old covenant has come to an end, replaced by one superior in every way.
The book of Hebrews focuses on how Jesus is the Great High Priest of a new covenant that is far greater than the old one. First, Jesus is sinless. Though He was tempted in every way during His time on earth, He never gave in. The earthly priests, though having the privilege of serving God in His house, were still sinful. They had to offer sacrifices for themselves as well as for the other people. Jesus, however, is perfect, and because of that His pleas for us are without hindrance. Second, He will never die. Every earthly priest has passed away, leaving his position for another to fill. But Jesus, having died once, will never die again. Instead, He sits forever at God’s side, doing the work of a high priest in His very presence. Finally, His sacrifice never needs to be repeated. What made the first covenant so hopeless was that there was no end to the sacrifices; every time someone sinned, he would have to present a new sacrifice. The blood of an animal could not erase the guilt and punishment of sin. Jesus’ sacrifice, however, has paid the final price for all sins. Those who accept His gift of salvation are cleansed forever; they never need to be re-saved. The Great High Priest has paid our ransom with His own blood, and it is a payment that will last for all eternity.
Since we’ve never lived under the old covenant, it can be difficult for us to grasp just how much Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished. Just imagine having to kill an animal every time you did something slightly wrong—and there were so many rules to follow! The smell of blood could never leave the temple. The priests’ days were spent in slaughtering lamb after lamb, calf after calf, dove after dove. But now, because of Jesus’ death, we don’t have to do that anymore. We are secured by His blood, the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all the world. His blood has paid the enormous price that our sins had created, and He now constantly intercedes for us before the Father. What an incredible High Priest we have!