Our Great High Priest.

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:1-10 ESV

In the early days of Israel, the high priest was an appointed position. Aaron was the original high priest, designated so by God Himself. His command to Moses to set aside  Aaron and his sons as priest is recorded in Exodus 28:1: “Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.” God would later qualify the vital nature of their calling. “I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar. Aaron also and his sons I will consecrate to serve me as priests. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God” (Exodus 29:44-46 ESV). Aaron and his sons were set apart by God to serve as priests, offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. No one else could serve in this capacity. King Saul attempted to do so, and lost his kingship because of it. During the days of Israel’s wilderness wandering, Korah, a Levite, incited a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, demanding that he and his brothers be made priests. But Moses told him, “would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” (Numbers 16:10-11 ESV). As a result of their attempt to self-appoint themselves as priests, Korah, Dothan, Abiram and all their families were literally swallowed alive by the earth. The priesthood was a serious matter to God. And so when we read of Jesus being appointed high priest “to act on behalf of men in relation to God” it should get our attention. Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron. He was a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah. Technically, He was not qualified to be a priest, let alone the high priest. And the writer of Hebrews makes it perfectly clear that Jesus “did not exalt himself to be made high priest, but was appointed by him [God]” (Hebrews 5:5 ESV). So unlike Korah, Jesus was not guilty of trying to anoint Himself high priest. He, like Aaron, was chosen by God to serve in this capacity.

But Jesus was of a different priesthood than that of Aaron. He was “designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:10 ESV). Melchizedek was an obscure figure mentioned in Genesis 14. Abraham had rescued Lot and his family, who had been taken captive when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had been overrun by an alliance of kings. After having defeated the kings and taken back Lot, his family and all their possessions, Abraham was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem. The text tells us that Melchizedek was also a priest of God Most High. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the plunder he had taken. That is the extent of the information we have about this priest-king known as Melchizedek. But the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was appointed by God after the order of Melchizedek. In other words, He was of a different priesthood than that of Aaron and his sons. In the chapter seven of this letter, we are given more insight into who this man was and why Jesus was appointed high priest after his order and not that of Aaron:

He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. – Hebrews 7:2-3 ESV

This does not mean that Melchizedek was a divine being who was never born or died, but that we have no record of his ancestry. He appears on the scene in the book of Genesis, then disappears. He serves as a foreshadowing of the King-Priest who was to come. He was the king of righteousness and the king of peace. Interestingly enough, Salem is the city that David would later make his capital and rename Jerusalem. And one day, Jesus will return and reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem when He establishes His Kingdom on earth. Unlike Aaron and his sons who served only as priests, Jesus was the King-Priest, appointed by God, and He received both titles when he ascended back to earth after His death and resurrection.

Jesus received these two divine appointments because He was obedient, faithfully completing the assignment given to Him by God the Father. Jesus did not simply offer sacrifices on behalf of the people as Aaron and his sons had done. Jesus offered Himself. He made the ultimate sacrifice of His own life. And even though He divine, the Son of God, as the human Jesus, “he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8 ESV). And His obedience, while it led to His death, resulted in His perfection, His glorification. He was raised from the dead and restored to His rightful place at the side of God the Father. And “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:9 ESV). Jesus wasn’t just a different high priest than that of Aaron. He was a better high priest who offered a better sacrifice. His sacrifice was a permanent, once-for-all sacrifice that never has to be repeated. He was the sinless high priest who offered Himself as the unblemished Lamb of God for the sins of man. And as a result, those who place their faith in His sacrifice can share in His righteousness and have peace with God. We can be justified, made right with God. He is the great high priest.

Day 114 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

My Time Has Come.

Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” – Matthew 26:18-20 NLT

The timing of Jesus’ triumphal entry, betrayal, trial and crucifixion was no fluke. The fact that this all happened during the celebration of Passover was no coincidence. This was the high holy week for all Jews and the city of Jerusalem would have been filled to capacity with pilgrims coming from all over the known world at that time. Luke tells us in Acts that there were “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11 NLT). The city would have been a melting pot of different nationalities, consisting of all those who had converted to Judaism. Passover was a seven-day celebration that was followed 50 days later with the celebration of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law on Sinai. The energy level within the city would have been at an all-time high. People were everywhere. It was a festival and celebration, that would have had a holiday feel about it, much like Christmas does for us.

As the day for the celebration of the Passover meal approached, the disciples went to Jesus and asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the meal. This would not have been the first time they had celebrated Passover together. Ever since Jesus chose them as His followers, they would have made their way to Jerusalem each year, and eaten this meal together, much like a family, with Jesus as the head of the household. What the disciples didn’t know was that this particular Passover meal was going to be a radical departure from all those they had participated in before – all the way back to their childhoods. The entire last week of Jesus’ life, commonly referred to as Passion Week, was filled with significant allusions to the Old Testament celebration of Passover, most of which would have escaped the notice of the disciples. In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, he said, “My time has come…” Jesus fully grasped the significance of what was about to happen and what it had to do with the Passover. He knew He was about to play the part of the innocent lamb, sacrificing His life in order that men might escape the grasp of death – just as in the days of the original Passover in Egypt.

His time had come. The climax of His earthly life was fast approaching. And as He sent the two disciples to make preparations for what would be His last Passover meal, His mind had to be swimming with thoughts regarding what was about to take place in the days ahead. Meanwhile the disciples who had been tasked with the preparations for the meal would have had their hands full. In reading the different accounts of this story in the Gospels, it appears as if all they had to do was procure a room. But there were extensive rituals to be performed. There was an unblemished lamb to purchase, sacrifice and prepare. In fact, these two disciples would have been the ones to actually take the life of the lamb they had chosen. There in the Temple grounds, along with thousands of other pilgrims, they would have watched as the life blood of their lamb was drained into a vessel, and then poured out at the foot of the altar. Then the lamb was “skinned, and cut open, the fat, the kidney’s, and liver, set apart for the altar; the rest wrapped in the skin, and carried home from the Temple.… As the new day approached, at sunset, the carcass was trussed for roasting, with two skewers of pomegranate wood, so that they formed a cross in the lamb. It was then put in an earthen oven of a special kind, resting, without bottom, on the ground, and was roasted in the earth” (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ).

Prior to this, they would have had to prepare the house in which they would be taking their meal together. They would have had to have removed all leaven, fermented grain or liquid, and anything that might defile the house. All the vessels to be used in preparation of the meal had to be painstakingly cleansed. This would have been an all-day affair. A blast from the silver trumpets in the Temple would have announced to all Jerusalem that the Passover had arrived. The time had come, just as it had over the years. But this time it was going to be different. This time there would be a new Lamb. This would be the final Passover. Once this week ended, there would never be a need for another lamb to ever be sacrificed again. No more blood would need to be shed. No more sacrifices would need to be made. A new covenant was going to be instituted. And while all of this escaped the notice of the disciples, Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and the eternal significance of the role He was about to play. It was for this moment He had come and the time had come for Him to do what only He could do.

Father, it is difficult to understand what these final days would have been like for Your Son. It is impossible to grasp what was going through His mind and heart as He drew closer to those final moments of His life. What He did, He did willingly. He was not forced or coerced. He was not made to die in our place. He did it gladly and out of love for us – in spite of our unlovableness. Thank You for sending Him to die in my place. Jesus, thank You for being willing to be obedient, even unto death – just for me. I know I didn’t deserve. I know I had done nothing to earn it. But You did it anyway. And I am eternally grateful. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org