In ancient Israel, the priest held a position of high esteem. Only the priest was able to touch holy things. The priest wore special clothing. And the high priest was the only one who was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle or temple. But as important as this position was, it was just a shadow of what was to come through Jesus.
The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish Christians who were suffering for their faith. Because of this, many were contemplating returning to Judaism and even abandoning their faith in Jesus altogether. To encourage them to stay the course, the author of Hebrews shows how Jesus not only fulfilled their expectations but surpassed them.
First, Jesus is our “great high priest” (Heb. 4:14). One of the high priest’s primary jobs was to offer “gifts and sacrifices for sins” (5:1). The problem with sacrifices in the Old Testament was that they were never permanent. They had to be offered year after year (10:1). These sacrifices pointed forward to what would be a final and much greater sacrifice. Jesus offered his own flesh and blood, a sacrifice that would be good for all time (10:10–12).
Second, Jesus fulfilled the role of the priest by making prayers and petitions for the people. Unlike earthly priests, Jesus has complete access to God the Father. He “ascended into heaven” and sits at the right hand of the Father (4:14). In addition, He understands perfectly our human weaknesses and can represent us to the Father well (4:15). He regularly prays for us as the perfect representative (7:25). Jesus is the fulfillment of everything the office of high priest anticipated.
>> Sometimes we get discouraged by our inability to follow God faithfully. We should be comforted to know that we have a perfect priest, Jesus, who offered the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, who sympathizes with our weakness, and who intercedes for us with the Father!
Dear God, thank You that we have a great High Priest—another gift from You to Your people, another promise fulfilled! Teach us to come to You confidently and courageously and “hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Heb. 4:14).