Chapter 50 Our Great High Priest

Thou art a Priest for ever (Psalm 110:4).

The office of priesthood is as old as man’s ruin. The spiritual collapse and moral delinquency following his fall demanded someone to go into God’s presence on man’s behalf, since no sinful man could enter God’s holy presence. In the beginning, the head of the family was the priest. Then after two thousand years and the choosing of Israel for sovereign and divine purposes, the tribe of Levi was set apart as priests, with the family of Aaron as high priests. That dispensation passed away when in the fullness of time the Lord of glory became flesh. With the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, there are five notable Scriptures in the Letter to the Hebrews which clearly declare the substance of His Priesthood. This is not after the Levitical order, but “the order of Melchizedec.” These Scriptures explain five basic truths of His Priesthood.

His Proper Manhood

“In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren” (Hebrews 2:17); “Every high priest [is] taken from among men” (5:1). Our Lord passed through every human experience of distress. He remembers His own grief as the Son of man, and His own utter dependence upon the sympathetic help of His Father in Heaven. It is because of these unutterable and inexpressible woes in His life on earth that He is now such an understanding and sympathetic High Priest in the heavens and able to succour us (2:18).

His Essential Greatness

“A great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14). He has an essential right to be where He is on the throne of Heaven and, being who He is, we have no fear that His intercessions on our behalf will fail. The particular phase of His ministry in this regard is His supply of grace. For this we are to come boldly to Him that “we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). We need both mercy and grace—mercy to forgive us when we fail; grace to strengthen us that we may not fail again. “Abba, Father,” cried our Lord in His own dire need as the Son of man. That cry from our lips reaches the Father when we cry in the name of His dear Son.

His Infinite Compassion

“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 was 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” (Hebrews 5:7-9). What is stressed here is His “compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way” (verse 2). We are naturally slow in hearing the ways of the Lord. When Peter failed, it was with tender compassion that the Lord looked on him. His compassions fail not. He is One to whom the most timid may come with their burdens, and when they do so they will find Him not hard and exacting, but tender and sympathetic.

His Prevailing Intercession

“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” (Hebrews 7:25). It is because He ever liveth by the power of an endless life that His priesthood is unchangeable. His office will never pass to another, as was the case of the Jewish high priests, who surrendered their office by reason of death. Our Lord remains High Priest for ever by virtue of the fact that “He ever liveth.” Thus eternal salvation is assured us and secured for us. He continueth ever— therefore His priesthood continueth ever—therefore His intercession continueth ever—therefore His salvation continueth ever. Our eternal salvation is bound up with His eternal priesthood and the efficacy of His eternal intercessions.

His Heavenly Ministry

“A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Hebrews 8:2). This heavenly sanctuary is the place where He exercises His priestly functions. The greatness of His office is matched only by the greatness of the sanctuary in which He ministers, which is Heaven itself. Think of the glory of the Tabernacle Moses built in the wilderness, and the magnificence of the Temple Solomon erected in the promised land. But these were sanctuaries which could crumble and be destroyed, which took place when the Babylonians razed Solomon’s house magnifical.

The sanctuary in Heaven is not so. Entering the heavenly sanctuary, as our Lord did, was not entering where there was but a symbolic presence of God in the Shekinah glory. He moved into God’s real presence, and into a sanctuary which God pitched and not man—a sanctuary eternal in the heavens. The particular emphasis here is upon our Lord serving as “a minister of the sanctuary.” Whatever be our need while here on earth below or in Heaven above, it is our Lord’s delight to be amid His redeemed people “as One that serveth.”

Christ, above all glory seated,
King eternal, strong to save,
To Thee death—by death defeated—
Triumph high and glory gave.

Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
There forever to abide:
All the heav’nly host adore Thee,
Seated at Thy Father’s side.

Worship, honor, power, and blessing
Thou art worthy to receive:
Loudest praises, without ceasing,
Meet it is for us to give.

J.R. Woodford And J. Bakewell