In the passage we heard from Hebrews, the writer is explaining Jesus’ death on the cross in terms the Jews could understand. The writer talks about the fourth and final qualification of the high priest in the Temple-purity. Before the high priest could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, he had to offer sacrifices for his own sins and those of his household. The writer emphasizes that Christ is superior to earthly high priests. Sacrifices were offered all the time because the people sinned all of the time. They needed a perfect priest and sacrifice to provide access to God permanently. Jesus is that permanent and perpetual priest.
Christ as the great High Priest had no need to offer a sacrifice for Himself because He is sinless. Because the eternal, unchanging Christ is the High Priest of every believer, He is able to shepherd God’s people all the way home to glory. No other priest will ever be necessary.
The Levitical high priests kept changing for two reasons. In the Levitical system, a priest could serve only between the ages of 25 and 50 according to Numbers 8:24-25. Also, the high priests died. Jesus the High Priest will never be replaced and will never die. The earthly high priests had to be without physical blemishes. They could not be lame, blind, mutilated in their faces, or have a limb too long. They could not have an injured foot or hand. They could not be a hunchback or a dwarf. No mention was made of the moral or spiritual requirements for priesthood.
Purity means cleansed and set apart for a holy use by God. Purity also involves moral purity-the primary moral quality of a person or thing which itself is pure without cleansing. One who has a pure moral quality is utterly pure in God’s eyes and will not yield to temptation. The one who does not yield to temptation is the one who knows its full power. That describes Jesus.
Jesus did not know any evil intentions. He had no false motivations. He spoke simple truths. He healed the sick and was good to all people. He was so filled with love that His reaction to injury was love. When He was on the cross, He prayed for the soldiers who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” He knows how to minister to us in the way that will most benefit us and that will best bring us to maturity in Him. He makes no mistakes and always has our best interests at heart. Because of the covenant God has made with us, we have been freed from anything the devil would try to use to keep us bound by sin. Jesus became a Man to represent us in the presence of God and to pay the price for our sin so we wouldn’t have to.
Verses 26-28 summarize everything the writer has said about Jesus as High Priest since Hebrews 5:1:
- He is holy, always doing what pleases God.
- He is innocent and blameless.
- He is undefiled-morally unstained.
- He is higher than the heavens, seated at the right hand of God.
His everlasting perfection in all these ways makes Him a fitting mediator for us. In fact, He is presently seated at God’s right hand in heaven. He intercedes with God on our behalf.
Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Old Testament priesthood in that:
- He did not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself, because He was sinless.
- He offered up a once-for-all sacrifice-Himself.
- His priesthood is for both Jews and Gentiles. It is for every nation, every people…anyone who will accept the free gift of salvation by placing their faith in Jesus.
Verse 28 provides a final contrast between Jesus and the Old Testament priests. The Old Testament priests were sinful, weak humans who were appointed by the Old Testament law. Jesus, the perfect Son, was appointed an eternal High Priest. Jesus, the Great High Priest, has gained victory over sin and death for His people and intercedes before the Father on their behalf.
The word “true” is not used in Hebrews 8:1-6 in contrast to something false. Instead, it means “original,” in contrast to something that is a copy. Moses’ tabernacle was just a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven. Jesus Christ is the true High Priest who ministers in the true, heavenly sanctuary. Likewise, according to theologian William Barclay, “Earthly worship is a remote reflection of real worship; the earthly priesthood is an inadequate shadow of the real priesthood.”
The Old Testament covenant depended on words from God written in stone. Because no one could keep the Old Covenant due to human sinfulness, it was condemning. The Mosaic Covenant, the covenant of the law, was conditional: “If you will…then I will…” It consisted of commandments that revealed God’s righteous will, judgments that regulated the social life of Israel, and ordinances that laid out the requirements of Israel’s religious life. Jesus’ death and resurrection led to a new covenant in which God writes His thoughts upon the hearts of His redeemed children through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Under the old covenant, God gave specific instructions that regulated the sacrifices that were made and to whom they were to be given. In the new covenant, God has given His people instructions about how to give in response to Christ’s sacrifice. We are imperfect and He gives us perfection. We are to blame forz our sin, but He presents us blameless. He changes us to the degree that we’re no longer sinners saved by grace. In Christ, we’ve become saints who sometimes sin.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1752-1753)
- Evans, L.H. Jr., and Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 33: Hebrews (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 121-124,142-145)
- Stanly, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2006)
- John MacArthur, “Jesus: Our Great High Priest.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Bayless Conley, “For All People.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Vikki Burke, “You Have a Covenant With God.” Retrieved form email@example.com
- “Once For All-the Template for Christian Stewardship.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pete Briscoe, “Experiencing LIFE Today.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com