Good to Great: Jesus is our high priest, but he is a different kind of high priest. While that may not mean much to us it is actually a game changer in some very specific ways.
Imagine you are part of a small ad firm and you have a friend who can bring in a new account with Coke. If your small firm gets an advertizing account with Coca-Cola – that will be a game changer. It will mean a bigger firm, more revenue and more visibility. Everything will change. The author of Hebrews wants us to know something about Jesus, something that he thinks is a game changer. Jesus is a high priest, but he is a new kind of high priest.
The author of Hebrews is going to talk about a lot of different things, making reference to bible passages in Genesis and Psalms. But in essence what he wants us to know is this: God has made and oath, and if God makes an oath you can build your life on that promise. The oath he makes is that one day he would send a new kind of priest who would be better that the current system of priests. Jesus is that new priest and he changes everything.
When God makes an oath you can put your hopes on it
In the second half of Hebrews chapter 6 the author reminds us that God made an oath to Abraham about having many descendents. Abraham waited patiently and received what was promised. When we make an oath we swear by something greater than ourselves. The clearest example of this is when we are sworn in before testifying in court. We swear “so help me God” and that is binding making us legally bound to tell the truth. When God makes an oath he swears by himself because there is nothing greater to swear by. Obviously God does not need to swear at all, but he makes an oath so that we know he is serious.
The author says that God’s oaths are meant to encourage us. In fact they can be an anchor for our souls: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.” And we need an anchor for our souls because when your life falls apart, if your soul is not anchored, you lose all sense of yourself. Imagine again that you are that ad executive we mentioned in the introduction. Imagine that you gets the Coke account, and then something happens and the agency loses it, this after hiring people and expanding their facility to service with the new business. And imagine further that the loss of this account is being blamed on you. They are out an account and you are out a job. If your soul is anchored to the hope that everyone likes you, you have no anchor. If your hope is anchored to your image of being successful, then you have no anchor. No one likes you and everyone thinks you are a failure. It is at times like this that we need an “anchor for the soul.”
The oath that the author makes, the one that is supposed to be our anchor, is this: Jesus is our high priest because he is like Melchizedek. For most of us, this is not much encouragement. What can he mean?
Jesus is a new kind of priest like Melchizedek which means he is better than the Levitical priests, allowing our relationship with God can go from good to great
In the first part of chapter 7, the author wants us to see that Melchizedek represents a better priesthood than the one that came from Abraham. He does this by reminding us of a narrative in Genesis 14 where Abraham, fresh from military conquest, gives a tithe of his plunder to Melchizedek. Melchizedek then blesses the patriarch. The logic is straightforward. The greater person blesses the lesser. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. All Jews, including all the priests from the tribe of Levi come from Abraham, therefore Melchizedek is greater than any priest that came later.
This is the central point and the reason the author mentions this enigmatic, ancient priest. This point is closely tied to the next.
In Psalm 110 God said he would make the Messiah a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is that priest, therefore Jesus is a priest forever and his priesthood is greater than anything happening in Judaism either in the first century or before.
Having established that Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (the oath proclaimed in Psalm 110) He then wants the disciples to know that this is a game changer. Jesus as High priest means the old order, the old law that surrounded and upheld the Levitical Priests, the temple and the sacrifice has been deemed ineffective.
There are at least three ways the new priesthood means a new way of relating to God and all of them are relevant to our day to day lives
In verse 7:22 the author says that Jesus is now the guarantor of a better covenant. To get a fuller picture of what he means we look ahead to Hebrews chapter 8 where the author quotes Jeremiah 31. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet predicted that God would establish a new covenant a new way of relating to his people. Hebrews 8:10 quotes Jeremiah about the new covenant:
10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
In our busy complex world this is a better way to relate to God. The old covenant was good. It represented the best and most pure form of religion. But it was still an exterior thing. The Law became for the Jews a system of regulations to be obeyed, much like the current US tax code — more and more complex as people wondered “what is the least I need to do to be legal.” In the past an exterior religion may have been held in place by social constraints. But in our world there is so much change, so little stability, so many new issue, that we need this a God that will change us on the inside.
How are we to follow God in a world of future’s trading, or divorce court, or constant marketing or of representative government. The Mosaic Law does not address any of these things. But God will show you what to do if you follow Christ, if he is your High Priest, if you have his sacrifice covering you. He will show you because he will be with you. This is a better way.
Jesus is a better high priest because he is a priest forever. Unlike other priests death has no power over him. He is alive forever always praying for us. What does this mean?
It is very hard to grasp how Jesus can be at the Father’s side always praying (or interceding) for us. But one way to look at it is to recognize that there is always someone pulling for you. In a world where everything is working against you, every pull seems to be toward compromise and sin, you know that there is always one person, the Son of God, our Savior, our priest, God himself, who is always praying for you. He always wants you to succeed, to be obedient, to walk in his way.
Have you ever had someone like that – a teacher who knew you could do better and challenged you to go beyond the assignments to really think, or a coach you told you, you could be very good and not to quit? Some people never have someone like that so it is hard to think that Jesus could be like that. But this says that he intercedes for you always.
In a world where we can feel very alone, this is a better way and Jesus is a better priest.
Jesus is a better High Priest because he has made a “once for all” sacrifice. How often do we think that we need to add to what God has done by making another sacrifice of some kind? He made one sacrifice for sins. You cannot add to it, you can only respond to it and accept it. Sometime we feel such guilt that we want to atone for our sins, but he has already done that. Yes, God might call you to respond to the consequences of your sin. He might ask you to reach out to someone, make amends or forgive someone. But that is different from atoning for your sin.
Jesus has made atonement for our sins, and because he is a different kind of High Priest — he is eternal, he is the Son of God — he has made one sacrifice for sin to cover everything. We can accept it or reject it, but we cannot add to it.
This is what the game changer is, this is where our relationship with God goes from good to great. Jesus is our priest which means if we accept his sacrifice we are forgiven completely; it means he is always on your side, pulling for you to follow him and build his kingdom. And he is changing you by his grace a work that he is doing on the inside through the new covenant.