Jesus Our Great High Priest, Part 2

Entering the Most Holy PlaceIn the last post, I recommended looking at passages describing Jesus as our high priest and categorizing what you found by marking phrases in different colors.  To summarize the findings of our study group, I’ll use another way to categorize what a passage is teaching, which is to list them out under different headings.

Jesus as High Priest

  • Fully human in every way (Heb. 2:17)
  • Merciful (Heb. 2:17)
  • Faithful (Heb. 2:17)
  • Suffered when He was tempted (Heb. 2:18)
  • Ascended into heaven (Heb. 4:14)
  • Empathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15)
  • Has been tempted in every way we have (Heb. 4:15)
  • Never sinned (Heb. 4:15)

Similarities: Jesus and Old Testament Priests

  • Selected and appointed to represent people to God (Heb. 5:1)
  • Offer gifts and sacrifices for sins (Heb. 5:1)
  • Able to deal gently with the ignorant and straying (Heb. 5:2)
  • Priesthood received by call of God (Heb. 5:4-6)

Differences: Jesus and Old Testament Priests

  • OT priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sin, but Jesus did not because He was sinless (holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, made perfect forever)  (Heb. 5:2-3, 7:26-28)
  • Jesus was made priest through God’s unchangeable oath; OT priests were not (Heb. 7:20-22)
  • There were many OT priests because they died; Jesus lives forever and therefore is a permanent priest (Heb. 7:23-24)
  • OT priests offered sacrifices day after day; Jesus offered Himself as sacrifice once for all (Heb. 7:27)

Benefits We Receive from Jesus as High Priest

  • Makes atonement for our sins (Heb. 2:17)
  • Able to help those who are tempted (Heb. 2:18)
  • Gives reason to hold firmly to our faith (Heb. 4:14)
  • We can approach God’s throne with confidence (Heb. 4:16)
  • We will receive mercy (Heb. 4:16)
  • We will find grace to help us when in our need (Heb. 4:16)
  • Able to save us completely when we come to God through Him (Heb. 7:25)
  • Always lives to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25)
  • Truly meets our needs (Heb. 7:26)
  • Since Jesus offered Himself as our once-for-all sacrifice for sin, it implies that we never have to make another sacrifice for our sins, because His sacrifice forgives ALL our sins, past, present and future (Heb. 7:27)

All that from just three paragraphs! It’s amazing what rich detail there is in scripture if we will only look for it!

Sometimes, though, if we only look at the details we can lose sight of the main message a biblical author is trying to convey. Today our group will use another study method that helps show us the bigger picture. We will study each paragraph and then write a summary of the main teaching in the margin on the right. If you do that for a whole book, you can then read all your summaries in order to see the flow of the logic, which will help point you toward the main lesson of the book. (Notice that different translations divide paragraphs differently; there are no paragraphs in the original Hebrew and Greek! That means  it’s okay if you disagree with your  bible’s paragraph divisions!)

We’ll do this exercise with the following excerpts from Hebrews 8 and 9 about Jesus’ ministry as High Priest that relate to what we have studied about the Day of Atonement:

  • Hebrews 8:1-5
  • Hebrews 9:6-14
  • Hebrews 9:24-28

I invite you to do this on your own, and compare your findings with ours when I summarize our group’s findings in my next post.

(This post is part of a series. See Entering the Most Holy Place: a Study on the Day of Atonement for an introduction and list of posts.)

Not Safe, But Good

It stormed the other day in central Indiana. The clouds were layered in multiple shades of gray, ranging from off-white to nearly charcoal. It made me think of the picture at the top of this newly-redesigened blog, although today’s skies were much less dramatic than they were the day I took this photo (which, aside from the quote, is unretouched). The storms here can be much more violent than where I grew up, but the upside is how beautiful the clouds can be. Beautiful, but scary; kind of like God.

Which brings me to my favorite quote in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series – well, actually, I think it’s just about everyone’s favorite quote. When the Pevensie children first hear about Aslan, they are surprised to learn that he is a lion.

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

– C. S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe

Not safe. But good. The King. The sovereign Lord who is always good, even when He’s more than a little scary. We can trust Him completely, but we dare not presume that He is a pushover. For even though He is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8), He is still the Holy One, the righteous judge (Psalm 7:11; 2 Timothy 4:8), and “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

I think one of the reasons God does not appear to be “safe” is that He’s far more concerned about our holiness than He is about our happiness, and our character is far more important to Him than our comfort. (I’m sure those phrases are not original with me, but I can’t dredge up the source from my middle-aged memory.) God is relentless in this regard; He’ll stop at nothing to shape us into the image of Christ. And that’s a scary thought, at least to me, because I’ve experienced a little of that relentlessness.

Every year our ministry runs a summer missions project for college students, and one year we decided the project theme would be “whatever it takes.” We soon learned that God would not let us teach something we could not live out. The sacrifices of time, effort and energy required to pull the project off that summer pushed us all to exhaustion. Knowing it was no coincidence, our team joke became, “Next year, our theme’s gonna be ‘peaceful, easy feeling’!”

It was definitely not a “safe” summer, but it was a good one. Lives were changed–the lives of our students, the lives of those who received Christ through their ministry, and the lives of those of us who taught, mentored, and administrated the project. Even though I was physically and mentally drained, probably more than I had ever been before, the reward of seeing God change us all was well worth the sacrifice.

Relentless. Beautiful, but scary. Not safe, but good.

This is our God.

The Crown of All Our Hopes

My last new post was nearly a year ago at Easter, so it seems fitting to start posting again on Easter. It also seems fitting to restart this blog with a passage by the same author I quoted for my first post, A. W.Tozer. For the Easter season I started reading a new collection of his essays (previously published in other books) called The Radical Cross: Living the Passion of Christ. In a chapter called “The Easter Emphasis” Tozer writes:

“Christ was born that He might become a man and became a man that He might give His life a ransom for many. Neither the birth nor the dying were ends in themselves. As He was born to die, so did He die that He might atone, and rise that He might justify freely all who take refuge in Him. His birth and His death are history. His appearance at the mercy seat is not history past, but a present, continuing fact, to the instructed Christian the most glorious fact his trusting heart can entertain…The glory of the Christian faith is that the Christ who died for our sins rose again for our justification. We should joyfully remember His birth and gratefully muse on His dying, but the crown of all our hopes is with Him at the Father’s right hand.”

Because Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, I can have absolute confidence that the Father accepted His sacrifice on my behalf and that I am forgiven and in right relationship with Him. His resurrection not only guarantees my future resurrection but provides new life for me right now. Christ is alive and actively working on my behalf right now. He is my “defense attorney” in the court of heaven, so I have no reason to fear the accusations of either the devil or  my own overactive conscience (but I still do, more often than I like to admit – oh, me of little faith!).  Jesus is representing me before the Father and interceding for me right now. Amazing! The Son of God Himself is praying for me at this very moment! Why do I forget that so often?

Father, please remind me of the significance of the resurrection not only this Easter, but throughout the year.

The Exchange

During last week’s Easter service, my church did a responsive reading based on excerpts from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. It gave a wonderful picture of how Christ took the consequences of our sin and gave us undeserved blessing in exchange. Here’s the original section that our responsive reading was based on, from a chapter called “Love Lustres at Calvary.”

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
  cast off that I might be brought in,
  trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,
  surrendered to hell's worst that I might attain heaven's best,
  stripped that I might be clothed,
  wounded that I might be healed,
  athirst that I might drink,
  tormented that I might be comforted,
  made a shame that I might inherit glory,
  entered darkness that I might have eternal light.
My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
  groaned that I might have endless song,
  endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
  bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
  bowed his head that I might uplift mine,
  experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
  closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
  expired that I might for ever live.
O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
All this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
Help me to adore thee by lips and life.

– Puritan prayer, from The Valley of Vision

And Can It Be

The first time I heard this hymn was when I was in college, at the baptist church attended by most of the Christian students on campus. The lyrics totally blew me away because of the picture they gave me of what Christ accomplished for me on the cross. The God of the universe has such an incredible love for me that He died in my place to provide forgiveness, life, deliverance, righteousness, a new identity, and direct access to His presence! “And Can It Be” remains my favorite traditional hymn.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain –
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace –
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

– Charles Wesley, 1739

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