We continue on in our series about unmasking Jesus and helping you to understand Jesus’ full identity. As we’ve previously explained, he was fully God and fully man as well as he performed the role of prophet. If you missed those conversations, check the links directly above. As we said last time, this role of prophet, along with the role of priest and king were present amongst the people and life of Israel in the Old Testament and are understood to be fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus and as a way of helping us understand Jesus’s work and what he accomplished physically and spiritually while being with us on this planet.
These three positions in the Old Testament of prophet, priest and king were distinct from one another. The prophet spoke God’s word to the people, the priest offered sacrifices, prayers and praise to God on behalf of the people; and the king ruled over the people as God’s representative. Check out how Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of priest among the people and for us today.
Christ offers a sacrifice to God on our behalf AND is the sacrifice that is offered
What do you think of when you hear the word priest? An old man in black clothing and a white collar? Someone with fancy ceremony clothes that look like drapes holding a bible, cross and wearing a funky hat thing?
Maybe if you ponder the question “What does a priest do?” you can see images or video in your head of them waving their bible or cross around, sprinkling holy water on someone, making the sign of the cross on their forehead or casting out demons (thanks Hollywood). If you’ve read the bible and in particular the Old Testament (Exodus 28), your picture would likely look like them wearing linen clothing with gold, blue, purple and scarlet thread and items such as a long undershirt in two pieces with stones sewn into the shoulders, robe, patterned overcoat, turban, chestpiece with gemstones in it and a sash. The video you’d likely see in your head as you think about what they do would be like from a horror movie with them slaughtering animals, draining their blood, cutting them into pieces, burning them on the altar and stoking the fire so it never went out (read Leviticus 1 and onwards)!
So, if that’s priest according to the Old Testament you might be wondering how in the world Jesus possibly fits that bill. Why? Cuz we’ve all seen the pictures of what Jesus is wearin’ and it ain’t that. Also, he couldn’t possibly kill something cuz he’s all about love right (we’ve seen him cuddling that little lamb like it was a stuff animal).
Well, the reason we can’t picture like that is because he wasn’t! It was more the function of the priest that Jesus fills as per the quote above.
Taking a peek into the book of Hebrews in the bible will paint for us a picture of how Jesus is our priest – offering a sacrifice (& was the sacrifice offered), prayers and praise to God on behalf of us his people in order for them to be made right before the Lord & enter God’s presence.
Jesus Offers a Perfect Sacrifice for Sin
Because sin requires the shedding of blood (check Genesis 3 where animals are killed to cover up Adam & Eve’s nakedness) Jesus was the priest (see Hebrews 4:14 and Hebrews 9:24) offering the sacrifice (himself) as the God-man to be the sacrifice (see Hebrews 9:26).
It’s important to note that he needed to be fully & completely a man in order to bleed and die as a sacrifice. He also needed to be God to be the perfect sacrifice and in order for his death to cover and pay the price for all the sin of the entirety of humanity (past, present, future).
Jesus’ sacrifice was a complete and final sacrifice that ended forever the need to sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin (see Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 9:12, 24-28; Hebrews 10:1-2, 10, 12, 14; Hebrews 13:12). Thank goodness too huh. Can you imagine if we needed to do this today? We’d each be literally leading the lamb to the slaughter and P.E.T.A. def wouldn’t be happy. Thanks Jesus.
Jesus Continually Brings Us Near to God
The O.T. priests had access to God in a way that the people never could. Only the priests went into the inner place of the temple called the ‘holy place’. And only the chief priest (called the High priest) had access to God and could enter the special dwelling place of God in the tabernacle/temple (called the holy of holies) to meet with God on behalf of the people and could only do so once a year (Hebrews 9:1-7).
Jesus now dwells with God in heaven (Hebrews 9:24) and because of this, we don’t need the temple any longer, nor do we need the priest. We have direct access to God through Jesus and because he’s continually with God we have continual access. When Jesus offered himself and died on the cross, the curtain separating man from God was torn in half (Luke 23:45) indicating that access to God in heaven is now possible. This is something we can celebrate and should give us some assurance in our faith as it says in Hebrews 10:19-22.
Jesus Continually Prays for Us
Another function of the priests in the bible was to pray on behalf of the people. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus lives to make intercession for us. In the book of Romans, Paul also affirms this function of Jesus saying he interceded for us (see Romans 8:34).
So, there you go! There’s a longer, fuller peek under the mask to see Jesus’s identity. As Hebrews 4:14 says, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.”
Hopefully this gives you a better picture of who Jesus was and is! Next month we’ll pull the mask back a little more to explore Jesus the king!
Share your comments/questions below!
1John Calvin was first theologian to apply these categories to Jesus’s work (see his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 15)
:: by Clint Houlbrook of Vernon, BC
I love learning about and understanding who Jesus the God man was/is because it’s shapes my understanding of who I am and what this life’s for! It’s a continuing journey that I’m enjoying and I hope you do too!