Jesus – Our Great High Priest

high-priest9Brandon Crowe (PhD, Edinburgh) is associate professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary and book review editor for he Westminster Theological Journal. He is the author of The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption: Wisdom from James, Peter, John, and Jude. In an article (Our Great High Priest) at Credo Magazine he writes:

From the earliest centuries of the church, Christian theologians have articulated Jesus’ person and work in terms of prophet, priest, and king. One of the clearest places we see the interplay of these three offices of Christ is in Hebrews. More specifically, one of the distinctive contributions of Hebrews is its teaching on Jesus as our great high priest. In fact, one could argue that the main point of Hebrews is to explain the significance of Jesus’ high priesthood. In Hebrews 8:1 we read: “Now the [main] point in what we
are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”

Protestants today may not always see the practical value in priesthood, since we do not believe that the mediation of a special order of priests is necessary to assist in our approach to God (unlike, for example, Roman Catholicism). However, this does not mean that priesthood is somehow unimportant or unnecessary. In fact, Scripture teaches that we all require a priest to approach God. But Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus Christ himself is our priest—indeed, our great high priest—and he has no rivals. Therefore, we do not need to rely on any lesser order of imperfect priests to approach God. What, then, does it mean for Jesus to be our great high priest? We will consider three aspects from Hebrews, and then broaden our focus to consider some other New Testament passages as well.

THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF JESUS IN HEBREWS

1. The Final Sacrifice

First, as our great high priest Jesus has offered the final sacrifice to atone for sins (Heb. 10:14). Because Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect, no additional sacrifice is needed forever. This is the case because Jesus did not simply offer a sacrifice that was external to himself, but he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice. A key text in this regard is Hebrews 10:5–7, which quotes Psalm 40:6–8: Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Hebrews 10:9 then adds: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Jesus’ sacrifice provides the solution to a problem
that we often find in the Old Testament: even where sacrifices may be offered, people’s hearts (including those of the priests) were often far from God. Continue reading