Jesus as Our Priest
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest,
holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son, who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7:26-28
A few years after I graduated from college, I saw my eighth grade English teacher at a high school football game. She said, ‘Did you ever become a preacher?” That took me back a bit, for I don’t remember sharing that with her. But I must have, and it tells me that as far back as the eighth grade I knew what I wanted to do. I told her that I had graduated in May 1984 from Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz, California, and that I was currently the youth pastor at a local church.
I knew in the eighth grade that my calling was to teach the Word of God. But having a calling and fulfilling the requirements of that calling are two different things. It took me four years of preparation before I was ready to even begin my journey as a teacher of the Word. Because I’m a Pentecostal, I wanted to attend a college whose theology was the same as mine, and so I went to Bethany. This college was suited to fit my desire of becoming a minister with the Assemblies of God, with whom they were associated. In other words, since I knew what I wanted to do, my next move was to find the college that fulfilled my needs and my desires. Bethany was that college.
In our current passage, the author of Hebrews points out that our needs, as sinful human beings, have been met by Jesus, our High Priest.
If we know what we want to do—such as live forever in the presence of God—then certain requirements must be met in order to achieve that goal. These basic requirements for our salvation have been met by Jesus, just as the basic requirements for becoming a college were met by Bethany, and it is up to us to apply the availability of their benefits to our lives. Now in verses 26-28, the author of Hebrews will show us five ways in which Jesus is our High Priest, and as such He is perfectly suited to meet all the requirements needed to gain our acceptance into the ‘heavens” that He inhabits.
The first way that Jesus is perfectly suited to meet our needs is through His holiness.
We need a high priest who is ‘holy” (hasios), right, unpolluted. This word describes Jesus as He appears to God (see Acts 2:27; 13:35), not as He appears to man. It refers to His character as an individual, not merely to the extent of His sanctification. The other Greek word for holy, hagios, can be used of things set apart for the work of God, like vessels and tools. But hasios refers to a person’s character.
Paul told Timothy we must lift up ‘holy hands in prayer” (1 Timothy 2:8). It was not that the hands themselves were holy, but it was the heart behind the hands that made them holy in God’s sight. And that holiness must be as God views holiness, not as man views holiness, for there is often a big difference between the two. The life of Christ was completely holy in God’s sight, even when men accused Him of lacking certain messianic qualities. That is what happened at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50) when Jesus was anointed by the formerly sinful woman (v. 47). If Jesus were here today, I am sure that some of the things He would do, places He would go, and people He would associate with would be considered by the more religiously self-righteous among us to be ungodly, and they would chastise the Savior to ‘abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These are the people who are self-appointed to police the lives of others according to the laws and standards of their personal and/or denominational views of holiness. But since they don’t have the mind of God but live only to please men—and this under the mask of godliness—they don’t really know how to distinguish good from evil in the sight of God. Jesus knew the mind of God and men, and chose to live a life that pleased God. That is what it means to be holy.
The second characteristic of our High Priest is that He is blameless.
When our author calls Jesus blameless (akakos = a, negative; kayos, evil), he means that Jesus was free from the mixture of evil, was innocent, without malice and harmless. William Barclay translates this word as ‘one who never hurt anyone.” Evil cannot be hidden, but will always show itself as it hurts, maims, kills and destroys (see John 10:10). There is no such thing as a latent, sleeping evil. The thief has a plan and he will carry it out. Jesus also has a plan which is being carried out, but His plan is completely lacking of evil intent and has never brought harm to any person on earth.
When we look at these first two descriptions of Jesus together, we see that ‘holy” tells us what Jesus was in His relationship with God, and ‘innocent” tells us what Jesus was in His relationship with man. Jesus is the only one who ever walked the earth who never abused, allured, contaminated, corrupted, destroyed, defiled, injured, impaired, profaned, polluted, ruined, ravished, tempted, teased, violated or vilified anyone. As a ‘holy” man, He loved God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength; as an ‘innocent” man He loved His neighbor as himself. Jesus was truly the fulfillment of the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17). He did not live for himself, but always for the good of others. When He was mistreated, He did not retaliate. When He was wrongly accused, He did not expend great energy defending himself. Isaiah 53:7 tells us, ‘He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
The third description of Jesus shows us His purity.
He was stainless and undefiled throughout His entire life on earth. Not only did He enter the world holy and blameless and undefiled, but He also left the world in the same way. According to Leviticus 21:1, 2, 10-15, a defiled priest could not enter God’s presence and make the necessary sacrifices for the sins of the people. Furthermore, a defiled or blemished lamb could not be sacrificed; only a lamb without ‘blemish” (Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 22:21) could be offered to God as a pleasing sacrifice. Jesus was pure as both our High Priest and as our sacrificial Lamb.
Fourth, Jesus was ‘separated from sinners.”
Even though Jesus came to earth ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), received sinners, ate with sinners, healed sinners, was known as a friend of sinners, and loved sinners enough to die for them, He was also set apart from sinners. He lived among sinful people, but He himself was not a sinner. He was ‘tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). His holiness, stainlessness, purity, and separateness were more than what the priests gained through ritual and abstinence—it was a result of His inner character. He did not avoid sinners because they might defile Him or cause Him to sin. Instead, He sought out sinners so that He might be able to say to them, ‘Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).
Finally, we see that Jesus was ‘exalted above the heavens.”
Just as Jesus was set apart from sinners, so is He set apart from everything in heaven as He is ‘exalted,” now sitting at the right hand of God the Father—the perfect place to act as our intercessor (7:25). In these five ways Jesus ‘meets our need,” literally, ‘is fitting for us,” or as the Amplified Bible states it, ‘[perfectly adapted] to our needs.” Whose needs? Our needs. The same God who created us also knew what we would need in order to fix us, fitting us with just the right parts, adapting to our needs the perfect cure. And Jesus is that cure. There is no need to look anywhere but to Jesus, for He is the cure for all that ails mankind.