Greater Priest ~ 20171210 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/10 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Priest ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171210_advent-greater-priest.mp3
This Christmas season, we are looking at Jesus. Jesus is greater! 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that 'all the promises of God find their Yes in him.' This Advent we are looking at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the Yes to all the promises of God. Jesus is the greater Prophet, the greater Priest, the greater King, Jesus is the greater Man, the greater Israel. Last week we saw that Jesus is the greater Prophet, the one who faithfully speaks God's words to his people. Jesus is the Prophet greater than Moses. Jesus is the one who communicates God's words to us; Jesus is the Word made flesh!
Today we will look at Jesus the greater Priest, the greater Tabernacle, the greater Sacrifice.
Priests and the Presence of God
In the beginning, God made man to be in relationship with him, to enjoy his presence. But man rebelled and was forced to leave the garden, and the presence of God. God covered the shame of the first man and woman with skins, presuming that a death occurred to satisfy the wages of their disobedience. Man must now approach God with sacrifice.
In the Exodus, God took Israel to be his people, to be in relationship with him; God intended to dwell among his people and again be with them. In Exodus 29, God gave instructions to consecrate Aaron and his sons, those who would serve him as priests.
God intended to dwell among the people and be their God, but for sinful man to be in the presence of the holy God is dangerous. So God set apart Aaron and his sons as priests who would approach him with the necessary sacrifices. The first chapters of Leviticus elaborate in detail the sacrifices necessary to approach God, and by chapter 9 Aaron and his sons have been set apart and Aaron offers sacrifices to God, and God accepts those sacrifices. Then in chapter 10, two of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, offered something God had not proscribed, and fire from the Lord consumed them.
It is dangerous for sinful man to approach the holy God. We must approach on God's terms, not our own.
In Leviticus 16,
Only one man, the high priest, and only once a year, on the day of atonement, was allowed to enter in behind the veil, into the very presence of God, and only with the appropriate sacrifices.
Distinction between Prophet and Priest
God appointed priests in under the old Covenant to minister and mediate his presence. Where Moses the prophet went into God's presence to listen to his voice and bring his word back to the people, Aaron was the one who officiated at the altar of sacrifice, and carried the blood of the sacrifices in to the presence of God to make satisfaction for the sins of the people.
Hebrews looks back on the old system and gives us a concise description of the role of a priest.
Where a prophet was one who spoke on behalf of God to man, a priest was one who acted on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.
Imperfection of the Old Covenant
The Old Testament priest was the one who mediated God's presence, who offered gifts and sacrifices for sin. But the old system was flawed. As Hebrews points out, the Old Testament priests were flawed. Hebrews 7:27-28 tells us that every priest appointed under the old system was himself a sinner, so it was required that he first offer sacrifices for himself and then he could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. And Hebrews 7:23 says that every priest was mortal, so they were interrupted by death from performing their duties. There were many successive high priests, some better, some worse.
And the sacrifices they offered were insufficient and ineffective. Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. In Hebrews 10:1-3, 11 the sacrifices had to be repeated day by day, year by year. The sacrifices effected no lasting change. Hebrews 7:18-19 calls them weak, useless, sacrifices that could made nothing perfect; Hebrews 9:9 says “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper.” Hebrews 10:1-2 says it “can never ...make perfect those who draw near;” they cannot cleanse; they cannot take away consciousness of sin. The sacrifices offered were ineffective. They temporarily covered sins, but they could not change the heart of the worshipers.
Under the old system only the high priest was allowed access behind the veil, into the very presence of God, and only once a year. The old system, Hebrews 9:8 tells us, failed to open the way into the holy places to us (cf. Heb.6:19-20).
The Old Testament left us longing for something more, something better, something more powerful. Someone; a greater High Priest, a greater sacrifice, a better covenant.
Jesus the Lamb of God
Jesus is introduced to us in John's gospel this way:
Behold, the Lamb of God! A lamb that takes away sin, every Israelite would understand, is a sacrificial lamb, a lamb that would die in place of a sinner. But this is the Lamb. The one Lamb. When Solomon brought the Ark of the covenant to the temple, they were “sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.” (1Ki.8:5); when he dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, he sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep (1Ki.8:63). And John says of Jesus “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Jesus is the singular Lamb of God.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. He is God's Lamb. This takes us back long before the temple, back to the time of Abraham. God had promised Abraham a son with Sarah his wife. Finally, when Abraham is 100 years old, he has Isaac. It is through this promised son that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen.18:18; 22:18). And then God says:
Sacrifice your son. Your only son. Your beloved son. Offer him as a burnt offering. Abraham lays the wood for the offering on his son, and they walk alone together to the mountain, Abraham carrying the fire and the knife. Isaac asks “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
God will provide for himself the lamb. After the Angel of the Lord intervened and stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son,
God will provide for himself the lamb. The Lord will provide. Jesus comes to John and John declares “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The sacrifice to end all sacrifices. For Abraham, God provided a lamb in place of his only son. In Jesus, God provided his beloved only Son in place of all the sacrificial lambs. Jesus is the greater sacrifice.
The Greater Priest; Healer, Teacher
Jesus is the greater Sacrifice, but Jesus is also the greater Priest. If we go back to Leviticus, we see one of the main duties of the priest was judging, diagnosing, distinguishing, and teaching. The LORD told Aaron:
The priest was to differentiate between clean and unclean. Much of Leviticus lays out criteria for what is clean and what is unclean; what we may eat, and what we are not to eat; what health conditions or actions are permissible and what prevents one from entering the presence of the Lord. Childbirth, skin diseases, mold, bodily discharges; the priest had the authority to differentiate and diagnose, and to teach. But he had no power to change the condition of anyone. He could inspect and identify a condition that would deny access to the tabernacle, or even exclude from the community, but he could do nothing about the condition.
What a presumptuous request! No Old Testament priest could do that! They could diagnose, but they had no power to cure. But this man looks to Jesus, calls him Lord, and says 'you can make me clean.'
Jesus does what no priest would do. He touches a leper. To come into contact with anything unclean would be to contract uncleanness. But Jesus is greater! Jesus by a touch and by a word transmits holiness to this man who was full of leprosy! Jesus is the greater priest who came not to diagnose, but to cure.
Jesus taught the people God's standards. He came as the authoritative interpreter of the law. He unfolded the real intent of the law. He said things like 'you have heard that it was said ...but I say to you' (Mt.5). When accused by the pharisees that his disciples ate with unwashed hands, he charged them with “rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition” (Mk.7:9). Then he declared to the people:
When his disciples asked him what he meant,
A priest had authority to teach the people what foods were clean and what were unclean. But Jesus is greater! Jesus authoritatively teaches that it is the heart God is concerned about, not what you eat or don't eat. Jesus declared all foods clean. Jesus cleanses foods, cleanses lepers, raises the dead, even forgives sinners with a word. Jesus is the greater priest!
The Greater Priest; Mediator
But the most important way Jesus fulfilled the role of priest was as mediator, the one who offered the sacrifice on behalf of man to God.
The amazing thing about Jesus our great High Priest is that he is at the same time both priest and sacrifice.
The Old Testament priests were sinners; but Jesus is “a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Heb.7:26); he had no sin of his own to atone for. Other priests were were interrupted by death, but Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb.7:24).
The blood of animal sacrifices could never take away sins.
The old sacrifices had to be repeated; but
The old sacrifices effected no lasting change. But Jesus' sacrifice of himself 'has perfected us for all time.' He, as 'a merciful and faithful high priest made propitiation for the sins of the people' (Heb.2:17). 'The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purifies our conscience from dead works to serve the living God' (Heb.9:14). 'He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself' (Heb.9:26). The once for all sacrifice of Jesus brings about a real inner transformation in the hearts of his people.
The old system failed to open the way into the holy places to us. Only the high priest was allowed access behind the veil, into the very presence of God. But in Jesus, our greater High Priest, 'we can draw near to God through him' (Heb.7:25).
We have a hope that enters in.
Because of Jesus, our greater High Priest, we can enter in. The way is opened to us through the curtain. We can now draw near.
Jesus the greater Tabernacle
Jesus is not only the way in to the Father, he is the greater Tabernacle, the greater meeting place with God. Remember, in John 1:14, where we are told that:
The word 'dwelt' is actually the word 'tabernacled' or 'pitched his tent.' Jesus, very God in the flesh, has become the tabernacle, the meeting place of God and man. When challenged by the religious leaders to give a sign of his authority to cleanse the temple,
Jesus is the greater High Priest; Jesus is the greater Sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; Jesus is the greater Tabernacle and Temple, the meeting place between God and man; because of his sacrifice, the veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus is the Word made flesh, God come down to pitch his tent among us; he is Immanuel, God with us (Mt.1:23). Jesus is greater!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org