“For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do — first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all time when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.” (CSB – Read chapter 7, read chapter 8)
We like to do things for ourselves. Mostly. Laziness and the desire to have everything done for you is more of a cultural malady now than it has ever been in our past, but there are still many folks who prefer to do things for themselves. And this isn’t a bad thing either. I can point you to verses where we are encouraged to work hard so that we don’t have to rely on anyone else to provide our basic needs for us. But there are some things we can’t do on our own. One of the chief of these things is ironic because in a culture in which laziness and dependency are growing challenges, it is the one thing most people still want to do for themselves. What I’m talking about is connecting with God. We need help with that. The author is Hebrews here is talking about the kind of help we need. Let’s join the conversation.
Yesterday, we jammed for just a bit on the fact that Jesus is greater than any of the high priests of the old covenant because He lives forever whereas they died and had to be replaced. This means that Jesus is always on the job, interceding for us before the Father. To put that another way, Jesus is always there for us whenever we need Him (which is all the time, if we’re being honest).
That thought prompted another one in the mind of the author of Hebrews: Exactly what kind of a high priest do we need? What would the person be like who can check off all the boxes to minister to our needs and represent us before the Father? Here at the tail end of chapter 7 he tells us. This is a pretty good list, all things considered.
We need a high priest who is first holy. He must be morally pure and separated by that moral purity from everyone else, not in such a way that he is aloof, but rather distinct. Our high priest needs to also be innocent. This is not a childlike wherein he doesn’t know what evil is, but rather the innocence of holiness where there is no sin in him. Indeed, he cannot adequately represent our needs if he is constantly having to address his own before God. More on that in a minute.
The high priest we need is also undefiled. This is yet another way to convert the importance of his being without sin. If he is corrupted by it at all, he will not be able to minister as we need him. He should be separated from sinners, again, not in the sense of having nothing to do with them. On the contrary, he should actively rub elbows with them so that his own holiness can rub off on them. Instead, he should be different from them in that he is more stained by sin like they are. Finally, in addition to everything else, he needs to be exalted. God is in Heaven and we are on earth. Our priest should be able to reach to God and bring back to us what He receives there.
And here’s the thing: We can’t do any of this for ourselves. We simply aren’t good enough for God on our own. You know this. You know it in your heart of hearts as much as you might want the opposite to be true. You know there is a standard that’s required to get to God. Even if you reject the standard of the Bible in favor of one you’ve made up for yourself, you still don’t meet that standard. And because you don’t meet that standard, you are looking for someone who you believe to be morally superior to yourself to help connect you with your conception of God. We all look to moral heroes. The cruel irony is that there aren’t any. They all have their own baggage like you do. They all have baggage save one.
Coming back to the idea that we need him to not have to deal with his own sin so that he can help us deal with ours, The writer observed that “He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day.” He doesn’t have to give any attention to his sin because he doesn’t have any. Instead, he can focus all his attention on helping us deal with ours. The priests of old couldn’t do this. Before they could intercede for the people, they had to deal with their own sin. They were constantly having to make themselves fit for God so they could represent our interests. The high priest we need only had to offer a sacrifice (namely, Himself) once.
As weak as all these old covenant priests were in terms of offering the kind insufficient sacrifices they did and constantly having to focus their attention on themselves instead of us, they were the best the Law could give us. They were legal priests. And legal, functionally hereditary priests were weakened by sin. Because of this, while many did their job admirably, there was only so much they could do.
Jesus’ priesthood, though, didn’t come through the Law. In this sense, He’s not a legal priest. His is a priesthood of promise. God delivered Him to us by a promise. And because He is a priest by promise instead of heredity, He is not afflicted with any of the normal weaknesses that otherwise leave them so ineffective.
In other words, Jesus is the kind of high priest we need…which is exactly where the author lands as chapter 8 begins. Look at this: “Now the main point of what is being said is this: We have this kind of high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man.”
Jesus is the high priest we need. Jesus is the high priest you need. He not only can, but will stand in the gap between you and God, helping you reach what you never could have achieved on your own. You only need to trust yourself to Him. Trust in Him as the Savior who rose from the grave, and the Lord who conquered death. He offers eternal life to all who seek it in Him. May you trust Him and live.