23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Theme: The High Priest Lives
Dear fellow redeemed,
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! To date, there have only been two people who have avoided physical death: Enoch and Elijah. Both men were taken directly into eternal life by the LORD. Every other past human being has died. Every single other one. Right now, our world is obsessed with death due to the COVID-19 virus. We are bombarded with statistics about death. We are bombarded with advice and laws regarding preventing death. And yet, unless Christ returns first, you will die at some point. There is a 100% chance of death, unless Christ returns first. No doctor, no health official, no lawmaker can prevent that, but we do need someone to defeat death for us. This pandemic, however you look at it, certainly shows us the problem of death. This is precisely why Easter is so joyous for us! Death has been defeated! The High Priest lives.
This Lenten season at Hope we had the theme of “Jesus the Great High Priest.” We focused upon how Jesus is our High Priest, having offered Himself as our sacrifice and interceding before the Father for us. We continue that theme today as the author of Hebrews shows us that Christ is the superior High Priest for He holds His office forever.
Let’s briefly review the work of the Old Testament High Priests. The High Priest served as a mediator between God and the people, a “go-between.” They interceded before God on behalf of the people. They offered prayers and sacrifices to God. Moses’ brother Aaron was the first High Priest of Israel.
When an individual entered into the Old Testament priesthood, he knew that death would end that priesthood for him. He could not remain in office because death prevented it. The historian Josephus estimates that there were 83 High Priests from Aaron until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There was continual change in personnel. This was a weakness of the Old Testament priesthood. “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office.”
And now we are back to that problem of death. A pandemic, especially a global one, reminds us that people die. God’s Word tells us why: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Here is the proof of our sin: we die. We die because of sin. Sin causes death.
A pandemic can also reveal specific sins in us. Do we always act, and think, and speak in accordance with the truth that Christ lives? Or do we, particularly when faced with death, sometimes act, think, and speak as if Christ were not alive? Don’t misunderstand; concern, planning, and doing what we can to protect ourselves and others are good and right things to do in a crisis and at all times. On the other hand, despondency is not a good and right response. We look around and we see job loss and cut hours, failing health and sickness, and livelihoods in grave danger. If we have not yet seen this directly in our own lives, we certainly have seen it in the lives of those we know.
Have our thoughts, words, or actions at such times demonstrated faltering courage or shrinking hope or misplaced sources of refuge? Our courage and hope for time and eternity should be in Christ so if we have been guilty of faltering courage, shrinking hope, or looking for refuge in other places, then we have sinned. Christ is the source of courage and hope and Christ is our refuge, so if we are expressing despondency, that’s living as if Christ is not alive.
The proof of our sin and the expressions of our sin are evident. But, friends, this is why it is such good news that the High Priest lives! In contrast to the Old Testament High Priests, the author of Hebrews wrote of Christ, “but he holds his priesthood permanently.” His priesthood does not change. It is unbreakable. It will never be transferred to another. Christ will hold this Office as The High Priest throughout all eternity.
Why does Jesus hold His priesthood permanently? “Because he continues forever.” Jesus lives. Jesus had been put to death on Good Friday. He died. His human soul was torn asunder from His human body. BUT, sometime in the dark, cool silence of Easter morning, Jesus’ body became alive again. The heart began to beat once more. The lungs filled with air. The eyes opened, full of life. Death had been reversed. Jesus’ human soul was reunited with His human body. Jesus is alive!
The empty tomb cries out on your behalf. It is the Father’s public declaration that in His Son you are “not guilty” of your sin, you are forgiven. Jesus completed His work. He lived a holy life in your place and He died to take your punishment. The Father accepted His work; this is seen by the Father raising the Son to life again. You are forgiven. The High Priest lives.
In the person of Christ, the problem of death is solved. Christ has gone through death and defeated it. You will not experience the eternal death of hell for Christ has suffered that in your place. You will pass through physical death into eternal life, just as Christ passed from death to life. When we face something new and frightening, we look for someone who has already navigated it to show us the way. Death is unfamiliar, uncertain, and scary to us, but not to Christ. Christ has already navigated death. Look to Him to lead you through it. He lives to do this.
Because Christ holds His office of High Priest in this unique and absolute manner, therefore the salvation earned by Him is complete and lacks nothing. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” This is the deduction from the first two verses of this text.
Everything has been done for your salvation. The Old Testament High Priests pointed to Christ’s saving work. Christ’s work saves. There is no more need for priests or sacrifices. Christ has opened the way to the Father. Through Him, through faith in Jesus, you are saved. You will live forever in God’s presence.
As the living High Priest, Christ continues to intercede for you. He presents your needs to the Father that you should receive life to the full. He constantly holds up His work as your defense, your forgiveness, your salvation. He will at last present you faultless before His Father. In Him, that is what you are: faultless.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be a part of the first Easter event? To look into the empty tomb, or hear the report of the angels, or touch the risen Christ? You too have an Easter event. Baptism is your Easter event. In your baptism you received new life; you received resurrection life. The Holy Spirit imparted to you the life of faith, forgiveness, and salvation. This life is nourished through the Word and the Supper and will culminate in the resurrection of your own body on the Last Day. Baptism has connected you to Christ and Christ has promised, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
When you, dear Christian, die, your soul will immediately be with the Lord in paradise. You will live. On the last day, Christ will raise your body, glorify it, and reunite it with your soul. You will live forever in body and soul. You will rise again as Christ rose again. Your body will be perfect as Christ’s risen body is perfect. Because the High Priest lives, you who believe in the High Priest will live too.
Dear friends, The High Priest lives. You live forever through Him. The problem of death is solved by the person of Christ Jesus for the purpose of your total salvation. You are declared “not guilty”; the empty tomb proves it. Through the risen Christ, you come to God. Through the risen Christ, you will enter into eternal life in paradise. Through the risen Christ, your own body will rise to everlasting life. Christ’s Priesthood remains forever and so in Him there is complete salvation. Here is your joy, even and especially in the face of death. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia! Amen.