The Christmas season is here! A week from today we will all wake up and celebrate the birth of our Savior. Jesus, was born to live the perfect life, unstained by sin; he was born to die on a cross in our place as the perfect ransom for our sin; he was born to miraculously leave the tomb empty, three days later, proving that Satan, Sin, and Death were no match for him; and he was also born to ascend into Heaven to take his seat at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, leaving us with the promise of salvation and eternity with him, if we confess our sins and place our faith in him.
This is what the Christmas season is all about: Celebrating Jesus, our Savior, our King, and our Priest. Those titles tend to roll off the tongue without a lot of meaning. I think it is easy to comprehend our need for a savior; most of the good preaching we hear and most of the good literature we read, center around our need for a Savior. But how often do we think deeply about the implications of Jesus as our King and our Priest? This is why we began last week by looking at Jesus as our Eternal King.
LET’S RECAP JESUS AS OUR ETERNAL KING
We began, last week, by looking at the angel’s declaration of the coming King through Mary’s virgin womb in Luke 1:30 – 33 and we saw that the angel connected baby Jesus to another King named David and his family tree. And then we saw Mary’s song of joy and magnification of God in Luke 1:50 – 55 where Mary remembered God’s covenant promises to Abraham.
We also looked at Zechariah’s prophetic collage of baby Jesus in Luke 1:68 – 75 where described the coming King, the family of King David, the prophets, and God’s covenant promises to Abraham. Zechariah’s prophecy pointed us back to the Old Testament.
So, we jumped over to the Old Testament to trace some of the history of God’s covenant promises to both David and Abraham. We looked at 2 Samuel 7:12 – 16 where God promised King David, that his family and his throne would last forever because he was going place an Eternal King from David’s family tree on his throne in the future.
This promise from God, had to have caused David to wonder about what kind of Eternal King would sit on his throne. So, we looked at Psalm 110, which David wrote a few years later. In Psalm 110, God revealed to David that the future Eternal King would be just like another king from Israel’s history named Melchizedek.
So, we jumped all the way back to the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 14, and we met Melchizedek that David, and we learned that Melchizedek was a mysterious King and a Priest who met up with Abraham shortly after he had defeated his enemies and rescued his nephew, Lot.
HAVE I LOST YOU YET?
Just in case I lost you in this recap, I want to point out that over the course of a few thousand years, God orchestrated a meeting between Abraham and Melchizedek. Many years later, Moses received instructions for kings and priests, and he wrote them down in Exodus – Deuteronomy after he wrote Genesis. And then, many years later, David received the promise from God regarding the Eternal King who would come from his own bloodline.
Still, many years later, David realized that the Eternal King, planned from eternity past was going to be like Melchizedek from Genesis. And many years later once again, Mary and Zechariah realize that her baby is going to be this Eternal King, promised in the past, planned from eternity, and fulfilled in the present in her womb.
And the question we concluded with last week, was this… “Is there anything in your life that this Eternal King does not have a handle on? What detail of your life has he missed?” Love the Christmas season or hate it. Feel the loneliness and the stress of the Christmas season, maybe. But one thing I do know, is that we have an Eternal King who was planned from before the foundations of the world; he was promised throughout centuries of Israel’s history; and he was born in the person of Jesus Christ through a little unmarried, virgin, teen aged, girl named, Mary.
This Eternal King, Jesus, is absolutely sovereign, and he is good, and he can be trusted even when you and I do not understand the details of our lives and especially when you and I have a difficult time trusting him. Jesus is your Eternal King! But he is not just your Eternal King, he is also your Perfect High Priest. If what David wrote in Psalm 110 is true, that Jesus would be an Eternal King after the order of Melchizedek, then Jesus would also be your Perfect High Priest because Melchizedek was also a priest.
THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE IMAGE OF JESUS AS OUR PRIEST
The main problem for us with the image of Jesus as our Perfect High Priest, is that the image of a priest is far removed from us, and does not seem relevant to us.2 So where do we turn in the Bible to get a clear picture of Jesus as our Perfect High Priest? The answer to that question is the book of Hebrews.
HEBREWS TEACHES US THAT JESUS IS OUR PERFECT HIGH PRIEST
If you are not familiar with the book of Hebrews, the main message of the book is that Jesus is better; he is better than the angels and the Torah (CH. 1 – 2); he is better than Moses and the Promised Land (CH. 3 – 4); he is better than the priests and even Melchizedek (CH. 5 – 7); and he is better than the old sacrificial system and the old covenant (CH. 8 – 10); and because Jesus is better, we can certainly trust him through the darkest of times!3
There is far too much text in Hebrews Chapters 4 – 7 to deal with this morning; we would be here all day! So, I want to begin where the author of Hebrews begins in reference to Melchizedek in Chapter 4 and study our way through 5:10. My hope is to examine and explain those verses, make some application as we work our way through, and then summarize the rest of what Hebrews says about Jesus and Melchizedek in such a way as to leave you thirsty for more in your own personal study. So, for now, let us begin in Hebrews 4:14 – 15.
#1: JESUS, OUR HIGH PRIEST, SYMPATHIZES WITH US (4:14 – 15)
Notice how Hebrews says that 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. This is a fascinating and encouraging introduction to Jesus as our Perfect High Priest. In this short introduction we learn that Jesus sympathizes with us in our struggle against sin because he also faced the temptation of sin without failing.
Jesus knows that our struggle with sin is real, and he sympathizes with us. And not only that, but in his sympathy, he entered the very presence of God as he passed through the heavens like a priest passing through the back curtain of the temple into the holiest of holies, into the very presence of God. We can hold fast to our confession of Christ because he is our perfect high priest who sympathizes with us in the very presence of God.
#2: JESUS, OUR HIGH PRIEST, INVITES US INTO GOD’S PRESENCE (4:16)
How do you respond to knowing that Jesus, your Perfect High Priest, sympathizes with your daily struggle against sin? Hebrews tells how to respond in verse 16 when it says 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. You see, Jesus, our Perfect High Priest, does not merely feel bad for us from a distance. His sympathy is intended to invite us to draw near to him for the grace and the mercy we so desperately need to get us through the darkness of our sin infected hearts.
This is such good news to know that we are not alone in our struggle against sin and that Jesus invites us into the perfect presence of our gracious and merciful God. It is not just that Jesus sympathizes with us and invites us to draw near to him, he also acts as the mediator between us and our heavenly Father. He actually makes it possible for us be at peace in God’s presence.
#3: JESUS, OUR HIGH PRIEST, IS OUR MEDIATOR (5:1 – 10)
Hebrews 5:1 – 10 describes the Old Testament high priests and then compares them to Jesus as the better High Priest. In verse 1 of chapter 5, Hebrews explains that 5:1 …every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The High Priests in Israel’s history carried the serious job of mediating between sinful men and women and our perfect God by offering bloody sacrifices so that sinful humanity could draw close to God by faith in his redeeming promises.
Those priests in Israel’s history were sinful men; they were not perfect.
This is why Hebrews 5:2 – 3 says that a High Priest in Israel was able to 2 …deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. So, Israel’s priests were able to handle sinful humans under their care with gentleness because they too were sinful. This point was constantly driven home to them as they offered sacrifices for their own sins before ministering to the needs of the people. God must work in a priest before he can work through a priest; the same is true for all of us in any ministry situation.
Now, no man in his right mind would ever seek this kind of a role because of the seriousness and weightiness of the job; only men who were called by God, could walk the road of being a sinful priest among a sinful people.
This is why Hebrews 5:4 states that 4 …no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. If you go back and you look at Aaron, the first High Priest, in Leviticus 8 – 10, you will see the heavy responsibility and the personal risk of being a High Priest as Aaron watched two of his sons die because of their disobedience to God in their priestly roles.
The high priest was responsible for carrying the heavy weight of the calling to be a mediator between sinful humans and a perfect God; these priests could not do their job flippantly and they certainly could not do their job without continuing in repentance and obedience.
Are you beginning to see and feel the weight of the role of a high priest yet? Can you imagine having someone in your life who is willing to help you bear the burden of your sin? Someone who will listen to you confess your sin while looking you in the eye and saying, “I not only sympathize with you, but I also love you just as God loves you and I am walking this road of repentance and obedience with you; you are not alone!” This exactly what the priests in the Old Testament were called to do.
But remember, Jesus is better because his sympathy is perfect, his invitation is transformative, and his mediation produces perfect peace!
This is why Hebrews 5:5 – 6 says that Jesus 5…did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” The reason that Jesus is a better high priest is that he was a better mediator between God and man. No other high priest in all of Israel’s history could lay claim to being a perfect mediator other than Jesus.
The only other priest in Israel’s history that appeared to be better than the Levitical priests was Melchizedek because he came before Aaron, Abraham tithed to him, he had no genealogical record, and no record of death (Heb. 7). Yet, Jesus is better than Melchizedek because he is the Son of God who gives us perfect access to God the Father!
But how does Jesus do this? How does he give us perfect access to God the Father? Hebrews 5:7 – 10 says that 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is better than Melchizedek because he was literally appointed by God as the Son of God to be the Perfect and Eternal High Priest who would offer the perfect and complete sacrifice for anyone who would trust in him through his broken body and shed blood at the cross of Calvary.
Jesus, our Perfect High Priest, did what no other high priest could do (Melchizedek included) as he offered himself as the perfect payment for our sin and then invited us to draw near to his throne for the grace and the mercy that we need to survive this fight against the presence, and the power of indwelling sin as he mediates between us and our Heavenly Father daily.
Think about the role of a mediator. A mediator gets in between two people who are at war with one another. The mediator’s job is to establish peace between two enemies. This is exactly what Jesus does as our perfect High Priest; he mediates peace between us and God.
With Jesus as our Perfect High Priest, we learn that God is not absent in our struggle; God is not uninvolved in our struggle; God is not ignorant of our struggle; and God is not unsympathetic towards us in our struggle against the forces of Satan, Sin, and Death in this life.
On the contrary, God is for us, and he is with us, and he is constantly working to fix us through the work of our Perfect High Priest, Jesus, who sympathizes with us, invites us into his Father’s presence, and provides a pathway into his Father’s presence as our crucified, risen, and returning, mediator.
Jesus is our Perfect High Priest who sympathizes, invites, and mediates on our behalf. Is this not great news? That Jesus would be born into this world to be our sympathizing, inviting, and mediating, High Priest? Does this not make you want to study the book of Hebrews more?
LET ME ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTINUE STUDYING THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
If you continue studying the book of Hebrews, you will see a sharp warning against ignoring the message of the book in 5:11 – 6:12. You will learn that Jesus is the anchor of your hope in 6:13 – 20. You will learn how Melchizedek was a great king and priest in 7:1 – 10. You will learn more about how Jesus is definitely a better King and a better Priest than Melchizedek because Jesus is the Eternal King and the Perfect High Priest of a better Covenant in 7:11 – 8:13.
In conclusion, once again, the question is this… “Is there anything in your life that this Eternal King and Perfect High Priest does not have a handle on? What detail of your life has he missed? Where are you struggling to believe that God is not only in control but that he is also very present in your time of need?”
Love the Christmas season or hate it. Feel the loneliness and the stress of the Christmas season, maybe. But one thing I do know, is that we have an Eternal King and a Perfect High Priest who was planned from before the foundations of the world; he was promised throughout centuries of Israel’s history; and he was born in the person of Jesus Christ through a little unmarried, virgin, teen aged, girl named, Mary.
This Eternal King, Jesus, is absolutely sovereign, and he is good, and he can be trusted even when you and I do not understand the details of our lives and especially when you and I have a difficult time trusting him. Jesus is our Eternal King! But he is not just your Eternal King, he is also your Perfect High Priest.
As your Perfect High Priest, Jesus sympathizes with you and your struggle with sin in this life. As your Perfect High Priest, Jesus, invites you into God’s perfect, grace-filled, and merciful presence where you can be sustained until you walk through the gates of Heaven. All of this is made possible as your Perfect High Priest, Jesus, makes a way for you to remain in God’s presence forever, through his mediating work at the cross and the empty tomb.
Jesus, our Eternal King, is not only sovereign over the past and the present, but he is sovereign over the future too. And as our Perfect High Priest, Jesus sympathizes with us, he invites us into relationship with him, and he constantly mediates between us and our Heavenly Father. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas every year! Jesus is our Sacrificial Savior, Eternal King, and Perfect High Priest. Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 Don Carson, Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 in Hebrews 7, The Gospel Coalition, April 25, 2009. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/sermon/genesis-14-and-psalm-110-in-hebrews-7/. (This message greatly influenced the way I approached this sermon, especially the sections on David, Abraham, and Melchizedek).
3 The Bible Project, Hebrews. https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/hebrews/. (This video explains the twofold purpose and fourfold outline of the book of Hebrews in a visually memorable way. It is crucial to understanding Jesus as our Perfect High Priest).