March 1, 2021
Minister In a Robe
As far back as I can remember I loved going to church, yes, even our Lutheran church. But back in the day, way back, as when Jesus led the youth group, there was no such thing as a children’s church during the service. This archaic behavior meant that all kids, irrespective of age, had to sit (suffer) dead silent and totally still in the pew, or else, “God was going to get us!” But even as an “ants-in-the-pants” tiny lad, I was awed by the spectacle of the service, especially what was called the “homily.” Nevertheless, one thing puzzled me, “Why did the guy doing most of the talking wear a black robe? My parents didn’t know the answer but it looked as awesome as it did mysterious.
In many liturgical churches today, ordained ministers still wear what we Methodists like to call, “John Wesley’s Business Suit.” In antiquity, however, the ministerial robe was designed as a symbol of humility. Today, more with the prestige and “set-apartness” of the minister in mind. Before I take this horribly hot and heavy thing off, how do I look (lol)?
Thus far in our “Jesus Is” series we have seen that Jesus is the Divine Creator, the Perfect Man, and the Solitary Savior. Today we look at another aspect of his being as we go to Hebrews 4:14-16,
Heb. 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
High Priest Aaron
The Hebrew pastor is the only New Testament author that calls Jesus, the “Great High Priest” (pontifex maximus). Throughout his amazing book he compares Jesus with two other famous high priests, Melchizedek and Aaron. To do justice to Melchizedek we’d have to do a deep dive mid-week study on him so today let’s focus on Aaron.
Aaron, Moses’ older brother, was the first high priest of Israel (Exodus 28:1). God established the priesthood through him and then designated his family, the Levites, as the priestly tribe of Israel. As high priest, Aaron had three major functions: (1) Steward the “Urim and Thummim.” (2) Supervise the sacrificial system, that was designed to remove the daily sins and guilt of the people through the sacrifice of animals and grains. (3) Make sacrifices on the Day of Atonement.
Day of Atonement
The Day of Atonement was a national holiday which was celebrated on the 10th day of Tishri (7th month, Sept-Oct- Yom Kippur). On this highest of holy days, Aaron offered sacrifices for the sins of the entire nation. He could do so only after replacing his regular priestly vestments (tunic, sash, robe, ephod, and breastplate), with a simple white linen garment (holiness). After undergoing a series of ritual cleansings, he was then consecrated with the “oil of anointing.” He was then eligible to enter into the section of the Tabernacle called the “Holy of Holies.”
Once in the Holy of Holies, Aaron offered sin offerings to God. These consisted of a bull for his own sins and two goats for the sins of his people (one sacrificed, one released). After the bull and goat were sacrificed, Aaron sprinkled their blood on that part of the “Ark of the Covenant” designated as the “Seat of Mercy.” He did this seven times. If God was pleased with the pomp, pageantry, and procedure, he allowed his “shekinah” (glory) to materialize in the form of a cloud to rest atop and within the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, 5). This was a visible sign that God had forgiven all the sins his people committed in the past year. What was being graphicly/gruesomely displayed on the Day of Atonement, however, was that the act of atonement itself (covering/removal of sin) was costly, and demanded a steep and valuable sacrifice. This is why Hebrews 9:22 makes clear that, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Leviticus 11:27).
The Great High Priest
With this background ensconced in the minds of his listeners the Hebrew pastor contrasts Jesus’ high priestly administration with that of Aaron’s. As “Great High Priest” Jesus is:
Merciful and faithful (2:17).
Passed through the heavens (4:14).
Sympathizes with our weaknesses and tempted in every way we are,
yet without sin (4:15).
Selected and Anointed by God above everyone else (5:1).
Has the character of Melchizedek (5:10, 6:20).
Saves completely, is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners,
exalted above the heavens, and always prays for us (7:25, 26).
Sits at the right hand of majesty in heaven (8:1).
High priest of a greater and perfect tabernacle not man-made,
and not a part of this creation (9:11).
Both Sacrificer and Sacrificed (9:25).
Atoned for our sins not with the blood of animals but his own blood (13:11).
Why is it important that we know Jesus as our “Great High Priest?” Many are the reasons but the two explicit in our text are that we might “Hold Firmly” and “Go Boldly!”
The first is to “Hold firmly!” Hold firmly to what? “To the faith we confess” (“unswervingly to the hope” 10:23). The Hebrew pastor is writing to a congregation that is being severely bludgeoned by persecution (Hebrews 10). They are ready to throw in the towel. So he encourages them, not with a “rah-rah sock them in the jaw” speech, but with the understanding that their “Great High Priest” sympathizes with their suffering because He Himself suffered so much. Ever feel like surrendering in the “Fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12)? If so, hold firmly to that glorious day you first confessed Jesus as your Savior and remember that although your circumstances might have changed, He has not! He is, as Hebrews 13:8 reminds us, “The same yesterday, today and forever.”
The second thing is “Go Boldly.” Go boldly where? “To the throne room of grace.” As we saw previously, Aaron, and only Aaron, could go once a year into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. He did so, not with confidence, but in fear and trepidation worried if God would accept his sacrifice. Because God did accept the once-and-for-all sacrifice Jesus made for us on the Cross, not only are our sins atoned for but he opened up heaven for all of us. Now, we at any time can go boldly into the throne room of our heavenly Poppa and let him know what we need! The “go boldly” command is really a call to prayer, i.e., big, bold, and audacious prayer prayed in faith. If you don’t have a prayer life, get one now because the God who loves you so much that he died for you, is waiting for you to come and pay him a visit
*Jesus is on the Mainline-Tell Him What You Want*
Conclusion: Confession Cards
Jesus is our “Great High Priest” who has removed our sin and opened up the holy of heavenly holies for us. Let’s practice holding firmly to the faith we confess by filling out our confession cards and let’s do our best to spend at least 15 minutes a day in prayer with him starting this week.