Jesus is the “Better Priest” than any human priest in the history of the world. In fact, chapter 8 divides rather nicely into two sections. The first half of the chapter, roughly verses 1-6, “Better Priest,” and verses 7-13, “Better Covenant.” The Lord willing we will study the “Better covenant” on Monday. Today we will study about Jesus as our “Better Priest.” That is really a summation of the entire book! “Jesus is Better.”
The phrase “Jesus is Better” is not only
A summation of the entire Book of Hebrews,
But a summary of the entire Book of the Bible!
This Book, as we often say, is a “Him” Book,
A Book about Him, about Jesus.
One Old Testament scholar has this great summary statement of the Bible:
- The Old Testament is Jesus predicted;
- The Gospels are Jesus revealed;
- Acts is Jesus preached;
- The Epistles (like Hebrews), are Jesus explained;
- And the Revelation, Jesus expected.
It is all about Jesus. In what way is Jesus better? I am glad you asked because our text today tells us . . .
I. Jesus Ministers From A Better Place – Verses 1-2.
He ministers or serves. Jesus is the consummate server! He serves. He ministers – from a better place than the place where the priests of the Old Testament served. They served on earth. Verse 1 tells us, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” Jesus serves from “the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” There is not a single Old Testament Levitical priest or high priest who could say that! They served on earth. Jesus serves from heaven. From the right-hand of the Father in heaven.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, “…Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of (or belonging to) Jesus every knee should bow … and tongue confess … that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” As Lord, Jesus is exalted to the right hand of the Father, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
In Bible times the right-hand was the most-favored position. Kings surrounded by servants were especially blessed to have the superior servant at their right-hand. We use the phrase still when we refer to someone as our “right-hand man,” the most important, the most valued. Jesus at the right-hand of the Father.
Jesus is ministering now – right now – from this location in heaven. He goes on ministering and mediating from the better place, the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” The writer continues in verse 2, “A Minister of the sanctuary(literally, “holies”) and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” Jesus does not minister from the location of an earthly tabernacle, one that is erected by man, but rather He ministers from the location of the “true tabernacle,” one built by the Lord, and not man; the “sanctuary” in heaven. Jesus ministers from a better place. Second . . .
II. Jesus Ministers Through A Better Priesthood – Verses 3-5.
Recall from our last study that we discussed the Levitical priesthood. This was a worship system set up by God to prepare His people for sacrifice. The Levitical priesthood, however, was not an end in itself . . .
It was a system of animal sacrifice
Set up to point God’s people to
Jesus, the Supreme Sacrifice for sin.
In the Old Testament, not just any Israelite could be a priest. You had to descend from the line of Levi. Your mother had to be a Levite and your dad had to be a priest. Then you could serve as a priest. And these Levitical priests served for a number of years and then died. So, many priests were required over the years.
In our passage today the writer has in view primarily the high priest, the one who entered into the place in the Jewish tabernacle known as “the most holy place,” or the “holy of holies.” And the high priest could enter that place only once a year. Just once – To offer a sacrifice for his own sin and for the sins of the people. Verses 3 and 4 tell us, “For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer(talking about the role of the high priest, offering a sin offering for himself and for others). For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law.”
What the writer is doing is contrasting the human Levitical high priest with our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. If our High Priest, a Priest from a different order – not the order of Levi; not from the tribe of Levi, but from the tribe of Judah; Revelation 5:5 speaks of Jesus as the “lion of the tribe of Judah;” and not of the order of Levi, but the order of Melchizedek, an order that is never-ending (we saw that in chapter 7) – if He were on earth, He would not be a priest like those human, earthly priests offering gifts and sacrifices according to the law of Moses.
No, Jesus offered a different sacrifice – Jesus offered Himself. No Levitical priest in all of history could even imagine offering his own self for the sins of God’s people. But Jesus ministers through a better priesthood in that He offers His very self.
The Old Testament sacrificial system prepared God’s people for the supreme sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our substitute for sin. The Levitical priesthood pointed forward to a superior priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The human Levitical priesthood set people up for Christ. The priests of the Old Testament and the whole sacrificial system served as a “copy” and a “shadow” of something far better.
Verse 5 states, “Who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” The writer is quoting from Exodus 25:40. It is a direct quote from God’s speaking to Moses where He tells Moses how to set up the earthly Levitical priesthood. God gave Moses instruction on how to “make the tabernacle” in which the Israelites worshiped as they traveled through the wilderness.
Specifically, God says to Moses, as we see in the last part of verse 5, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” The writer says that this pattern shown on the mountain, Mount Sinai was divinely ordained by God as a shadow of the real tabernacle, the true tabernacle in heaven. You could say the actual tabernacle along with the holies of heaven – in all of its brightness and brilliance – casts a shadow on earth, a shadowy image in the form of the tabernacle.
The entire Levitical priesthood is a copy of the system God has in heaven. The Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament is a copy, a shadow of the real thing in the glories of heaven! Isn’t that fantastic?! It is not as though God came up with the Levitical priesthood first, and then thought, “Hmm, what am I going to do next?” The Levitical priesthood was always meant to be a copy or shadow of the true priesthood, the better priesthood of Jesus Christ. It points to Him. It is a picture of Him.
John Piper illustrates the significance of this shadow imagery by using the experience of a child’s getting separated from his mother while shopping. Children will get caught up in all they are seeing and begin to wander around and, before you know it, they are lost in the store. As they stand there wondering where their mom was and getting scared, they begin to look around not for a picture of their mom or her shadow, they want the real thing and when they look up and you see their mom and they run to embrace her. This is how God intended to use the Levitical priesthood. We are not to embrace the priesthood. It is just a shadow, a copy of the real heavenly sacrifice, Jesus Christ! We embrace Him.
The priesthood, with all the sacrifices, and the tabernacle,
Is merely a means to prepare us for Jesus Christ.
Jesus ministers from a better place and
Jesus ministers through a better priesthood.
Finally . . .
III. Jesus Ministers Upon Better Promises – Verse 6.
We will study this in greater detail tomorrow, Lord willing, as the writer unfolds the wonderful teaching of the new covenant, a “better covenant” and we will be studying how the new covenant is vastly superior to the “old covenant.” For now, note what the writer says in verse 6: “But now He (Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry (a better Priesthood), in as much as He is also Mediator of a better covenant …”
Jesus did not serve as a priest during his earthly ministry. He is now a priest as He has offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. We often speak of the “finished work of Christ” and that is true, but there is a work that is ongoing.
The finished work of Christ concerns His atonement for sin.
But the ongoing ministry of Christ is His ongoing work
Of being our Mediator, the go-between,
The advocate, representing us to God.
His work of atonement is finished, but
His work as our Advocate continues.
This leads to two great truths . . .
1) We can enjoy God’s Presence all the time!
Remember that the writer of Hebrews is encouraging his Jewish readers not to go back to the old ways of Judaism, the old covenant ways of worshiping. He is saying, “That was a limited system of worship!” You had to go through a Levitical priest and even then, the priest was never able to stand in the very presence of God. He could enter into the shadow, the copy of the tabernacle and stand there in the shadowy place where God revealed something of Himself, but even then, that was just once a year and limited only to Levitical priests!
Because of Jesus Christ, because He is better, a better High Priest, we can enjoy God’s presence all the time. There is no more tabernacle; now we go through Christ. This truth is proclaimed in these words from a worship chorus . . .
Now I can go into the Holy of Holies.
I can kneel and make my petition known.
I can go into the Holy of Holies
Although I’m just a common man,
because of God’s redemption plan,
I can boldly approach the throne.
The tabernacle is no more. The temple is no more. Worship is no longer that which takes place in a manmade sanctuary. Worship is a lifestyle of being in the very presence of God Himself through Jesus Christ. Worship is not just an hour of ordered service on Sunday mornings. We worship all the time no matter where we are.
If you are a Christian, you are never alone! You can enjoy God’s presence all the time.
That leads to a second great truth .. . .
2) We can enjoy God’s Forgiveness all the time!
Jesus lived and died so that we might have peace with God. Our sin separates us from God. But if we believe Jesus and repent – turn from our sin and turn to Christ – we can be saved and enjoy God’s forgiveness, not just His forgiveness of sin. We can enjoy God’s forgiveness not just one time, but all the time!
How can we say that? Because of where is Jesus right now? He is at the “right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” there doing His ongoing work of being our Advocate, our never-ending, ongoing priestly work of interceding for our sin!
The only way you can get in on this Good News is by being in Christ Jesus. Remember what our life before Christ was like – we had turned to going our own way, we were separated from Christ, we were guilty and condemned in our sin. What happened when we turned from going that way and accepted what Christ did upon the cross and through the empty tomb? We are now “in Christ Jesus,” covered by His righteousness, accepted by the Father, approved, and forgiven! If you are a Christian, you do not need to go to a priest. You are “hidden in Christ,” hidden in the Great High Priest Jesus Himself!
These two truths come only through faith and repentance. They are not automatically bestowed upon every person apart from faith and repentance. You must turn from sin and turn to Christ. Jesus is better.
Tim Keller, in his book, Gospel-Centered Ministry has beautifully summarized how Jesus is better in this overarching sweep of the Bible, the “Him” Book, the Book about Him, about Jesus and how He is better than anyone or anything . . .
- Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
- Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
- Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the world to create a new people of God.
- Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking His son up the mountain and sacrificing Him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
- Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
- Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the King, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
- Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
- Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
- Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who intercedes for and saves sinners.
- Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes His people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
- Jesus is the true and better Esther who did not just risk leaving an earthly palace but left the ultimate and heavenly one, and did not just risk His life, but gave His life to save his people.
- Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
- Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us.
- Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.
The Bible’s really
Is Not about you –
It is about Him!
Do you really know Him? Everyone reading this blog is either “hidden in Christ” (hands) or “without Christ.” If you are “hidden in Christ” you can enjoy His presence and power all the time, and His forgiveness all the time. Every day and throughout the day thank God for this and go on worshiping Him no matter where you are. You are always living for Christ. When you slip up and sin, go boldly to the throne and say, “God, forgive me for what I just did. I am so sorry. I love You and I want to feel Your presence again” and know that God indeed forgives (1 John 1:9) you because you are “in His Son, Jesus Christ,” forever accepted and approved by God.
If you are “not in Christ,” repent today. Admit that you have sinned and you need forgiveness; that you are dead apart from Christ; that you will stand apart from Christ on the Day of Judgment. Do not die and go to hell in your sin. Turn now to Jesus, accept what He has done on the cross and through the empty tomb, believe in Him, and ask Him to be your Savor and Lord
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “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.”