Jesus: The Great High Priest

As Prophet, Jesus represents God to us by preaching the law and delivering the good news of hope to guilty sinners. As Priest, Jesus represents us to God by covering our sin with his blood and offering up a satisfactory sacrifice that is well pleasing to God.

If you’ve spent much time around the zoo in a major city, you’ve likely noticed the numerous warning signs around the property. Such signs are intended to provide visitors with adequate knowledge of the danger of approaching the animals beyond the boundaries established for the general public.

Several years ago when I was in seminary, my wife and I were on a very tight budget and we had to be creative in our approach to date nights. One week, my wife informed me that she had a surprise for me for a date night on Friday evening. She told me how to dress and we also had to pack an overnight bag to take with us. As the weekend approached, I was really wondering what my wife had signed us up for and soon I would find out.

Over dinner at a restaurant, she provided me with the details for our evening. She had seen an advertisement for people to “camp out” for a night in the zoo in Louisville, Kentucky. She had managed to get our camping gear and was fully prepared for an amazing date night. It was an organized event with special behind the scenes opportunities with the animals. After arriving, the staff checked us in and provided us with our evening itinerary. We enjoyed special lessons from biologists and zoologists regarding the animals, their habitat, and dietary needs. Later that evening, as a group, we watched the movie “Ghost in the Darkness” which was fitting for the evening’s venue.

The following morning, we awoke to the calls of African birds and loud peacocks. We were then escorted behind the scenes before the zoo opened to the public to the lion’s habitat. We entered with the staff on the back of the enclosure to watch the staff feed the large male lion. He weighed in at about 450 lbs and had a large dark brown mane that covered the front half of his body. He was in his physical prime. As the staff led us down the hall behind the enclosure the only thing that separated us from the private dwelling place where the lions eat was a hefty chain linked fence. When we entered the hallway, I was at the front of the line in our group and when the male lion saw us—he wasted no time charging the fence. His large paws and teeth hit the fence in full attack mode as he breathed out a loud ear-piercing roar. I was standing no farther than 3 feet from him. It shook my body to the core.

Still to this very day, I have a very healthy respect for the boundaries in the zoo. I have no desire to approach the wild animals within their enclosure. However, when it comes to God who is a consuming fire and dwells in unapproachable glory—we have been given access to draw near to him. Unlike the Old Testament Israelites who were not permitted to approach the presence of God in the thick cloud that encompassed the mountain where Moses was to meet with God (Exodus 19), we are called to approach God, but not apart from Jesus Christ who is our Great High Priest. There is no greater proof of this great access than Jesus’ priestly work on behalf of his people. Jesus is the perfect mediator between sinful man and holy God.

The High Priest and His Work

When God delivered his people out of Egypt and demonstrated his sovereign rule over all nations and thrones—including the high throne of Pharoah, he provided clear prescriptions for how his people were to worship him. Any honest reading of Exodus will conclude that God is very much concerned with how his people approach him in worship.

Every detail of the tabernacle and the worship practices of his people were delivered to Moses and then by Moses to the people of Israel. In Exodus 25, we find the specific blueprint of the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat. In speaking about the mercy seat, God said, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”1

When the entire tabernacle was complete and the furnishings installed as God had directed, the book of Exodus concludes by stating that Moses did all that the LORD had commanded and the tabernacle was erected and the glory of God filled the tent. It was also clearly established that Aaron was to engage in the priestly work inside the tabernacle which would be the plan for the temple in the years to follow. God established the priestly line of the Levites who labored in their service to the LORD. We find these details in the book of Leviticus.

At the heart of the worship of God is the necessity of a sacrifice. The five types of sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus serve different purposes within the religious practices of the Israelites. Each offering has its distinct significance and meaning, playing a crucial role in their relationship with God and the atonement for sin.

The burnt offering was a sacrifice made to seek forgiveness for general sins and to demonstrate complete surrender and dedication to God. It involved offering an entire animal, which was burned on the altar. The act of burning symbolized the complete devotion of the worshiper, acknowledging God’s authority and seeking purification.

The grain offering was a sacrifice made to express gratitude to God for His blessings, particularly related to the harvest. A portion of the grain was burned on the altar as an offering to God, signifying acknowledgment of His provision. The remaining part was given to the priests, emphasizing the importance of supporting the religious leaders and the community.

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