The author of the letter of Hebrews wrote with the hope of encouraging new Jewish Christians to persevere. Because of their commitment to Jesus they faced imprisonment, others lost their personal property (Hebrews 10:34). The pull to turn away was tremendous.
To build up their lagging spirits, the author referred to many famous Old Testament themes to show the superiority of Jesus. He is greater than Moses, the old covenant, the law, angels, and the priesthood. For example, Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Jesus is not just a priest, or high priest, but our great high priest.
To understand what that means, let’s first look at the priestly role in the tabernacle. The priests stood in the presence of God on behalf of the people and offered sacrifices (Hebrews 5:1). They were the channels of grace. Through these representatives, God dispensed mercy to everyone else.
Serving in the priesthood was both an honor and a difficult assignment. With over two million Israelites in the congregation, the courtyard of the tabernacle was a busy place. Underneath the fancy priestly garments were real people. They naturally wore out, grew old, and died. They also sinned like everyone else and had to make sacrifices for themselves constantly. While they did their best to care for their people, it was impossible to have a personal relationship and true sympathy for each person in their time of need. After making your sacrifice, you were shown the door for the next in line.
After his death and resurrection, Jesus, our great high priest, came into the perfect tabernacle in heaven where he ministers on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Unlike the priests of old, he lives forever. That means his ministry for us will never end. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Jesus is always present to represent us before God, covering every sin with his sacrifice and dispensing grace for every trial.
Most remarkable, we now have a high priest who empathizes with our every weakness…