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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Ascension of Jesus and His Present Ministry as High Priest

Don Stewart :: How Is Jesus' Priesthood Better than That of the Earthly Priests?

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How Is Jesus’ Priesthood Better than That of the Earthly Priests?

The Ascension of Jesus and His Present Ministry as High Priest – Question 4

Jesus Christ is the High Priest for believers. He is the one who represents believers before God the Father. The New Testament says that His High Priestly ministry was superior to that of the priests of Israel. As the Son of God, Jesus performed everything better than the earthly priests. Jesus’ priesthood is superior to that of the earthly priests in every possible way. They include the following.

1. They Had to Offer a Sacrifice for Their Own Sin

One problem with the earthly priests was that they were sinful. They had to bring sin-offerings for themselves as well as sin-offerings for the people. On the holiest day of the year, the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, the high priest had into the Holy of Holies twice. The first time he went to present a sin offering for himself. He had to do this before he could be a representative of the people. The second time he went in was to present a sin offering for the people.

2. Jesus Christ Did Not Bring Any Sin Offering

In contrast to the earthly priests, Jesus Christ did not bring a sin offering. The Scriptures speak of Him in this manner:

Jesus is the high priest we need. He is holy and innocent and faultless, and not at all like us sinners. Jesus is honored above all beings in heaven, and he is better than any other high priest. Jesus doesn’t need to offer sacrifices each day for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He offered a sacrifice once for all, when he gave himself. The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses. But God’s promise, which came later than the Law, appoints his Son. And he is the perfect high priest forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28 CEV)

Jesus stands sinless before the Father. Because He withstood all temptation, He can effectively intercede to God the Father on our behalf in a vastly superior fashion to those earthly priests who were as sinful as those they represented.

3. Jesus Sacrificed Himself

The High Priest would bring an animal sacrifice. The sacrifice Jesus made for sin was not that of an animal—He sacrificed Himself. The animals were brought to the altar as unwilling victims but Jesus went to the cross as a willing sacrifice. Jesus Himself said,

The Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may have it back again. (John 10:17 NLT)

Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself for humanity. He was a willing victim.

4. There Are No More Sacrifices Necessary

Because Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice, the need for the offering of animals is now finished. Consequently, there is no longer the need for the priests to offer sacrifices of this type. Jesus fulfilled this requirement by offering Himself once and for all.

The earthly priests had to repeat the animal sacrifices time and time again, but Jesus’ one offering of Himself ended that need. The Bible says,

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NLT)

Jesus’ one sacrifice was complete, ending all need for further sacrifice. He sat down because the work was finished.

5. Jesus Is an Eternal Priest

Jesus’ priesthood is far superior to the earthly priests in the fact that they all grew old and died while He lives eternally. The Old Testament priests, who were all mortal men, had to die and transfer their priesthood to the next generation.

Jesus, the Eternal Priest, does not have to do this for He is forevermore alive and a permanent priest. We read in the letter to the Hebrews:

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him. He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf. (Hebrews 7:25 NLT)

This is another way in which Jesus Christ is a superior priest.

6. Jesus Is a Merciful and Faithful Priest

Jesus is also a merciful and faithful priest. He shows mercy to us who need it and remains faithful to His promises. The Bible says,

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17 TNIV)

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17 NLT)

Jesus is faithful and merciful. He is unlike human high priests who are neither merciful nor faithful. He is in a class by Himself.

7. Jesus Is a Sympathetic High Priest

Jesus is also a sympathetic priest. The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus is able to sympathize with the difficulties that we all face:

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. 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. 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. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

He understands our needs because He has personally experienced the limitations of being human. He understands our weaknesses, and the temptations we face. This is why He can identify with each of us.

Therefore, in so many ways, the priesthood of Jesus Christ is better than that of earthly priests.

Summary – Question 4
How Is Jesus’ Priesthood Better than That of Earthly Priests?

Currently Jesus Christ serves as our great high priest in heaven. Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the earthly priests in a number of ways.

The earthly high priests had to bring a sacrifice for themselves before they brought one for the people. Jesus Christ had no sin. Consequently, He did not have to bring any sin offering for Himself.

Each high priest had to bring a sacrifice to the altar. In contrast to that Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on the altar. He was the sacrifice.

Since Jesus offered Himself, once and for all for our sins, no more sin offerings are necessary. He is superior in that He ended the need for such sacrifices.

The earthly high priests all died and had to be replaced. Jesus is an eternal priest in that He continually serves and meets our needs.

Jesus Christ is also a merciful and faithful high priest. This is in contrast to the human high priests who were neither merciful nor faithful.

Finally, Jesus Christ can be sympathetic with our needs. Having been human Himself, He know what we are experiencing. Therefore, Jesus can sympathize with us.

In sum, Jesus was superior to the human priesthood in every possible way.

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