“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”” (Hebrews 5:5–6, ESV)

We continue our series on JESUS – BC.  One of the OT pictures of JESUS is a Jesus as our Great High Priest.  We will study this today, but FIRST… We have to get a picture of how first Century Jews understood PRIESTS

IMAGINE you lived in JERUSALEM a the time of Jesus.  It’s CAREER DAY at your school.  Children have invited their dad’s to tell what they do.  You might expect to hear from a Carpenter, a Fisherman or perhaps a shepherd or olive grower.  And maybe you would also hear from a PRIEST.

I would like to explain the concept of a priest in the time of Christ.  We will look at the PURITY of a priest, the PURPOSE of a priest, and the PRACTICES of a priest.

First – the PURITY a Priest:
A priest was from the tribe of LEVI.  They had to prove their lineage.  We are reminded of this during the time of the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian captivity.  After 70 years of being absent from the land – years when records would have been difficult to maintain, only those priests who could document their ancestry were allowed to serve.  “These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.” (Nehemiah 7:64, ESV)

In addition to having a certifiable ancestry, a priest had to meet the additional physical standards:
No blemishes or defects.  Leviticus 21:17-23
Could not touch anything dead.  Lev 21:1-6
Could not drink wine while in the Tabernacle/Temple.  Lev. 10:9
Could not defile themselves by eating what was torn.  Lev 22:8
No sojourner or strangers could eat of their portion.  Lev 22:10
These standards were not meant by God to discriminate against anyone.  There was nothing shameful about having a birth defect, for example.  However, the priests represented God’s holiness, and so to mark their distinctiveness, these strict standards were in place.

Second, notice the PURPOSES for PRIESTS
The FIRST was Reconciliation.  The priests offered sacrifices so that the people could be reconciled with God.  They represented God’s HOLINESS.
“They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the Lord’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.” (Leviticus 21:6, ESV)
“Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: ….. “And I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your fathers.” (Ezra 8:24, 28, ESV)

Josephus tells us The HIGH PRIEST wore on his forehead a GOLD PLATE with the words “Holy Unto the LORD”

The SECOND purpose was Mediation.  The priests helped to bring the people to God.  The Hebrew for priest is Cohen.  This meant, “One who stands up for another and mediates his cause.”  (Edersheim, “The Temple, 85)

Finally, our career day speech by a first century priest might end with the priest informing us of the PRACTICES of a PRIEST
There were 24 Courses of priests established by David.  “According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions at each gate, for so David the man of God had commanded.” (2 Chronicles 8:14)

At the time of CHRIST, ½ of the COURSES of Priests lived in JERUSALEM.
They would serve in the TEMPLE for 1 week at a time, EVERYONE serving at TABERNACLES.
The story of the birth of John the Baptist gives us a glimpse into the life of one of the OT priests – the father of John, Zechariah.  We see the rotation of Temple service, and the great honor that it was to serve in the Temple.  Luke 1:5, 8-11   “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:5, ESV)   “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.” (Luke 1:8–11, ESV)

On Temple Duty, they might serve any of these capacities:
Singers and musicians
Gate-keepers (opened and closed the gates at specific time.  Kept out those who were not Israelites, not prepared, impure, defiled)
Guards (enforced the rules)
The most numerous were the “priest’s assistants.” They did the following:
look after the sacred vestments and vessels
look after the store-houses and ther contents
Prepared the Table of showbread
prepared the meat offerings
lit candles
Burned incense (Edersheim, 87-88)

OVERSEEING all of this were the Chief officers.  These were the heads of clans of Levites
shutting the doors
overseeing the guards
captain of the Temple
Overseeing the singers
Overseeing the Trumpets
Oil, Showbread, veils, garments, water, lighting

FINALLY, the HIGH PRIEST.  The LAW established this role to the SONS of the High priest.  BUT in the time of Jesus, this was an entirely political process bought with bribes and wielding much political power.

Jesus is a Superior Priest
It was never about making them holy. Hebrews 10:1-4    “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1–4, ESV)

It is our UNDERSTANDING of PRIESTS that teaches us about God’s HOLINESS
Jesus is different than earthly priests.
Let’s go back to the three descriptions of first century priests, and look at them in light of the way in which Jesus fulfilled this office.

He is not a LEVITICAL Priest like every other priest.   Jesus is from the tribe of JUDAH, not the tribe of Levi.  His priesthood follows the pattern of MELCHIZEDEK, not AARON.  “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”” (Hebrews 5:4–6, ESV).  Melchizedek is mentioned 8 times in Hebrews 5, 6 and 7, but only mentioned in 2 OT passages:
“After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:17–20, ESV)
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”” (Psalm 110:4)
Yet, Psalm 110 the most quoted Psalm in the NT!  Although the significance of Melchizedek was not apparent to the saints in the OT, it is made apparent to us through the testimony of the NT writers, especially the author of Hebrews.

RECONCILIATION.  “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV)
HOLINESS.  “and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:39, ESV)

Jesus PERFECTED every function of the Levitical Priests
He is the LIGHT of the Feast of Tabernacles
He is the LIVING WATER of the Feast of Tabernacles
He is the BREAD of LIFE – there is no more show bread
He Himself is the TABERNACLE.  “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11–12, ESV)

Every earthly priest intercedes for others through a sacrifice that THEY provide.  Jesus is the PRIEST that offers HIMSELF as the Sacrifice.
“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:27, ESV)
“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14, ESV)
“Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,” (Hebrews 9:25, ESV)
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV)

Application: The Old Testament paints a picture that took thousands of years.  It is filled with stories, people, Laws, nations, and religious practice.  But it all points to JESUS.

“Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato for 50, Aristotle for 40, and jesus for only 3. Yet the influence of Christ’s 3-year ministry infinitely transcends the impact left by the combined 130 years of teaching from these men who were among the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. Jesus painted no pictures; yet, some of the finest paintings of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci received their inspiration from Him.
Jesus wrote no poetry; but Dante, Milton, and scores of the world’s greatest poets were inspired by Him. Jesus composed no music; still Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Bach, and Mendelssohn reached their highest perfection of melody in the hymns, symphonies, and oratories they composed in His praise. Every sphere of human greatness has been enriched by this humble Carpenter of Nazareth. – Henry G. Bosch

from Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations Signs of The Times, Assurance Publishers
Illus… #2679 “Enriching Every Sphere”