October 24, 2004
Pastor Brian Shimer
"Have you Met the High Priest?"
Hebrews 5:1 - 11; 7: 1-28
- Once long ago in the city of Jerusalem, there lived a boy named Andrew, the son of a priest, of the priestly division of Abijah. Andrew brought joy to his mom and dad. He had joy that radiated from his face even though he suffered from a birth defect, which left Andrew crippled with a club foot.
Andrew loved God, loved the work his father did as a priest. A priest communicated to God for people, Andrew knew. More than anything Andrew loved to see the work of the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. His father had helped him find a place where he could observe all that was happening, without being "in" the temple court area for that was not allowed. No one with a defect could serve as a priest, so Andrew knew he would never be able to do what he longed to do: communicate with God on behalf of the people.
When Andrew was 6 he heard Jesus speak for the first time. He had gone to the temple with his father, and there was this young Rabbi speaking in the outer court. His words about loving God and others as the Good Samaritan loved the man who had fallen among robbers caught his heart. When Jesus spoke God came near (Luke 10).
More than anything Andrew longed to be near God, but knew there was no way to get closer than his little alcove in the temple. He could see the curtain in the temple which separated the holy place from the Most Holy Place, but could never even see in, let alone gain access to God's presence.
- Andrew's father also heard Jesus speaking, and would travel to hear him more often. One day he went home eyes on fire with joy of faith and said he had seen Jesus raise their good friend Lazarus from the dead in Bethany.
"Andrew, Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' At that, we all backed up, for Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and there would be a bad odor. Martha even spoke up and warned him. But Jesus only replied to her, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?'
Andrew, chills went down my spine and through my skin. Suddenly I knew the presence of God there only as I only known it before when serving in the temple. God was there in Jesus, Andrew. Jesus prayed saying, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'
Andrew, Jesus spoke to God with such an intimacy. God was there, Andrew, and at that moment, I did believe with all my heart that Jesus had come from God.
Then, Jesus commanded: 'Lazarus, Come out!'
And he came out Andrew. It seemed the most natural thing in the world that he would exit that grave, like a man coming out of a cave. He was all wrapped still with the strips of linen around his hands and feet and the cloth around his face."
Then Jesus said, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go,' and at that moment, Andrew, I knew my grave clothes had also been removed. I had stepped from my tomb. I had been set free. Jesus would not be the military leader some of the Rabbi's talked of, but He is God's Anointed One, the Son of God, means by which we have access to God.
Andrew believed with his father, that the Messiah had come in Jesus. He knew the presence of God - both in the temple and now also in Jesus. Andrew and his father would go whenever they could to hear Jesus speak, for just being near Jesus was so satisfying for them both.
The following year, his father was one of those protesting Pilate's use of the Temple treasury to build a new water source for Jerusalem, when the temple guards who were hidden among the crowds of protestors, violently attacked the people, and many including Andrew's father died.
Soon after this, Jesus began to get in trouble with the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. On the Passover Jesus was led out to be crucified. Andrew could not stand the thought of watching them kill Jesus, so went to the only other safe place he knew, the temple. He found his way to his secret place and from there looked toward the curtain in the temple separating him from the Holy of Holies, the presence of God.
He stayed there all that day, grieving and resting, until the time of the evening sacrifice. It had been dark as night in the middle of the day for three hours, the priests were working in the temple to prepare the burnt offering and the instant they sacrificed the lamb there was a great earthquake, the temple rocked and Andrew watched in amazement as the 4 inch think curtain between him and the holy of holies was ripped in two, from the top to the bottom. The priests fled.
But when Andrew stood to make his way into that now open place, he looked down to behold that his feet were whole and healed. He leaped for joy, ran through the Holy Place and fell on his knees before the Holy of Holies, and the Ark of the Covenant, and knew he knelt in the presence of Almighty God who had touched him at the moment when Jesus had died.
- Imagine - no access to God in prayer, no way to be forgiven except through the office of the priest and once a year the ceremony on the Day of Atonement.
Imagine the separation from hope in the Old Covenant. There could be no tangible experience of hope, only the hope in a system that could never cleanse the heart.
It was as if people had to communicate with God the way old telephone systems worked. The call was first routed through the local operator before making connection with your party.
It was like the telegraph sending the message from operator to operator until it could finally reach its destination.
What a difference - the removal of the human priesthood, the removal of the whole sacrificial system based upon the law. It was removed because it was weak and useless, Hebrews tells us. But what a difference this makes to you and to me - we don't have to go through an operator to reach our connection, now we can dial direct. Much as we can dial a few numbers now and reach someone by phone around the world, how much easier can we "reach" God?
Like Andrew we have access into the Holy of holies but not of an earthly temple, but of the throne room in heaven. Jesus became the entrance to God's presence. "There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus," Paul wrote to Timothy.
- Whereas the priests of the old system were sinful, mortal and weak, Jesus never sinned, is immortal and strong. His is an indestructible life. And rather than being in Aaron's line, Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek was an Old Testament character. His name means "King of righteousness." He first appeared in Genesis 14 as the king of the city of Salem, which means peace. So, Melchizedek was the King of Righteousness and king of Peace. In addition he was priest of the Most High God. A priest, centuries before the priestly system was established who blesses Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people, and receives tithes from him. This Melchizedek is a unique person.
By placing Jesus in the line of Melchizedek God established a new covenant, a whole new system to approach God. The old was shown to be ineffective, weak, useless, whereas the new is permanent.
"Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens," the writer pens (7:26).
Certainly we need a such a High Priest who is offers us a better hope by which we draw near to God. V 19 says: "the law made nothing perfect" but our relationship to Jesus can make us like him, mature, complete, holy.
We don't approach God by bringing a sacrifice to a priest we don't have to look at a closed curtain to the presence of God, but can come right into the heavenly realms. We are able to come to God.
And to what kind of God do we have access?
One who knows our every need and can relate to it. Jesus remember was tempted just as we are, yet did not sin. Last week I noted that this means Jesus understands temptation at a level we will never know, for only the one who does not fall to sin, knows the full pull of temptation.
Also, we come to a God who has suffered for us, because of his love for us. He knows what it is to suffer.
And we come to God because Jesus is there praying for us.
7:25 is a favorite verse for me for it reminds me that although the enemy may be before God's throne accusing me day and night, Jesus is there praying for me and for you.
Jesus is able to save you and save me completely.