By Sheryl Murray
“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, that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.”
When I was growing up, my family attended a liturgical church. The sanctuary was solemn and talking was hushed. Our pastor was called a priest. He wore embroidered
robes of various colors according to the seasons and read prayers out of a book. We
had communion most Sundays, and it was consecrated in a very specific, prescribed
manner in front of an altar which was also clothed with embroidered material, colored
to fit the seasons. The congregation was a significant distance from the altar which
added mystery and awe to this ritual. His speaking was measured and formal and his
sermons were read aloud.
So when I heard about the Old Testament priests in sermons and Bible stories in
Sunday school, I pictured them as much the same as our pastor, our priest. Here were
men called by God to offer up sacrifices for themselves and the people in an attempt to
please God and beg His forgiveness. They had their own weaknesses including being
limited by their lifespans. They could offer up sacrifices for forgiveness, but these
sacrifices did not erase sin or put an end to the sin problem. They continued to be
offered up each week.
From a young age I also heard about Jesus, a very special man who had special powers. I learned that He loved people and could perform miracles for those He loved.
He was born at Christmas and was really God’s son. When He was older (about my
parents’ age) hateful, mean people put Him to death in a terrible way. But God loved
Him so much He brought Him back to life and took Him to heaven. These two pieces of my church experience seemed remote from one another, disconnected. I believed them to be true, but I could not seem to piece them together in the same puzzle.
Thus, you can imagine my joy and amazement when I discovered in a vacation Bible school class that this Jesus whom I had grown to love through learning of His life and deeds was the one who really could take away my sin and forgive me. The priest at my church was not an Old Testament priest, but rather, was acting out the story of Jesus’ being our great High Priest.
Jesus, who was God in the flesh, lived and died for us. His sacrifice was for us, not for
Himself, because He was sinless. His priesthood was not for His lifetime but was
forever. His sacrifice never needed to be repeated because it was the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. His sacrifice was complete. He was and is the great High priest because He understands our sin problem and has provided us with a perfect sacrifice to break the power of sin and death permanently.
As I listened with awe and wonder to the synchronization of these pieces of the
salvation puzzle, I realized the beauty of this picture. God’s son came to earth as a High Priest, better than any before, to offer the ultimate sacrifice (Himself) that we could be forgiven. And then my VBS teacher proffered a gift that I could never have imagined when she asked, “Would anyone here want to have Jesus in their hearts?”
My own heart leapt for joy! Of course!
Dear God, Give us minds and hearts to understand your role as High Priest. May we allow no one else to stand between us as we accept your gift of salvation. You only can offer the complete and final sacrifice that conquers sin and death and helps us in our time of need. Amen.