A Letter to Hebrew Believers (Part 2)
December 17- Nº 351 Hebrews 4:14 – 10:35
The author of the letter to the Hebrews had just explained how Jesus was greater than the prophets, the angels, and the patriarchs (see #350 - December 16), all of whom the Jews highly revered. But he didn’t stop there. He made it clear that Jesus was far superior to the priests as well! This was a big deal! The priests were God’s chosen ambassadors. They were the liaisons between God and His people (see #52 - February 21). But the author explained that Jesus offered a far better connection with God than the priests ever could. He gave several reasons:
The priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins as well as for the sins of the people. “The only sacrifice Jesus ever had to make was for our sins,” the author explained. That’s because Jesus never sinned! As much as Satan tempted him, he never gave in.
The priests had to offer their sacrifices every day. Jesus’ sacrifice only had to be made one time! Instead of working every day to take care of sin, Jesus was able to return to heaven and sit down at the right hand of God.
The priests were only able to enter God’s presence (in the Holy of Holies) once a year. Jesus now lives in God’s presence for eternity.
Jesus did not have to approach God by walking through a tabernacle that was merely a replica built by human hands (like the High Priest did when he entered the Holy of Holies). After he had made his sacrifice, Jesus entered God’s presence by passing through the perfect tabernacle that is in heaven.
Jesus was both a priest and a king. Aaron, the first and most iconic high priest in the Old Testament was exclusively a priest. Only one other person had ever been both a priest and a king, and that was a man named Melchizedek (see #10 - January 10).
God did not send Jesus to fit into the old sacrificial system which required priests and a tabernacle and animal sacrifices. He sent Jesus to fulfill it. Jesus made a one-time, perfect sacrifice that put an end to that old system and to the old covenant that God had made with Israel at Mount Sinai. There is now a new covenant that does not rely on external actions. It is based on internal attitudes of the heart. The author challenged his readers to start growing in their faith. It was time for them to move on from the basic facts of what they believed about the Gospel message and start examining why they believed it. They needed to stop mindlessly participating in the sacraments without understanding their significance. They needed to stop focusing on what God says will take place in the future and begin living the way He wants them to live right now. In order to do this, the author of Hebrews instructed his readers to spend time with other believers. They needed to encourage each other to grow in their faith, love, and good deeds. Finally, the writer reminded his Jewish audience of the harsh judgment that had been attached to disobeying the Law of Moses. If two or three people accused someone of rejecting it, they would be condemned to death without mercy. “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who turns their back on the blood that Jesus shed for them on the cross?” he questioned.
One of the keys to growing in our faith is to have other believers who will meet with us regularly and challenge us. Is there a small group or a mature believer you meet with whose goal is to help you grow? If not, you need to pray and look for such guidance.