JESUS' SUPREMACY OVER AARON (HEBREWS 4:14-5:6)
By Mick Smith
At the end of chapter 14 the readers are told that "We have a great high priest" That leads us to the next comparison between Jesus and all those and all that which the readers held in their hearts with great affection. The aim of the letter is to reveal the supremacy of Christ.
We have read of the supremacy of Jesus to the prophets (1:1-3); to the angels (1:4-2:18) and to Moses (3:1-4:16). Now the supremacy of Jesus to Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, is to be established. Let's look at that before we look at what that means for us (4:14-16)
So, Christ is revealed as the supreme High Priest. The high priests of old offered shadows of the reality to come. The sacrifices of old were offered regularly — Christ offers the true sacrifice, once for all. The old priests offered amoral sacrifices (animal sacrifices were totally unaware of the righteousness of that for which their lives were being sacrificed) The Supreme High Priest was totally aware and offered Himself as a perfect moral (totally aware of right and wrong and the need for righteous intervention) sacrifice. He offered the supreme atoning sacrifice and He was the sacrifice.
WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO US?
It's because times are constantly changing. Nothing seems to remain the same for long whether that be international, national, local or personal. As someone once said, "Constant change is here to stay." And, if we are to remain true to the faith once for all delivered, we need to endure as well as enjoy our faith in Christ knowing that our needs are satisfied through the perfect offering of the perfect high priest.
The anchor that we, as Christians, have in the midst of the uncertainties that accompany constant change is the unchanging Christ Jesus. People, situations, customs and values change but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So our choice, like those who first read the letter; is to either move with the changes or stay with the unchanging Christ who redeemed us and will, one glorious day, deliver us into the eternal and glorious presence of God.
Jesus willingly offered Himself as an acceptable sacrifice to God in our place. That's why we may have faith for today and have a certain hope for eternity. That's what makes Him our great high priest.
THE HIGH PRIEST'S FUNCTION
The prime concept is of 'mediation' (v1) He's a 'go-between' a bridge builder. He represents man towards God and God towards man.
Jesus is superior in mediation in that He is God incarnate. He is perfectly God and perfectly man. He understands what God wants and he understands what man is like....so He knows what God wants and what man needs.
The second concept is of 'sacrifice' (v1-3) Sin is a barrier between God and man. Sacrifice is the only means by which that barrier can be removed so that reconciliation between God and man is made possible.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in sacrificial offering in that all the offerings made by Aaron were symbolic of what was truly needed. Jesus was the substance. The animal sacrifices had no choice; no understanding of what was happening to them. Jesus chose to be our sacrifice. He understood fully what was happening. Aaron entered the presence of God once each year. Jesus entered once for all.
The third concept is of 'access to God' The high priesthood of Aaron offered relief from God's punishment of sin. The problem was that the relief was temporary. His priesthood did not cleanse the conscience and, unless perfectly clean, no one can enter God's presence.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in gaining access to God's presence in that He entered in to the very presence of God that was represented by the holy place in which Aaron entered once each year. Once there He was able (because of His acceptable sacrifice) to offer an everlasting relief from sin. Jesus' self-sacrifice ensured that our conscience could be cleansed.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE OFFICE (v1-4)
He must be taken from among men (v1) The issue was that it had to be someone not something that had to be offered. We read earlier that no angel could mediate between God and man; now, we are told, neither could any animal sacrifice suffice.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that, in order to fulfil this requirement, He had to take on our form. Aaron offered animal sacrifices. Jesus emptied Himself and became as we are. He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He became perfectly man while remaining perfectly God. He was obedient unto death as our replacement. His perfect, sinless life enabled Him to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice.
He must have human compassion (v2-3) Aaron's human nature granted him compassion because he knew that he, as well as those he represented, needed God's grace and mercy. So, he was faced with the
fact that he was offering sacrifices for his own sins as well as for those of the people.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that, during his ministry on earth He looked at the people with compassion and saw them as sheep without a shepherd. He had no need of a sacrifice to represent Him as He was without sin. He had to become sin and endure Divine condemnation for sin for our sake; not His own.
He must be divinely appointed (v4) The position of high priest was not one that was open to volunteers. There was no interview panel to face. It was a position to which Aaron was called and appointed by God.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that He who was with God and was God became man who learned, through His sufferings, what God wanted of a high priest. He did not take the dignity of the position upon himself. He did not glorify himself. He was appointed by God the Father and sent to fulfil the office.
Jesus is superior to Aaron in that Aaron was high priest but Jesus is the great high priest (4:14) This is the only reference to Him as such. What it means is that even though He was the Son of God (v8) He had to suffer in order to be come perfect. He had to learn what it is to become like us. His learning caused Him to become strong in Spirit. He increased in wisdom and stature
WHAT THAT MEANS FOR US
We have a man in glory right now. He lived the perfect sinless life. He became an acceptable sacrifice. When He ascended into heaven He presented His blood as the atonement for all our sins. He is perfectly qualified as our great high priest. He has entered in to the presence of God once for all. That is why He is our great high priest.
His great high priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. A high priest served as such as long as he lived. Jesus is like Melchizedek in that His priesthood will never end because He is eternal and He is the author of eternal life. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
May we see Jesus more clearly than ever before and may we know Him more intimately so that we might walk this life as Jesus walked. He is greater than the prophets. He is greater than the angels. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than Aaron. He is the unchanging Christ. The way in to the presence of God is open.
SINCE THEN WE HAVE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST
We are exhorted to “hold fast our confession.”
( i) Essentially he's urging them not to go back
( ii) To what? To our confession of faith in Jesus as our Saviour
(iii) And to our acceptability to God in Christ alone
(iv) We have the perfect high priest who knows what we are like
( v) He has faced every temptation without having sinned
(vi) He has taken our sin, shame and sorrow upon himself so
We are encouraged to draw near to the throne of grace
( i) With confidence in the person and work of our great high priest
( ii) That we may receive mercy and find grace for all our needs
(iii) His blood is the hope of our salvation
(iv) Our hope is not in anything of self but it's a hope in Christ
( v) He really is our all-sufficient one
The whole point is that we hold fast, not in the sense of a white knuckle ride, but by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the object of our confession. It's He who holds us fast. We cannot hold fast by looking at anything of ourselves. That could never be enough. He is seated on the throne. He is our righteousness
We are invited, with a free pass, into the presence of the living God and at the heart of the presence is an everlasting fountain of grace that's sufficient for all. Jesus' supremacy extends over the first, the original high priest of Israel.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ set your minds on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honour and power. Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-4)
The aim of the letter is to affirm the superiority of Jesus above all. He was shown to be greater than the prophets who were a very respected group of people; considered to have God's ear. God spoke to His people, through the prophets, throughout the ages. The point was that Jesus was greater than them in as much as God has spoken through His Son. They all had bits of the jigsaw. Jesus was the full picture. So we saw that Jesus is greater than the prophets.
The next step was to show that He is greater than the angels. At that time there was a strong belief in angels. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that they were being asked to believe that the angels could open the way in to the presence of God. They couldn't. There is only one way in to the presence of God and that one way was Jesus. "I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except by me" So we saw that Jesus is greater than the angels.
Now the assertion is taken one step further. These people were on the point of returning to that which they had received from their forefathers from the teaching of Moses. When we face uncertainty the tendency is to pull back to what is familiar rather than press on in to the unknown.
They were making comparisons. Moses had delivered their forefathers from their Egyptian bondage. Jesus had not delivered them from their Roman bondage. They could not yet see that He had come to deliver them from a greater bondage. Moses had instigated the tabernacle service. Jesus hadn't added any such inspiring ritual to them. They could not see that God's purpose was to build a temple made out of living stones. Neither could they see that the way in to the presence of God was not through their own efforts to keep Moses' law but through the law of Moses having been totally fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
Moses had a unique place in their hearts. God had spoken to him as a man speaks with a friend. He had been in the presence of God and received the commandments which were the essence of their way of life. He was ranked higher than the angels. God said of him that he was the most faithful in His entire household. He was a leader of great renown. So now, having shown that Moses was greater than the Angels the writer sets out to establish that Jesus is greater than the greatest man of Israel. He was faithful to speak all that God told him to speak. He was faithful to accomplish all that God gave him to accomplish. He argued with God. But he obeyed Him. He was a remarkable man. His faithfulness was unique even when the people he led were unfaithful. No one could conceivably closer to God. That's why the point is made; the Son is more faithful. He is counted as more worthy of glory than Moses. So he writes; consider Jesus as the apostle of faith & as the high priest.
AS THE APOSTLE OF FAITH
This is the only reference to Him as apostle. He was sent as an apostle of the Good News to a fallen world. He was god's ambassador. He was sent with the authority and power of God. He was the undiluted voice of God.
AS THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE FAITH
A priest is a pontifex (bridge builder) over the chasm of sin that separates man from God. To do that he must know God and he must know man. Jesus is the high priest because He is perfectly God and perfectly man. He is the only one who ever has, can and will ever be able to fulfil that function. That's what makes Him the apostle of faith. That's what makes Him the high priest of the faith.
Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses because His relationship was more exalted than that between Moses and God. Moses was God's servant. Jesus was God's Son. Moses was faithful as a servant in God's house. Jesus was faithful as a Son over His house.
This passage concludes with these words: we are god's household if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. The way to do that is to set your minds on the realities of heaven Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. The reality is that Jesus is greater than the prophets; greater than the angels and He's greater than Moses.
Article by Mick Smith
We are approaching the time of year when we will, as Christians, be most appreciative of God's plan of salvation that has been made possible through His grace in sending Jesus to the earth. He came to take away our sins so that whoever would believe in Him may have eternal life. Jesus' death is a recorded fact of secular history. It's not just the Bible that informs us about the event. There has never been any doubt that Jesus died on a cross. It's not a story made up by His followers. It was witnessed by many who did not believe in him. It was well documented at the time by the Roman soldiers and leaders. Even the Roman authorities recorded that a man called Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, was crucified. Any controversy concerning it has not been about the event; it has concerned the meaning of it.
We have to go to the Bible, God's written communication to everyone, to realise the meaning. The Bible tells us that Jesus died, in our place, to take the punishment for our sins and that He rose again on the third day. His death was an atoning sacrifice. His resurrection was an affirmation that He was the Son of God. His death is essential to the Christian's belief in the provision of God for the sake of our reconciliation but it's only half of the plan of God.
At the heart of our belief is the fact that God can now treat sinners as sons because He treated His only Begotten Son as a sinner. Jesus became sin for us. God could have folded His arms in righteous indignation at the state of fallen man of His creation through the effect of sin; He could have been angry at the thought that His Son, who lived a totally sinless life, had to die to take away the punishment we deserved. But, crucially, He didn't. Instead He opened His heart and reached out with arms of love to all of mankind to enfold us with His love, grace and mercy. All of that was while we were still at enmity with Him. God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.
That set me thinking. For many people Easter has become simply a holiday; a break from work; an opportunity to get away from it all. But, for those who believe, on Good Friday we humbly thank God that He sent His Son to die in our place. We can, with grateful hearts say, "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."
His resurrection is the other essential fact of our faith. John Stott said that "Christianity is, in essence, a resurrection faith.The concept of the resurrection is at the very heart of our faith." There were many who witnessed His death on the cross but no one witnessed His resurrection because He rose from within the sealed tomb where His body had been laid. However there were many who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was rolled away to let the disciples in; not to let Jesus out
How can we know? By looking at the substantial evidence. There were eye witness accounts. Though it's true to say that no one witnessed the resurrection (it happened in a sealed tomb) the resurrected Jesus appeared to many of His followers. He appeared to the followers who gathered around the empty tomb. He appeared to the twelve disciples. He appeared to a crowd of five hundred. He appeared to the apostle Paul.
The resurrection is a verified, witnessed, historical fact; one which remains at the heart of the Christian faith. The facts are indisputable. There was an empty tomb.. The large stone that sealed the door of the tomb was rolled away and the Roman seal which no one would have dared to break was broken. There was no body in the tomb and the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb. These are what the Bible calls the infallible truths.
In addition there was plenty of circumstantial evidence. The lives of the disciples were transformed. The day of rest was changed. Jesus' dead body was never found simply because He had risen. The believers consequently would greet one another with the words, "He is risen" to which the response would be "He is risen indeed"
Jesus answered the questions concerning His death and resurrection with the words, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but, if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24) He took an example from the natural realm to explain a truth from the Spiritual realm. A grain of wheat sown in the ground appears above ground in a different form. The old has gone and the new has come. That is the essence of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus died and He rose from death. He has a new body that is no longer subjected to the restrictions of the body that died. It's the same principle at work in the spiritual realm as in the realm of nature when the farmer sows his seed in the ground, in one form, and it is raised in another form.
Jesus died to atone for our sins. He rose from the dead for our justification and He ascended into Heaven to present His blood as atonement for our sin.. This Easter let us give thanks with ever increasingly grateful hearts. Now there's a thought.
Article written by Mick Smith
I can still remember my first portable radio. It was one I had seen at a friend's house; one I had seen in the shops and I really wanted one. I mean really wanted one. So much so that I had been dropping hints about it for quite a while (when I say dropping hints it was more like begging and pleading). After all my birthday was only three months away and that gave whoever was going to buy it for me plenty of time to save up enough money (you see how thoughtful I was?) Anyway my birthday duly arrived, I came down for breakfast before school and there it was, on the table, my very own brand new Roberts (other brands etc) portable radio. I couldn't wait to get home from school that day to go upstairs tune in and listen.
There were many subsequent nights, the nights I stayed in, when I spent a lot of time listening to various programmes. It was brilliant. I can't ever remember changing the batteries in it but I suppose I must have done at some stage of its life. I spent hours listening to programmes like, Dick Barton special agent (could he have been the precursor of James Bond?), Dan Dare, Journey in to space, Round the Horn and many others. Luxembourg became my favourite station!!
One thing I remember vividly was those times when I had to point the extendable aerial in a certain direction and find some way of holding it there while I twiddled with the tuner in order to be able to listen without interference. It was frustrating at times trying to keep the aerial in the right position while being careful to position the tuner correctly in order not to lose the reception. I remember our physics teacher taking time out in one lesson to explain to one or two of us the importance of the transmitter of the signal and the receiver being on the same wave-length.
That set me thinking. Could that physics teacher have, unknowingly, stumbled on the answer to those times when we find it hard to hear from God no matter how hard we try to tune in to Him? I know that the interference I found as I tried to tune in to my radio may relate to the interference that we experience,at times, as we try to tune in to God. Come on be honest. You know the sort of thing I mean. How often do you settle down to read your daily reading (or better still your Bible) and the phone rings. Perhaps, as you are getting ready to seek God and something suddenly jumps in to your mind and you can't settle until you have sorted that out. The problem is that diversions such as these really do interfere with our tuning in to God. How often do you fully intend to talk with God but, for one reason or another, you don't manage to do it. Or could it be that, at times, we simply find it hard or tedious to tune in and stay in tune.
It seems to me that communication with God is on the same principle as that of radio communication. The receiver needs to be on the same wavelength as the transmitter if there is to be no interference.
What I mean is that the transmitter is God. The receiver is the human spirit and the wavelength is that of the Holy Spirit. He has come to live within us for that very purpose; that God may minister to us and we may minister to God. He is our 'go-between' The human spirit, once born again, is our communication centre and, given that we all suffer from the interference of the flesh against the spirit, that's one extremely good reason to stay tuned in to God by maintaining a right relationship with the Holy Spirit.
How can we tune in to the wavelength of the Holy Spirit? There are four steps. Step one: Be sure that He is with us for us and always ready to help. Step two: Be determined to persevere as intention, of itself, is not enough. Step three: Be confident that you will get there (sometimes quicker than others) Be patient: God's timing is different to ours. We can be frustrated and willing to so easily give in. God never gets tired (though sometimes He may wait to test our determination)
Once tuned in stay tuned in!! Don't let interference find a way to prevent you hearing what God has to say. "Be still and know that He is God." The one certainty in all of this is that it's God's desire and our privilege to hear from God and to speak with God. Now there's a thought.
Colossians 1:1-3 Set your minds on the things above and keep them set on what is above; the higher things not the things that are on the earth. As far as this world is concerned you have died and your new real life is hid, with Christ, in God.