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.