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The Names of Jesus
The Great High Priest
After Jesus’s death and resurrection, He ascended into heaven where He took upon Himself, not only the title, but also the ministry of being our great High Priest, and that for all eternity. It was for this very purpose that Jesus came, to be our Mediator, our go-between with God and to offer His life as a ransom.
In his first letter to Timothy Paul says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6a NKJV)
The idea that it is for all eternity, and not like the priesthood set up through the tribe of Levi, is seen in that the High Priest, due to sin and death, needed to be replaced, but not so Jesus. His priesthood is unchangeable, because He is alive and always ready to intercede.
“But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25 NKJV)
The writer of Hebrews brings out the unchangeableness of Jesus when he said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV). Therefore if Jesus is always the same, that is, unchangeable, He will always be our great High Priest, which was foretold by King David in Psalm 110:4.
“The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4 NKJV)
Now, this Melchizedek guy we’ll look at later on in our time together. But for now, we can comforted knowing that Jesus will always be our great High Priest who offered Himself as that eternal sacrifice for our sins so that we can be assured of eternal life in Heaven in the presence of God.
In other words, as long as we live and have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, He will be our great High Priest, interceding for us until that day when we will be with Him forever.
The writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us that Jesus is sitting right now at the right hand of God’s heavenly throne as our great High Priest. This is something that should bring us great joy, because now we have access to heaven and can boldly enter before Him to find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Jesus A Perfect Mediator
One of the titles for Jesus is that He is a mediator between God and us. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy brought this out.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 NKJV)
A mediator is someone who inserts themselves between two parties in order to reconcile any and all differences in order to come up with a resolution to a problem.
Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve back in the Garden of Eden, humanity and God have been at odds, and that’s because God cannot abide sin in his presence.
“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.” (Psalm 5:4 NKJV)
The Bible says that we’re all sinners, and no one is righteousness enough to stand before God (Romans 3:10, 23). And we are also told that it is this sinful condition that keeps us away from God where He no longer hears our cries (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18).
It was because of this that God set forth a precursor to what He ultimately wanted to do through Jesus, and that is He set up a priesthood through the Jewish line of Levi to stand before God making intercession on behalf of the people. The high priest was the people’s representative to God, and God’s representative to the people.
The High Priest was to offered sacrifices to God to atone for the people’s sins, but it was only temporary because the blood of these sacrificial animals could not permanently do away with a person’s sins, hence it had to be repeated.
“In those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:3-4 NKJV)
And so the priests and their sacrifices were a foreshadowing and a precursor to a priesthood and sacrifice that would be permanent.
“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14 NKJV)
And so Jesus is our mediator and through His sacrifice He reconciled us to God bringing lasting and eternal peace.
In fact, what we might say is that Jesus is the perfect mediator, first because He knows all about us and what we go through.
When we want someone to mediate for us we what someone who understands us. We want someone who has walked in our shoes.
A high priest was therefore someone who could represent the people to God because he was a human being. He knew the struggles the people faced because he faced them as well.
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.” (Hebrews 5:1-2 NKJV)
Jesus being our perfect mediator is seen in that He too has walked in our shoes. The writer of Hebrews said that He is a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), and therefore can identify with what we go through.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NKJV)
Jesus became a man, and thus experienced humanity’s physical limitations. He was hungry, thirsty, and cold. He knew what it was like to be joyful and sad. He was betrayed and felt dejection, disappointment, and was discouraged. And He was tempted in the same way we are tempted.
But the difference is that Jesus was without sin, which brings us the second reason why Jesus is a perfect mediator, and that’s because He was not just a man, but He is God as well.
The Apostle John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14 NKJV)
And so, there is no better or more perfect mediator between humanity and God than the Lord Jesus Christ, who was both God and man. This was something that the Levitical priesthood could never be.
Jesus A Qualified High Priest
For a High Priest to stand before God, there were certain qualifications that had to be met, and certain duties that had to be performed.
To understand Jesus’s qualifications we must first look at the high priesthood set up by God in accordance to the law.
It was the tribe of Levi that God chose to serve as priests and caregivers in the tabernacle (Numbers 3, 8). But it was Aaron, Moses’s brother that God called and ordained to be the high priest, and his sons as priests to minister before him.
“Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons” (Exodus 28:1 NKJV)
It was to Aaron that God gave the task of coming before Him in the Holy of Holies to represent the people and sprinkle the sacrificial blood of atonement upon the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the presence of God dwelt. To do so, Aaron was to be ritually purified and cleansed, that is, he needed to be forgiven of his sins first.
“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.” (Leviticus 16:6 NKJV)
Therefore, Aaron and every high priest thereafter needed forgiveness for their sin before they could offer sacrifices for the people’s sins, and that’s because they were just as big as sinners as those who they were offering sacrifices for.
And so, to stand before God at His mercy seat, they had to be cleansed, because God held the priests to higher and more stringent standard, which was spelled out in Leviticus 21.
But they could never stand up to such stringent standards set forth by the Law, because as the Bible states there is no one on earth who is righteous and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 14:3; 53:3; Romans 3:10-12). Further, because of sin, there is no one that lives forever, as the Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), thus the High Priest would have to constantly be changed.
Because of this, God called and ordained another High Priest, not from the line of Aaron and Levi, but from an unending line and a forever priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood.
“The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4 NKJV)
The story is found in Genesis 14. Five cities in the Jordanian Valley, including Sodom and Gomorrah, rebelled against Chedorlaomer (Ked-o-la-o’-mar) king of Elam. And so Chedorlaomer and three other kings went to war and defeated the five cities and took their possessions, along with all the people including Lot and his family, Abraham’s nephew.
Upon hearing of the defeat and Lot’s capture, Abraham took his 318 servants and defeated Chedorlaomer and brought back Lot as well as all the people and their possessions.
On his way back Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Lord God, met and blessed Abraham, and to Melchizedek Abraham paid a tithe.
Not much is known about Melchizedek, except what is brought out here in our passage. But it is from this priesthood that the Messiah would come, not from the Levitical priesthood. And from what we see is that it is a superior priesthood.
The writer of Hebrews revealed that since Levi, of whom the priesthood would come, was still contained within the loins of Abraham, they paid a tithe to Melchizedek through Abraham (Hebrews 71-10), thus making Melchizedek’s priesthood greater.
But here’s a rub that we must deal with, the Messiah, who was to be king, was to come through the tribe of Judah from which no mention is made of there being any priesthood.
But listen now to what the writer of Hebrews says concerning the Messiah’s priesthood from the lineage of Melchizedek.
“For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.” (Hebrews 7:13-16 NKJV)
This idea of an endless life is what most people find difficult in identifying just who Melchizedek is. The writer of Hebrews said this about Melchizedek.
“(He is) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” (Hebrews 7:3 NKJV)
Now there are those who say that Melchizedek was Jesus incarnate, or what is known as a Theophany, that is, God coming in the flesh. This is seen in that He is likened to the Son of God, which is a title for Jesus.
However, there is a difficulty in that this is a simile, that is, Melchizedek is like the Son of God, not the Son of God. What we need to understand is that genealogies were only kept for those of the Jewish faith, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to prove which tribe or family they were from. This was not the case for any other people group.
For those who would disagree then they have a difficulty with anyone during that time frame, because since genealogies were not kept of others, like Melchizedek, then in like manner we wouldn’t know their family heritage and no record would have been kept as to their birth or death, thus everyone would be eternal and like “the Son of God.”
Another qualification is in the name of Melchizedek, which means king of righteousness, and who he was, that is, the king of Salem, which is translated king of peace.
Righteousness and peace are two titles given to the Messiah and thus Jesus. Jesus is called, “Jehovah Tsidkenu,” the Lord our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6), and the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
The Apostle John calls Jesus our advocate with the Father because He is righteous (1 John 2:1), and Paul said that He, that is, Jesus is the basis for our righteousness by which we can stand before God (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Paul also said that Jesus is our peace because he destroyed the wall of sin that separates us from God (Ephesians 2:14-18), and it is then through faith in Jesus that we can now have peace with God (Romans 5:1).
So why make Melchizedek the Messiah’s priesthood? It is because the Levitical priesthood was never intended to be permanent (Hebrews 7:11). Therefore, Jesus has taken upon Himself the position of High Priest when He entered into the Heavenly Temple with His own blood sprinkling it upon the altar for the forgiveness of our sins.
“But Christ came as High Priest … Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12 NKJV)
In comparing Jesus’s sacrifice to that performed by the Jewish high priest, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus doesn’t need to daily offer up sacrifices for His own sin and for the sin of the people (Hebrews 7:27).
“But now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant between God and humanity, but He isn’t like the priests of old who continually offered up sacrifices, rather it is through His sacrifice upon the cross that He made atonement once and for all for those who would believe.
Because of this Jesus serves as our great High Priest divinely appointed, called, and ordained according to the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi. And through His death and resurrection, we now can have access to the presence of God.
It is this last part that I would like to make my next point.
Jesus An Approachable High Priest
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God … Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14a, 16 NKJV)
According to the set up in the Temple, the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest would offer the sacrifice, was separated from the Holy Place and the rest of the temple by a veil. And so when the High Priest would go in and minister to God for the sins of the people, this veil would separate him. There was no contact.
But when Jesus died on the cross that veil was torn from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51), which would indicate it was the Lord who opened the way for us to have direct access to His throne through Jesus Christ.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-22a NKJV).
Because of Jesus’s sacrifice, we can now enter by faith into the Holy of Holies fully assured that God will hear our prayers.
And while there is so much more that can be brought out about the high priesthood of Jesus, I think it is evident that Jesus is indeed our great High Priest, not according to the Law, but according to the spirit, being our high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and not through the earthly line of Levi. And as such we now have complete and total access to the throne of God through faith and belief in Jesus Christ.
The Blessings of Jesus
Another one of the duties God gave to Aaron and his sons was to bless the people in what is known as the priestly blessing.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV)
The High Priest was to then bless the people with the blessings God gave to Him.
What I found interesting is the blessing extended by Melchizedek to Abraham.
“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’” (Genesis 14:18-20 NKJV)
From this blessing we can see Melchizedek’s function as mediator as he blessed both Abraham and God.
Further, note that the blessing came after the bread and wine. In the same way, the blessings of Jesus as our great High Priest, extends to us after He gave the disciples the bread and the cup of wine, which represents the body and blood of His sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3 NKJV)
As our Great High Priest, Jesus also extends to us some really neat and great blessings from the Father as well, which comes to us after the bread and wine, that is, after the sacrifice He made upon the cross.
Now, it is obvious that the greatest need of them all that Jesus blesses us with is spiritual and deals with the forgiveness of sin and our eternal salvation in heaven. But when we seek Jesus, He will bless us by meeting our physical needs as well.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
Jesus went on and said that after we seek God’s kingdom, that God would bless us with just that, His kingdom.
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 NKJV)
We see this strength extended to us through the blessings of the Beatitudes in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. In each instance, Jesus tells them what God provides.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NKJV)
And we see this throughout the rest of the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:4-10 NKJV)
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 NKJV)
In the end, however, the greatest blessing we can receive is Jesus Christ. The secret of God’s blessings in our lives is Jesus Christ. He is what we need, He is what we are looking for, and He is our reward and great blessing.
Jesus is then without question our merciful and faithful High Priest, who made atonement for us upon the cross, as He took our place and died for our sins.
Jesus is qualified as being our great High Priest, not due to any earthly lineage from the line of Levi, but through the unending priesthood of Melchizedek. Jesus is also qualified as our great High Priest and mediator because He knows our weaknesses and our struggles and He is sympathetic with them because He went through them Himself, but never sinned in the process.
Therefore, as our great High Priest Jesus is approachable and gives to us the spiritual blessings of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life, along with the Kingdom of God and the Holy Spirit. But He also blesses us with our physical needs and strength to live for Him in a world that is hostile towards us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study