Jesus, Our Great High Priest

Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, was enthroned in majesty and is as actively involved in our lives today as He was with His disciples in Galilee. One expression of His ministry is exercising the office of High Priest: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession (Heb. 4:14).

A. Description of our High Priest

1. Jesus is a perfect High Priest: 

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9)

The Jewish high priests under the Old Covenant needed to continually offer up sacrifices for their own sin and for the sins of the people. But our High Priest is perfect in character, sinless, the unblemished Lamb of God and therefore does not need to offer up sacrifices for Himself. Furthermore, His redeeming work was perfectly acceptable, complete, and therefore does not need to be repeated.

Under the former covenant, the high priest had access to the presence of God once a year (in the Holy of Holies); but our High Priest abides in perfect communion with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The former high priests eventually died, their priesthood was temporary but our High Priest lives forever. He is a perfect High Priest.

Be careful with the phrase, And having been made perfect (Hebr. 5:9). This does not refer to Jesus having been created perfect for He was not created, being the uncreated Son of God and Co-Creator of the universe. Neither did He become perfect, for He was never less than perfect. 

The verb having been made perfect (teleioun) is related to the adjective perfect (teleios). Something is said to be teleios if it perfectly carries out or fulfills the function or purpose for which it was created. 

In humbling Himself to be born in human form and in the living of His sinless life, Jesus became perfectly qualified to be our High Priest. He understands our weakness because He experienced temptation, grief, thirst, rejection. He experienced all of the human condition and this created in Him the perfect capacity to be our High Priest. Therefore we read, We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Further, the suffering Jesus endured was the necessary price of His obedience to God the Father and through His sufferings, He was perfectly qualified to be the Savior and High Priest of His people. Jesus determined from eternity to be the holy Lamb slain for our sins and it was on the cross that He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. On the cross, Jesus became the perfect (telios) Lamb of God because it was there that He perfectly fulfilled His atoning ministry in the offering of His life and the shedding of His blood.

2. He is the Source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him: 

And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9)

Jesus is the Source of our salvation because He is the holy Lamb of God who took our sins upon Himself (I Peter 1:18,19). There is salvation in no other name because no other savior is needed and no one else qualifies to be our savior (Acts 4:12, I Tim. 2:5). It is an eternal salvation because in offering Himself on the cross, Jesus sufficiently atoned for all sin for all time for all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). When anyone obeys the Lord’s command to repent of sin and believe in Christ the holy Lamb and risen Lord, God grants them eternal salvation. It is an eternal salvation because our Savior lives forever, His priesthood is forever, His atoning sacrifice is forever and therefore, His saving work is eternal: But Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him (Hebr. 7:24,25).

3. His priesthood is an everlasting priesthood: 

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently (Hebrews 7:23,24).

The word permanent may also be translated unchangeable or inviolable (aparabatos). It is a legal word. A judge hands down a decision and it is aparabatos, unchangeable. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus, by which He is able to reconcile repentant sinners to God, is permanent, inviolable, cannot be canceled. The priesthood of Jesus is permanent, unchangeable, cannot be taken from Him. Because Jesus is eternal, His priesthood is forever, permanent, unchangeable.

4. Jesus is a perfectly holy High Priest:

For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (Hebrews 7:26-27).

Our High Priest offered Himself without blemish to God (Hebr. 9:14). The truth that Jesus is the sinless Lamb of God and our sinless, holy High Priest, is clearly presented in Scripture. Peter reminds us, Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (I Peter 1:18,19). Again, Peter testifies of Jesus that He committed no sin nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (I Pet. 2:22).

In the hours before the cross, Jesus testified of Himself, The ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me (John 14:30). Satan was approaching but would find no point of accusation aganst Jesus, no sin with which He could accuse Jesus and thereby hold Him in the chains of death. Even the weak, compromised Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, said, I find no guilt in this man (Luke 23:4). 

Because Jesus is our sinless High Priest, He did not need to make sacrifices for Himself nor does He need to make endless sacrifices on behalf of His people, having made one sacrifice for all time (Hebr. 7:27).

5. His priesthood is a superior priesthood, for all the above reasons.

Jesuspriesthood is superior to all others because He does not need to make any sacrifice for Himself, being sinless. He does not need to make endless sacrifices for sinners, having made one sacrifice for all time. Because His priesthood is eternal, He offers everlasting salvation. Note though, that this salvation is accessible only to all who obey Him (Hebr. 5:9 ). To obey Christ is to repent of sin and believe in Him as the Holy Lamb.

6. Our High Priest is seated at the right hand of majesty:

There were no seats in the temple because the work of the priests was never finished. But Jesus is seated at the right hand of majesty (Hebrews 8:1,2). This speaks of the completion of His sacrificial work, the acceptance of His sacrifice by the Father and His return to shared glory and authority with the Father. Enthroned in glory, possessing ultimate authority in the universe, having been seated far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:21). He is therefore able to carry out all that He purposes and prays.

B. Function of our High Priest: Intercessor and Advocate

Christ our Intercessor:

1. Jesus lives to make intercession for the saints.  

But Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:24,25).

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebr. 9:24).

A priest intercedes, prays for his people. So Jesus, our eternal High Priest, is able to save forever (or completely) those who draw near to God through Him (through faith in Him), because He lives always and forever to intercede (plead) for His people. It is true that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16). How much more is accomplished through the prayer of our Righteous High Priest, who prays for each of us with perfect wisdom and knowledge of all truth, with perfect motive and perfect love, who always fulfills His purpose with perfect power and authority.

2. He intercedes for us in the hour of temptation. 

While on earth, Jesus prayed for His disciples. We have an example of this in His prayer for Simon Peter on the night Jesus was arrested. In His wisdom, the Lord knew that the source of Peter’s temptation was Satan. In His knowledge of the human heart, He knew that Peter would fail. But He was perfectly confident of the outcome, But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:32). Peter stumbled and sinned but his faith did not fail because Jesus prayed for him. 

Peter may have been thinking of this when, years later, he wrote, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected (kept) by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (I Peter 1:3-5).

We are kept by the power of God through faith, faith that is sustained to the end of time by the prayers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ascended to heaven and seated at the Father’s right hand, Jesus’ intercession for us is an expression of His perfectly wise, perfectly loving care for each of us and His continuous, perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

3. He prays for His church (John 17:15-23)

In John 17, Jesus prayed for His church, that the church would be kept from the evil one, sanctified in the truth and perfected in unity. As our great High Priest, He still intercedes, not only for believers as individuals but for His church.

Because we have a High Priest eternally and continually engaged in pleading for us, we may draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Our access to the throne of grace is by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (Hebrews 10:19,20).

Jesus, our great High Priest, lives to make intercession for His saints and for the church of which we are members. He is praying that the purposes of His Father will be accomplished in our lives and in His church so that the Father may be glorified. 

Christ prays in perfect agreement with the mind of the Father and the Holy Spirit, prays with perfect knowledge of all truth that could ever be true, prays with perfect authority and power to carry out His will. There is no wisdom or power that can prevent the purpose of Christ from being carried out. He is the Lord, Who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist (Rom. 4:17).

Christ our Advocate:

Jesus advocates for us when we sin: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (I John 2:1,2).

The word Advocate is Paracletos which can be translated helper, intercessor, one who is called alongside to help. Jesus used this same word in reference to the Holy Spirit, I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Advocate, Paracletos), that He may be with you forever (John 14:16). Jesus also is our Advocate. We might say that a paracletos is a defense attorney who not only pleads our cause but, because it is Jesus, He always wins our acquittal. What is it that wins our acquittal? It is the blood of the unblemished Lamb (Hebr. 9:11-14, 24-28).

As a result of our High Priest’s intercession and advocacy, the apostle Paul testifies, Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us (Rom. 8:33,34).

C. The Result of Our High Priests Ministry (Romans 8:1,26,27,31-39)

1. We cannot be condemned.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). If there is no greater Judge in the universe than God, and God has acquitted us in Christ Jesus, then who can condemn us? No being or power in the universe can nullify, overcome or over rule God’s declaration of forgiving, justifying grace in the lives of all who submit to the Lordship of Jesus, trusting in His atonement and resurrection.

A woman was thrown down at the feet of Jesus, having been caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers wanted to sentence her to death, in accordance with the law of Moses. Jesus replied, He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7). They walked away one by one and Jesus was left alone with a sinner. He asked, Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?  She replied, No one, Lord. Jesus answered, I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more (John 8:10,11).

2. We cannot be separated from Christ: 

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:35). We cannot be separated by sin, for our sin is forgiven in Christ. We cannot be separated by powers of darkness, for they have been conquered in Christ. We cannot be separated by the world, for Jesus has overcome the world. If the ultimate separation is through sin and death, and Jesus bore our sin and rose triumphant from the dead, and we are united with Him in His death and resurrection, then not even death can separate us from Him.

3. We are more than conquerors in Him.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37). If our great High Priest is seated at the right hand of God, far above every power and name in this age and the age to come, if He has conquered the powers of darkness and death and has raised us into union with Himself, how can we ever be conquered by anything other than this gracious Lord who in kindness and mercy conquered us for Himself, that He might bless us and lavish His grace upon us forever? 

Because our Lord is triumphant,

we are triumphant in Him.

His will is always accomplished,

His prayers are always answered, 

for He is our great High Priest.

Study Questions

1. How would you describe Jesus as our great High Priest?

2. What does it mean to you that Jesus intercedes for you continually?