Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. Hebrews 8, verse 3.
Think about that first statement: every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. I’ve never been part of a committee to hire a pastor, but I know a little bit about the process. The pastoral calling is a calling, to be sure. But it’s also a job. Like other jobs, you’re vetted by potential congregational employers. You network with other pastors and peers. You can move around from place to place, moving up, down, and around the pastoral chain of command. And you can be fired or promoted. You’re called by God into the ministry, but you’re hired by people to do the job. You’re appointed. You’re appointed specifically to perform pastoral duties that other leaders in other careers don’t perform.
Except Jesus. Jesus wasn’t a Levite; we’ve talked about this before. Jesus wasn’t part of the political structure in the synagogues or at the Temple. Jesus was taught and trained by rabbis as a younger man (so much that He was frequently called “rabbi” (or ‘teacher’) by His followers), but he wasn’t an ordained priest. He didn’t serve in the rotation to offer sacrifices at the Temple. No, Jesus was the high priest simply by virtue of Him being Himself. It wasn’t that the rules didn’t apply to Him: it was that He kept them so perfectly that they no longer mattered.
So if Jesus isn’t an appointed priest, why does He need to have something to offer? You know the answer: He doesn’t, at least not by virtue of His being divine. No, Jesus offers His personal sacrifice not for His sins, which were none, but for yours and mine, which are legion. The priests of Jewish antiquity would slay animal sacrifices, then sprinkle the blood on altars and on the people as a way to remind them that their sins were paid in full. Once a year, he would even sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant to fulfill God’s command and serve as yet another reminder of that salvation. Jesus sprinkled His own blood on the sins of all mankind so that all men might benefit once. Those animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary.
If you’re an unbeliever, this is the part where you’re saying “so what, big deal.” Fair enough; yes, actually, fair enough. Your lack of belief in the need for all this would be understandable. Yet Jesus still offered it for you as well. And what else He offers is something that wouldn’t have been available any other way except by the shedding of His own blood: access. Jesus offers access. You reject that access if you choose to dis-believe, but He offers it too you anyway.
Jesus offers access to real peace, tranquility while living out the rest of our lives here on the Third Rock. Jesus offers access to understanding of how belief in Him is the foundation of intellect and the purpose of reason. Jesus offers access to the communion of saints, participation in a millennia-old following of the greatest people in history. Jesus offers access to freedom, freedom from guilt and shame and all the negative things that can bog a man down. And Jesus offers access to Himself, an opportunity for you to have a personal relationship with Him, one on one, so that you might share in His love and glory while giving those things to Him as His due: all by loving other people as an expression of loving Him. He created everything in love. You get personal access to Him, our creator, because He offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for things He didn’t do.
Make no mistake about it: Jesus Christ is the central figure in all of human history. It isn’t Marx; it isn’t Confucius; it isn’t Mohammed; it isn’t the Buddha. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who stands at the center of all human history, human endeavor, human thought, and human potential. He appointed Himself to supersede and make complete the need for and history of ritual sacrifices. And in doing so, while at the center of all that is, He offers true access to what only He can offer. Tell me, good friend: why would you resist that?
For further reading: Hebrews 2:17, 5:1, 9:9, 9:14.
My Lord and my God, I praise You for offering Yourself as the only atoning sacrifice for my wrongs. I praise You and thank You for giving me access to You and, through You, to an eternity of love.