Jesus Our High Priest
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
As much as everybody is the same as members of the human race, everybody is also different. No two humans are alike, yes even identical twins are not completely identical. This is a good thing. We inherit half of our DNA from our father and half from our mother. They also went through the same process of inheriting the half & half DNA from their parents.
Children often take on the resemblance of their parents. These physical characteristics are called traits. These different traits from each parent can be individually dominate in the children; for instance, a child may have the father’s nose and the mother’s eyes. Or, one parent’s traits may be very dominate to the point that the child resembles one parent almost completely.
Then there are the traits that are not as strong as others; we call these recessive traits. This means that an offspring may be born with a physical characteristic that neither parent portrays. Both my parents have blue eyes. Myself my brother and one of my sisters have blue eyes but the other sister has green eyes.
Diversity in our genetic make-up is good. It is what determines whether we are talented in different physical and mental abilities. Along with what society views as pleasant or ‘normal’ attributes in a person, people also create definitions of what they believe are negative or ‘abnormal’ attributes in a person.
Thousands of years ago, the Israelites had specific qualifications for specific professions. For example; in the book of Leviticus, it is written that no blind man could be a priest.
“…any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch. No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the Lord. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy; only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the Lord sanctify them.’ ” [Leviticus 21:18–23]
Sounds like God did not believe in equal opportunity employment, but the fact is, our sinful, human nature has made us unable to approach God in person.
That is the bad news. The good news is that our sin does not prevent God from coming to us. For God so loves His creation (even His creation deformed by our sin) that He sent His only Son into our midst. To live and breathe and be subjected to the evil of this world so that we might be healed of our deformity by the forgiveness of the cause – our sin.
Sin entered God’s good creation in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered the hearts and minds of the human race. Remember what God said to Adam?
“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” [Genesis 3:17–19]
This ‘curse’ of sin affected creation itself; and that means you and me as well.
Just as the earth and the animals, the land and the seas are cursed, our physical bodies are under the same curse. We are no longer perfect and therefore we are condemned to die. No matter how ‘good’ we try to be, we still sin. We were born to sin. Unfortunately, this is not a recessive trait that may skip a generation or two, we all have it in our hearts, minds and souls.
We cannot cure ourselves of this ancient malformity. We cannot excise the black sin that grows in us with surgery or with designer drugs. Now you may say, ‘What about those priests of ancient Israel? They were born to sin and were sinful creatures also, weren’t they?’
The answer is yes. They carried sin with them from cradle to grave. It was this fact that meant we, as human beings, could never be holy and righteous in the eyes of God our creator. The author of the book of Hebrews speaks to the problem the priest of the tribe of Aaron. “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office…” [Hebrews 7:23a]
This meant that the inevitable death, caused by sin, prevented any one of them from being a priest forever. This also meant they must continually repent and receive forgiveness of their sin through sacrifice before they could make a sacrifice of forgiveness for the people.
These sacrifices were never good enough, perfect enough, to be justified by God. Do we then say that nobody before Christ Jesus was ever forgiven? No. Even though the sacrifice was never perfect, God, in His mercy, gave forbearance; that is, He forgave the sin without receiving the proper payment.
As you can understand, this leaves us under the same curse of sin. What can we do to be saved if all our sacrifices to God cannot save us? We can do nothing, but God can and He did. He decided to give His people the perfect high priest. The only way for this high priest to be perfect is if he was God. Therefore, God sent His only Son to us by the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary. Jesus became truly human, flesh of our flesh, while remaining truly God.
Jesus Christ, the anointed one of God, a priest without defect, gave up his life, literally sacrificed himself, to pay for our sins. By doing this he became our high priest and the only high priest who could truly forgive our sin. Dr. Martin Luther put it this way:
“Likewise, as [this] epistle announces [Hebrews 9–10], it is certain that Christ himself is the sacrifice—indeed even the altar [Heb. 13:10]—who sacrificed himself with his own blood. Now whereas the sacrifice performed by the Levitical high priest took away only the artificial sins, which in their nature were not sins, so our high priest, Christ, by his own sacrifice and blood, has taken away the true sin, that which in its very nature is sin. He has gone in once for all through the curtain to God to make atonement for us [Heb. 9:12]. Thus you should apply to Christ personally, and to no one else, all that is written about the high priest.” (AE 35:247-48)
This means that no sacrifice by any former high priest could remove our sin. It was only Christ as the true high priest that ever gave a sacrifice worthy of God’s forgiveness. It was only Christ that could stand before God and give true atonement for our sin.
That sacrifice was Christ himself. He was crucified to death on the cross for us. He died and was buried in the tomb for us. He rose again, three days later, defeating death and sin and the devil. He now sits on his throne in his kingdom interceding for us forever.
The author of the book of Hebrews states it this way:
“…he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, … [but God] appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” [Hebrews 7:24–28]
What does all this have to do with a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, outside the city walls of Jericho?
The road between Jericho and Jerusalem was traveled by merchants and the prosperous, as well as the pious on their way to Jerusalem to worship, who might be inclined to give alms. Remember, there was a significant crowd of people following Jesus out of the city gates and Bartimaeus heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth that they followed.
Bartimaeus jumps up and calls to Jesus to have mercy on him. The crowd tell him to be silent and not to make such a fuss, but the beggar keeps calling out for mercy. What does Jesus do? He stops, and has the crowd call to him. Just like the woman in the crowd who touched Jesus’ robe to be healed, Jesus stopped what he was doing to speak to a person who was considered unclean and a sinner.
When Jesus asks the man what he wants, Bartimaeus calls him “Rabbouni”. Only here and in John 20:16 where Mary sees Jesus outside the tomb is Jesus called rabbouni. This word is an Aramaic word which is translated in the book of Genesis as, ‘My Lord’ or, ‘My master’. Therefore, this beggar, who could not see Jesus, confesses him as ‘Lord’.
He follows up this confession with a request that only God could fulfill; “Make me see again.” Jesus does not touch the blind man, instead he tells him “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” [Mark 10:52]
This is another example of Jesus’ power and authority over creation. It is also an example of Christ’s authority of a high priest. Throughout scriptures we are told of how, when a sick person recovers from whatever malady they suffered, they were to present themselves to the priests so that they could be declared ‘clean’ and able to return to live within the encampment or city walls.
Our holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens, perfect high priest, Jesus Christ declares that faith made the lowly beggar well. He could just as well as said, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
Today, we gather in this house of God, in the presence of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ to ask for our sight. We are here to ask our Lord and our Master to forgive us our sin so that we may see clearly that which is of God.
We ask this with sure confidence that, through the forgiveness of our sins, we will be transformed from the poor beggars we are, to a restored child of God who follows our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the way to everlasting life.