Our Great High Priest
Editor’s Note: For further insight on the subject of Christ’s priesthood, we recommend David Levy’s book Hebrews: A Commentary, available through The Friends of Israel.
In Old Testament times, only the Aaronic priests and, of course, Moses enjoyed direct access into the presence of God. Although Moses was blessed with privilege, position, and prominence, he nevertheless was imperfect and eventually died—like any other man.
The Bible calls Jesus alone our “great High Priest” (Heb. 4:14) who not only sympathizes with us and intercedes for us but who loves us so much He actually offered Himself as the final sacrifice for sin. Christ’s priesthood supersedes the Aaronic priesthood and is superior to it in every way (5:1—10:25).
Christ’s Priesthood is Peerless.
Jesus is both divine and human (5:1, 7–9). He was neither self-appointed nor elected but divinely selected (v. 4), as prophesied in two Messianic psalms (Ps. 2; 110; cf. Heb. 5:5).
Christ also was from a different order than the Aaronic priests. Aaron was from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, whereas Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, the ruling tribe. Yet a psalm of David says of the Messiah, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4).
The psalm compares Him to Melchizedek, not Aaron. Melchizedek was a contemporary of Abraham. He lived approximately 700 years before Aaron and the inception of the Aaronic priesthood. Whereas Aaron was a priest only, Melchizedek was both king and priest, as Christ will be: “He [Messiah] shall be a priest on His throne” (Zech. 6:13). The Messiah is the only Davidic ruler God allows to be both Priest and King.
The Aaronic priesthood was inherited and transmitted to many sons down through the centuries. Like Melchizedek, Jesus neither inherited His kingly priesthood nor transmitted it to successors.
As High Priest, Jesus does not continually offer sacrifices for people’s sins, like the Aaronic high priest, “for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27). Christ is sinless, yet He offered Himself, once for all, as the perfect, unblemished blood sacrifice to expiate sins.
Christ’s Priesthood is Perfect.
Aaron’s priesthood functioned under the Mosaic Law, which demanded perfect righteousness—something sinful priests could never provide. Therefore, perfect standing before God could never come through the Aaronic priesthood. Christ, the God-Man, is the only perfect High Priest who can provide righteousness through His sacrificial death and shed blood, making it possible for sinners to be declared righteous before God.
Christ’s Priesthood is Permanent.
Aaronic priests served for a specific time, but Christ is a Priest forever: “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” (vv. 24–25).
Jesus Christ is an unchangeable High Priest, an ever-living Priest whom we will someday see face-to-face and enjoy throughout eternity. He is able to save to the uttermost and is seated at God’s right hand, making intercession on our behalf. As the apostle Peter exclaimed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).
The importance of Jesus Christ’s high priesthood cannot be underestimated or overstated. The book of Hebrews instructs believers to come directly to God’s throne of grace through Jesus Christ their advocate and present their requests. The admonition is to come boldly before God to obtain mercy and grace (Heb. 4:14–16).
No need for a Temple. No need for a human priest. No need for a blood sacrifice. Jesus is all we need.