Friday

04 January 2008

"A merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God." (v.17)

Background

To understand the letter to the Hebrews it helps to know something about the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and particularly the role of the High Priest. Each and every year on the Day of Atonement he, and only he, could enter the holy place in the Temple and offer sacrifices for the sins of the children of Israel. Thus he was:

  • a pioneer (as in medicine or architecture) who opened the way to enable others to discover the benefits.
  • a fellow traveller who didn't stand aloof from the sins of others but suffered on their behalf.
  • a bearer of forgiveness - for on the Day of Atonement the High Priest selected two goats. One he killed, but the other he sent into the wilderness as a sign that the sins of the Jewish people had been removed.

And in a similar way - although with one huge difference - Jesus is also a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God:

  • As a pioneer he has opened the way to come into God's presence and invited us to follow.
  • As a fellow traveller he hasn't 'helped angels' but in coming alongside us - the descendents of Abraham - knows in himself what suffering is and is therefore able to stand with others in theirs.
  • As a bearer of forgiveness he is both priest and victim. It is by his stripes we are healed and by his death on the cross we are forgiven and can make a new beginning.

And the difference? Simply that unlike the High Priest of old, Jesus has done all this once and for all - and for all!

 

To Ponder

Think about a place of suffering in the world, your world, that you have seen on the news or newspaper in the last few days. What words or phrases in this reading connect for you if any?

Jesus spoke of 'brothers and sisters' in this reading. Do you find it helpful to think of Jesus as your brother? Why?

Bible notes author: Revd Leo Osborn

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