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Jesus is the Permanent Priest

Hebrews 7:23-28

Everyone smile. Yup, just as I thought. Most everyone has all their teeth. Except for maybe a few kids or some babies. Those first teeth come early. From three years old till probably around six baby teeth are all a child has. But they’re called baby teeth for a reason. They aren’t staying. Especially with the first one kids are intrigued when it gets wiggly, maybe a little scared. Sometimes parents or grandparents have to get creative to get it out. A grandpa might say, I’m just going to look, and just like that he’s holding the tooth and the shocked child suffered no pain. However they come out, baby teeth are anything but permanent.

Of course, even permanent teeth aren’t permanent. They can be lost to cavities or accidents. But even more, teeth aren’t permanent because none of us is. When people fully understand that, there’s a desire to find things that seem permanent, seem rock solid. The people receiving this letter in the second lesson, they went back to the Law of Moses. Those laws were the most rock-solid thing they could think of. Given by God, they had to be. But those people looked to the law as the way in which to be right before God. They also looked to the priests, overseers of the law given by God.

We may not be looking to priests or the law the same way those Hebrews were, but when we come to that realization we’re not permanent we’re looking for something that is. The writer to the Hebrews wants us to look at the only thing that’s permanent …

Jesus is the permanent priest
One who sacrificed for you
One who intercedes for you

In an effort to find something permanent these Hebrew people retreated to the law they knew so well. The law was clear. Each year a sacrifice was to be brought because of the sins of the people against the law. God gave them a festival day on which their priest came forward with the blood of bulls and goats. That blood of the sacrifice covered them before God. But before he could enter with a sacrifice on behalf of the people, the priest came with a sacrifice for his own sins. He wasn’t perfect. And after the sacrifices of that year, the same would be made the next year, and the year after that. The animal sacrifices helped no one long term, not for eternity. A better sacrifice was needed.

Since we feel the lack of anything permanent in our own lives, we might look for the most rock-solid thing the Bible has to offer. The Ten Commandments were good enough for the Old Testament people, have endured a long time, were talked about by Jesus, that seems pretty permanent. They also seem to be God’s idea of what a good life looks like. Assuming a good life is what’s necessary to get to a better place that’s really permanent in eternity like heaven, the Ten Commandments seem tailor-made to get us there by keeping them. They’re oddly comforting. Against them, we feel we know where we stand. If we’ve avoided murdering anyone as the commandments forbid, we feel we know where we are according to that measuring stick. Same with honoring our parents. If we’ve lied we’ve broken a commandment, if we’ve told the truth we’re okay. We’re evaluating progress towards the goal. The goal is heaven. The goal is a good life. Disobedience makes us feel guilty. Guilt makes us want to get back to those commandments even more and live according to them, promise we’ll do better, so we can feel good again about our progress.

Jesus found comfort in the commandments too. He should, he put down every nuance. He lived according to them here on earth. Every moment of every day Jesus was not murdering anyone. More than that, he wasn’t hating or hurting someone else. Didn’t say bad things about another or think bad thoughts. Jesus loved others perfectly, not occasionally. And every moment he always honored his parents. Respected their requests of him, never talked back, always helped without being asked. Honored the government, never questioning their authority, didn’t hold back respect, always paid what he owed. Jesus was perfect in his obedience. Every day, all the time. Perfect his entire life. Jesus was everything you are not. “Such a high priest meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Holy, blameless, and pure, basically he never sinned. He stood before God without any sin and received condemnation and judgment. He was found guilty because of your sin and mine. He was your substitute, found guilty in your place. Stood before the throne of God and was punished for you.

The sacrifice of Jesus was once for all. It was not some animal offered up. Jesus offered himself. His own body and his own blood. He became the victim, the final perfect sacrifice, everything you needed a sacrifice to be. “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” He became a permanent sacrifice, one sacrificed for you. Permanent in that its done and over with. Permanent in that you never have to look elsewhere for comfort or confidence you’re forgiven before God. Permanent in that Jesus did it all, sacrificed for all, gave himself for you. Nothing left to do, nothing left undone. It is finished.

The permanent priest with his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation did it all for you. Experienced everything necessary to save you. The entire life of Christ counted for your benefit. Now Christ continues to exist before God interceding for your benefit. The Savior of all takes a personal interest in you. He exists solely to be the one who intercedes for you.

The priests served an important role. They carried not only the sacrifices before God, but also the prayers and intercessions for the people. The people sinned and needed someone who could speak to God on their behalf. God also, if he wanted to get a message to his people, would use the priests to carry that message. But there was one big problem with the priest as an intercessor. He died. Another was always coming up. There were no permanent priests. Jesus faced death. But there was no one coming after him. Instead he rose. Jesus rose from the dead and became a priest forever. A great high priest getting everlasting results. “But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.” He no longer steps in as sacrifice. Jesus intercedes, speaks for, pleads for, his people.

Who took the cookie off the table? Who broke the car headlight? Who didn’t do their homework?” Those kinds of accusations prompt almost an automatic response. “It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it, someone else did. I finished it.” We defend our actions. Sometimes strongly. Many take the position they’ll defend themselves and let things fall where they may. Of course in criminal proceedings in a courtroom, the person who defends himself they say has a fool for a lawyer. Spiritually speaking its worse. We can’t point to a life well lived and think we’ll be okay. Maybe we haven’t done great and terrible sins, but we’ve done sinful things. We hurt others, even if unintentionally. We wanted to compare ourselves with others and find those who are clearly worse. In weakness we want to project strength, pretend things are okay, fool ourselves or people around us that we’re good people. We’re not fooling God. He sees all our sins.

The accusations of Satan come up over your sins, “How could God ever forgive you? Don’t you see how those words hurt your friend, what were you thinking? You can’t let those thoughts linger in your mind.” Once again you stand before God, guilty, ready to be punished. It seems bad until Jesus steps forward. He intercedes for you. Without being asked, without payment made, Jesus stands by your side. He again reminds everyone that he died for moments like these, sins like these exact ones. The substitute tells you it’s going to be okay, not because he’s excusing sin, but because he already took it, paid for it, and set you free from it. Not guilty is the verdict, still. Free from any punishment, still. Jesus intercedes for you now every day, bringing to mind the comfort you have in his love and grace. And Jesus doesn’t stop. Even in spite of your weaknesses and sins, Jesus Christ still shields you from God’s judgment. You are his. Christ Jesus represents you before God the Father always. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Jesus ascended into heaven to preserve you forever in God’s grace, to give you power, and assure you of victory over sin.

Teeth aren’t permanent. Life isn’t either. But we want something that is. Jesus is always your sacrifice, the one that paid for your sins and set you free. Jesus is always the one who intercedes for you. Jesus gives you life always and encourages you in your life always. He’s permanently the one you depend on for salvation every day. Jesus is the permanent priest giving you a permanent victory and Savior.