Jesus As A Priest In The Gospels

Brian Kirkland (Community Groups Pastor)

Ladies, I will let you in on a not-so-kept secret about men: we like to rank things. In fact, just this week I have had conversations with other guys about the top four college football teams (I agree with the playoff committee) and the best rock vocalist ever (Funderburk tells me it’s Steven Tyler, but I lean towards Robert Plant). Ask me my opinion on everything from best soap (Old Spice) to best soap opera (Days of Our Lives, unless you count Downton Abbey as a soap opera, in which case it takes the top spot), and I’ll give you my rundown. So when Virgin Records published their list of the top 20 love songs of all time, of course my curiosity was piqued. According to Virgin, topping the charts was the classic Beatles hit, All You Need Is Love.

In last week’s blog I made the case that Bob Dylan was actually a pretty insightful theologian, but you won’t find me making the same argument for John Lennon. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t acknowledge the other things we all need (obedient hearts, joy, etc), his view of love stays in the realm of sentiment. In short, it’s got just enough info about love to make us pleased with ourselves, but not enough truth to tell us what God actually says about love or how he has supremely demonstrated it to us.
This week our advent blog is focusing on Jesus as our great high priest, and I’m going to contend that the love of God and Jesus as our priest have everything to do with each other.

As Ryan mentioned yesterday, Old Testament priests had an important role: They connected God and people. As an advocate for the people in the presence of God, they lovingly ministered with mercy and compassion by praying for others and offering their praises and sacrifices to God. By approaching a holy God on behalf of sinful people, they provided access to the Almighty that would have otherwise been impossible.  Whereas the priests of the Old Testament failed in their roles time and time again, Jesus showed Himself to be the ultimate priest by standing in our place and sacrificially bearing our burdens and sin. As our priest he offered a sacrifice to God on our behalf, while simultaneously was Himself the sacrifice that is offered. On the basis of this, he now escorts us into God’s presence. This is true love.

John 17 offers us a beautiful picture into the profound love of Christ. In this section of scripture, most notably known as the High Priestly Prayer, we find Jesus going to God on behalf of us. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for his followers in very specific ways. This is how the great high priest prayed for us:

Jesus prayed that God would protect His followers.

“I will remain in the world no longer,” he says, “but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name — the name you gave me — so that they may be one as we are one. . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (17:11, 15–16).  As Jesus prepared to leave the earth, he knew what His followers would be up against, and prayed that we would be protected against the deception, shame, and accusations of the enemy.

Jesus prayed that God would unify His disciples.

If you go back and read the last paragraph, you’ll see this is the reason He prays for our protection. Later, in verses 20-23, Jesus prays again that all of His followers throughout time and geography would be one, for the very specific purpose:  “to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (17:23), or, more simply, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:21). Here we see how God’s love for us and our love for each other come together as one of the most effective tools for evangelism we have.

Jesus prayed for our sanctification.

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (17:17–19). The Gospel is clear: Jesus did not save us to flounder on our own, but instead continues to complete the good work of conforming us to the image of Christ.

Jesus prayed that we would be with Him forever.

Verse 24: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” The Father has loved the Son for all eternity, and Jesus wants His followers to experience this glory!

As I wrap up, take note of this: Don’t settle for a low view of love. You have a high priest that doesn’t just offer fuzzy platitudes… He prayed for you the night He was betrayed, and continues to sit at the right hand of the Father as your advocate.

Post Series: Advent 2015

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