Our Sympathetic High Priest
Under the old covenant, priests were many. They were necessary to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. Moreover, they were all sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother, whom we met in Exodus. Thus, they were all duly called of God, as Aaron’s was the priestly line, and completely necessary as God’s law ordained them to their task for the people. But not only did the priest offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, he had to offer sacrifices for himself as well, as he too was a sinful man. We might say that the priest understood the people, being a sinner himself. He could “deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.”
We have said now many times that the Old Testament or covenant was preparation for the New; indeed, it foreshadowed the New Testament and covenant with its various regulations (for example, the sacrifices foreshadowed our Lord’s sacrifice). Here, we see the Old Testament priests foreshadowing our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We might say that they were copies of the One who was to come in their functions, those functions being offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. Thus a priest served as a go-between for the people and God.
And so we see how they foreshadowed and anticipated our Lord’s coming. Our Lord is the quintessential go-between and the perfect mediator. Unlike the priests of old, he does not have to offer sacrifices for himself, for he is sinless. But because he assumed our nature, he is like the old priests in that he knows us and “sympathizes with our weaknesses.” In our Lord’s human nature, he was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He too offered prayers to God “with loud cries and tears” as one who suffered with us and for us. Scripture even says that “he learned obedience through what he suffered,” not meaning that our Lord was ever disobedient to His heavenly Father, or his parents, but that even he grew in knowledge and wisdom as a human being (Luke 2:51-52). He grew in his own godly perfection and holiness as he lived our life, endured trial and conquered temptation, and so was made (and ever was) the spotless Lamb of God.
And now he is our great High Priest, the One who intercedes for us through prayer, the One who “re-presents” us to the Father, not as the old Adam through whom we sinned, but as the new Adam, who is himself. Through him, we are made acceptable, forgiven, and spotless.