14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:14-17, NIV)
The book of Hebrews contains many, many references to Jesus as the High Priest. The role of the high priest is steeped in tradition. All Jews would be familiar with the role of the high priest, and calling Jesus the high priest carries great significance to those who understand Jewish history.
In Jewish history, the high priest was a special position, with specific responsibilities. Most importantly, the high priest, once a year, would go through a ritual purification to enter the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was a sacred room within the temple. All were forbidden from entering this room, with one exception. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a thick, heavy veil. One day a year, the high priest would be permitted to enter the room and enter into God’s presence.
Inside the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant, where the blood sacrifice would be placed, in accordance with the instruction given by the Lord to Moses, who instructed the people of Israel. The high priest offered this yearly sacrifice to cover the sins of all of Israel. There was only one high priest at a time, only one person permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. Upon the death of a high priest, another was appointed as high priest.
The system was not perfect, and it was never meant to last forever. Upon the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple, separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The fact that the veil was torn from the top shows that the Lord God tore it. No longer were people separated from Him. No longer was it necessary to have an intermediary make sacrifices to atone for our sins. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice!
Anyone could now approach the Holy of Holies – God Himself! We can go directly to Him and confess our sins and seek His forgiveness. Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice. He had taken ALL the sins of the world – my sins! Your sins! – upon Himself. Jesus shed His blood for those sins. The ultimate and final sacrifice. With that act, Jesus became our High Priest.
So what does this mean for us? With Jesus as our High Priest, we are no longer forbidden from directly approaching God to confess our sins. The veil between God and humans is no more. The sacrifice has already been made – forever. We can approach God with confidence. By accepting Jesus as your Savior, you are covered in His blood and made righteous before the Lord.
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