Similarities and differences found between both versions of High Priests
Hebrews 5 begins with contrasting the High Priest of the Old Testament with Jesus, the “new” High Priest of the New Testament. In it, we see a bit of morphing from the role of the traditional High Priest to the freedom found in Jesus. The most interesting aspect found in this section are the comparisons and contrasts between the Old Testament High Priest and Jesus
Let’s examine, through Hebrews 5, the ways in which the Old Testament and New Testament High Priest are similar, and different in order to gain a deeper appreciation for Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Hebrews 5:1-4 “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.”
The Old Testament High Priest
The High Priest of the Old Testament was chosen from God and was the first-born son. The purpose of the High Priest was that they spoke the will of God, were anointed with Holy Oil, and offered three types of offerings: sin, burnt, and peace/consecration.
Much like Jesus, they were a mediator between the people of Israel and God. They held a lifetime office and is able to enter into the Holy of Holies. The High Priest is able to counsel with people on all matters, because he is fully human, and is subject to temptation.
Hebrews 5:5-10 “In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
- Both were teachers of the Law.
- Both convey God’s desires for the people. God communicates through both High Priests. The only exception for Jesus is that He fully did the will of God- He was completely obedient.
- Firstborn son- all High Priests were the first-born, as was Jesus- Mary’s first-born- God’s only “begotten Son”.
- Acted as a mediator- with subtle differences. The OT High Priest was a physical mediator between people and God whereas Jesus is a spiritual mediator. Jesus gave us authority in His name and intervenes on our behalf to the Father.
- Both held lifetime offices.
- Both gave blessings to the people. However, the blessing of Jesus would have more power. God would know a pure heart, and whether the person had received the blessing.
- While both are called into office, Jesus is the last High Priest
- Both were washed clean. The High Priest with oil, and Jesus with the baptism of John. They both carry the anointing of God, are equipped for service in ministry, but the difference is with Jesus He received the descending of the Holy Spirit to perform the miraculous.
- The High Priest gave sin offerings, while Jesus frees us from sin. In the OT, blood of animals was used to wash away the people’s sin. Now, it is the blood of Jesus that washes us clean in God’s sight. Jesus freed mankind from the bondage of sin, whereas the OT High Priest could not. They could only make atonement.
- Burnt offerings done in a full surrender to God whereas Jesus surrendered to God. Verse 7 tells us that He made His requests known, and even though He could have asked God to live, He completely surrendered His fate into God’s hands. It was Christ’s sinlessness and submission that made His petitions heard by God.
- The OT High Priests performed services on the Day of Atonement. Jesus performed atonement on behalf of all mankind. Jesus was the sacrificial lamb, and the last sacrifice that was ever offered up.
- In the OT, the High Priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies. Anyone else God struck dead. Jesus, upon His death, ripped the curtain in two indicating that we would no longer be separated from God. We enter into the Holy of Holies through the blood of Jesus, and can come to the throne of God with confidence.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was no longer a need for sacrifices. People were reconciled to God and could now communicate freely to Him. There were no barriers. The law had been fulfilled, and people could live in the freedom and authority that Jesus bestowed on us for eternity.