************ Sermon on Hebrews 8:1-2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 1, 2016
"A Better High Priest"
At the start of every Rotary meeting our President declares we are the best Rotary Club in the Valley. Businesses are not ashamed to say they are the best car dealership or the best furniture store. Advertisements tells us who is the best plastic surgeon or the best lawyer or the best real-estate agent.
We aren't supposed to talk that way in the church. After all, we in the church are supposed to be humble and meek and not arrogant or boastful. We are told to consider others better than ourselves.
Yet, the theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is better. He is better than the prophets who spoke many times and in various ways. He is better than God's mighty angels. He is better than Moses. The Sabbath-rest He gives is better than the Sabbath-rest experienced by the children of Israel in Canaan. He is better than the priests and high priests of Israel. He is better than Melchizedek, the mysterious figure who is but a copy and shadow of Christ.
Not only is Jesus better than anyone in the Jewish faith, but He also is better than anyone in any other faith. He is better than Allah and Mohammed. He is better than Buddha. He is better than Confucius. He is better than New Age figures. He is better than Scientology. He is better.
At the beginning of chapter 8 the author brings up the grand conclusion to everything he has said so far. "The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest ..." (Heb 8:1a).
What kind of high priest? A better, greater, and superior high priest. The best high priest. Having said this, Hebrews raises three points to demonstrate that Jesus is a better, greater, and superior high priest.
I The Posture of the High Priest
A In our first point, Hebrews tells us about the posture of Jesus as high priest which makes Him better, greater, and superior. So, what is the posture of Jesus that sets Him apart from all other high priests? Is Jesus running? Is Jesus standing? No -- and this might surprise you -- it is sitting that demonstrates the superiority of Jesus as high priest. Says Hebrews, "We do have such a high priest, who sat down ..." (Heb 8:1).
Jesus sat down. This proves He is a better, greater, superior high priest. Does this leave you scratching your head, wondering what I am talking about and where I am going? Does this even make sense? Jesus is a better high priest because He sat down?!
B To put this in perspective, let's look at the furniture in the Temple and Tabernacle. There was the Altar of Burnt Offering (Exodus 27:1), the Wash Basin or Laver (Exodus 30:18), the Table of Showbread (Exodus 25:23), the Golden Lampstand (Exodus 25:31), the Altar of Incense (Exodus 30:1), the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:10), and the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:17).
What don't we see? We don't see a chair, a bench, or a stool. There was nothing for the priest to sit on. Why? Or, why not? According to Hebrews 10,
(Heb 10:11) Day after day every priests stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.The priest and high priest of Israel could never sit down because his work was never done. His work was never done because he couldn't save anyone from his or her sins. He stands and performs his religious duties. Again and again, every day of every year, he stands and offers the same old sacrifices.
C Jesus is a superior high priest, a greater high priest, a better high priest because He sat down. Telling us what? Telling us His work is done. Telling us His sacrifice never has to be repeated.
Do you remember what Jesus cried from the cross? "It is finished!" was the cry of the Son of Man Who died. Now Jesus' posture in heaven gives physical expression to what He said and did on earth. He sat down because His work as Redeemer and Savior was done.
Jesus' work is done. Don't ever forget that. Jesus' work is done so He sat down. I was emailed a news article this past week. It was about an art exhibit at Rutgers University which displayed Jesus crucified on a dartboard. Some students actually thought this display was funny. Do you know what most bothers me about this exhibit? Not the darts which pierce His hands, feet, and side. With Hebrews, we believe Jesus was crucified once for all. Never to be repeated. So what bothers me most is that the dartboard should be empty. And the cross, unlike the crosses of the Roman Catholics, should be empty. Jesus sat down. His work on the cross was finished. It was once for all.
The difference between Jesus and the high priests of Israel is emphasized by the word "offer" found in verse 3:
(Heb 8:3) Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.Notice the repetition: to offer ... to offer. The high priest offers gifts and sacrifices. Jesus offers gifts and sacrifices. In the English the two phrases look the same and sound the same. Jesus offers. The earthly high priest offers. In the Greek they both have the same root. Yet, they are different. In the Greek, what the high priest offers is ongoing action, continual action. And, in the Greek, what Jesus offers is completed action, finished action, a one time action.
D Jesus is a superior high priest, a greater high priest, a better high priest because He sat down. Telling us what? Telling us His sacrifice was once for all: once for all time, once for all men, once for all sin. Telling us His one sacrifice is all we ever need. Telling us no other work will do. Jesus is all we need. Jesus is all we ever need. As the song we will be singing after the sermon puts it:
Not what my hands have done
can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne
can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears
can bear my awful load.
Your voice alone, O Lord,
can speak to me of grace;
your power alone, O Son of God,
can all my sin erase.
No other work but yours,
no other blood will do;
no strength but that which is divine
can bear me safely through.
I can't earn my salvation. My efforts are nothing. My religious zeal is nothing. My attempts are nothing. Anything I try to do is lacking and sinful and ineffective.
Jesus -- and Jesus alone -- is able to save completely those who come to God through Him (cf Heb 7:25).
Jesus sat down. His work is once for all. Therefore Jesus is better, Jesus is greater, Jesus is superior.
II The Location of the High Priest
A In our second point, Hebrews tells us about the location of Jesus as high priest which makes Him better, greater, and superior. What is His location? Where is He seated?
(Heb 8:1) We ... have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,Where is Jesus as a better, greater, and superior high priest? He is at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.
We saw the phrase "Majesty in heaven" in Hebrews 1:3. It is a title for God. It is a title which stresses God's greatness. It is a title emphasizing that God is awesome. It is a title pointing to the supreme authority of God. It is a title directing us to the glory of God.
Where is Jesus? At the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. In the Ancient World to be at the right hand of a King or Sovereign is very significant. Such a person represents the ruler, acts in the name of the ruler, and has the authority and power of the ruler. In other words, the might and majesty of God are found in Jesus Christ. He is Lord. He is King. He reigns and He rules. That's the point of this Ascension Day: Jesu went up to His rightful place in glory. In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul describes it this way:
(Eph 1:20-22) ... God ... seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms (21) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (22) And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.
(Cf Phil 2:9-11)
B Our high priest sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven. Think about this. What we have is a kingly priest. And, what we have is a priestly king. Who does that sound like? Doesn't this sound like Melchizedek? Remember what was said about Melchizedek? He was "King of Salem and priest of God Most High" (Heb 7:1). Pointing forward to Jesus, Melchizedek also was a priestly king and a kingly priest.
To be the high priest of Israel was impressive. Most impressive. His special garments, his authority, his responsibility, his calling to represent God before the people and the people before God, his entrance into the Holy of Holies one day of the year -- all of this spoke of the honor, dignity, majesty, and glory of his office. But now compare his glory and majesty to Jesus. That's like comparing a flickering candle to the brilliance of the sun. He may be high priest but he wasn't king and ruler. Aaron may be Moses' right-hand man but Jesus is God's right-hand man. Do you see, do you understand, why Hebrews can say Jesus is better, greater, and superior?
C After saying this, Hebrews adds yet another dimension to the high priestly office of Jesus. Our high priest sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven and what? And serves, says our pew Bibles. Serves. The royal priest serves. The priestly king serves. Kings and Queens don't serve. Rather, they are served. Yet, Jesus is pictured as serving, as ministering.
Some of you might explain this as a reference to what He did on earth. You might quote to me from Matthew 20: "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). You might point to the foot-washing. But Hebrews is not talking about Jesus' work on earth. It is talking about His work at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.
I want you to be amazed by this. I want you to marvel about this. The King of the universe is serving you. The Jesus on heaven's throne, the Jesus receiving honor and glory and praise, is serving you.
What is He doing? How is He serving you? "He saves completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb 7:25).
As high priest, He is better, greater, superior.
III The Sanctuary of the High Priest
A In our third point, Hebrews tells us about the sanctuary of Jesus as high priest which makes Him better, greater, and superior. What is His sanctuary? In what sanctuary does He serve?
(Heb 8:2) [He] serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man."True" here does not mean the opposite of false. True here means authentic, the opposite of replica.
Do you remember the mansion that was being built just west of Savannah Heights in 2001 before it mysteriously burned down? Over 20,000 square feet of living space. It was meant to be a replica of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is the real thing, the true thing, and what was here in Visalia was the replica.
When we first moved to Visalia, Ruth and I went to see "The End of the Trail" statue in Mooney Grove Park. We wanted to see it because the same statue is to be found in the town we moved from in Wisconsin. Research told us that Visalia has the original and Waupun, WI has the copy.
The true tabernacle set up by the Lord is in heaven. The replica, the copy, the shadow was in the wilderness and in Jerusalem.
According to Hebrews, Jesus is a better, greater, and superior high priest because He serves in the true sanctuary. Jesus did not serve in the sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (cf Heb 4:5).
B Now, think for a moment, about Jesus and the Temple in Jerusalem. After His circumcision, He was taken there as a child to be presented to the Lord. As a twelve year old His parents found Him in the Temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions. He chased the money-changers out of the Temple. He taught in the Temple. But, but, He never served in the Temple. He did not serve in the Temple because He could not serve in the Temple. He was not allowed to serve. The Law did not permit Him to serve.
The priests, like Zechariah, could serve in the Temple. They were the one who offered sacrifices for the sins of the people on the Altar of Burnt Offering and burned incense on the Altar of Incense. They were the ones who served in the Court of Priests. They were the ones who entered the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. But not Jesus. Jesus couldn't. Jesus wasn't allowed to. Because He was of the tribe of Judah. Because He wasn't of the tribe of Levi. There was no room in the Law for Jesus to serve in the earthly Temple. "If he were on earth, he would not be a priest," says Hebrews (Heb 8:4).
Jesus did not come to serve us in the replica but in the original. He is in heaven serving His people in the real Holy of Holies. Therefore, Jesus is a better, greater, and superior high priest.
Just in case his audience is slow to understand and to catch on, the author of Hebrews ends with another statement on how Jesus is better:
(Heb 8:6) But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.
Do you hear, dear friends? Do you catch on, my brothers and sisters? Jesus is better. Jesus is greater. Jesus is superior.
Therefore, do not turn away from Jesus. He alone can meet your needs. He alone is your Savior from sin. He alone is worthy of your honor and praise. So, I beg you, do not turn away from Him.
I cannot see into your heart. I do not know if you are a Christian. But if you are not, your only covering before God is your sin, dirt, filth, pollution, and guilt. And for that covering you will be judged and condemned. So, I beg you, come to Jesus. Come to Jesus Who is a better, greater, and superior high priest. Come to Jesus Who is a better priest offering a better sacrifice in a better sanctuary.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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