What is a Priest and Why is Jesus Considered One?

After God freed Israel from Pharaoh’s oppression in Egypt and brought them out into the wilderness to lead them to the Promised Land, God had Moses appoint Aaron and his sons as Priests (Ex 29; Lev 8). While all were priests, Aaron served in a slightly different and more elevated role. He was appointed as the High Priest. Essentially he was in charge of the other Priests and he was the one who offered the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement.

The Day of Atonement 

If you aren’t familiar, the Day of Atonement occurred once a year (Lev. 16:1-9). On this day, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was located in the center of the Temple and was where the presence of God resided. In the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would offer a sacrifice to God for his and the people’s sins. The sacrifice he offered atoned or covered the peoples’ sin, making it possible for them to be reconciled or live at one with God for another year.

Constant Sacrifices 

Constantly offering sacrifices for the people was one of the main duties of the priests. That’s because the Day of Atonement wasn’t the only day sacrifices were offered. The priests offered sacrifices on behalf of the people all throughout the year. We don’t have time to get into all the different sacrifices but suffice it to say that the altar in front of the Temple was constantly covered with blood.

The Priests as Mediators

Because of their continued work, you can think of the Priests as mediators. If you aren’t familiar, a mediator is someone who comes between two parties in an effort to bring about peace and resolve a conflict. If you are a parent and have at least two kids, you act as a mediator all the time. I know I do.

The priests in the Old Testament acted as mediators because they came between man and God, offering sacrifices on their behalf in order to cover their sin and provide reconciliation and peace.

Jesus Acts as Our Mediator, as Our Priest

In the same way that the priests acted as a mediator, Jesus acts as our mediator, as our priest. He stands between us and God offering a sacrifice on our behalf in order to reconcile our relationship with the Father. The author of Hebrews makes it explicitly clear that Jesus serves as our Mediator, our High Priest, when he says in Hebrews 3:1-2,

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house.” (Heb 3:1–2)

Also, in Hebrews 6:19 and 20 we read,

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:19–20)

So we see then that Jesus is our Mediator, our High Priest.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see your need for a Mediator between you and God?



Post adapted from my sermon Jesus as Priest

One thought on “What is a Priest and Why is Jesus Considered One?

  1. Pingback: Why is Jesus the True and Better Priest? – Christianity Matters

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