While studying the roles of Christ as the Anointed One, there was one role in particular that stood out to me, primarily because I know little about it as a Gentile. That is the role of the High Priest. What is the purpose of such a role if we all belong to a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)?
The Role of High Priest
When the High Priest was first established in scriptures, the Israelites were living in slavery under the rule of Pharaoh, Moses rescued them, and now they are faced rebuilding the temple & restablishing the roles, liturgy, ceremonies, etc. that God desired for his people. As such, Aaron was appointed the High Priest in Exodus 28. Lets explore his role and gain insight into Christ as our high priest.
First, the High Priest was required to wear an ephod. Best I can tell, this was an apron of sorts made from two pieces of cloth joined by straps placed on the shoulder. A stone of remembrance was placed on each strap, set in gold and inscribed with the tribes of Israel (6 on each stone). Thus, whenever the High Priest entered the presence of God, he carried the weight of all of Israel.
The stones of remembrance were accompanied by a breastplate that was attached to the front the ephod. On this breastplate, there were 12 different engravened stones arranged in four rows of three, again identifying the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Of particular interest is the fact that the scriptures mention this was placed “over Aaron’s heart” three seperate times. When the High Priest entered God’s presence, he had all of Israel on his heart.
We also see the High Priest had a robe, with pomegranates & bells attached to the hem. These served as a primitive alarm system, should something happen to the High Priest die when he entered the Holy Place (it literally reads “so that he may not die”!). In other words, the work of the High Priest was a matter of life and death.
An ornament of pure gold inscribed with the phrase “Holy to the Lord” was attached to the turban that went around the High Priest’s forehead. Not only did this indentify him as the anointed one, but it was symbolic of the High Priest as taking the sins of all of Israel before the Lord, and was made Holy.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
In day to day functions, the High Priest was an intermediary between God and His people, speaking on our behalf. However, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:1), the High Priest became the bridge over the chasm of sin that separated God and Israel. Through the High Priest, the people of God were brought into oneness with Him.
The atonement ritual is outlined in LeviticuFirst a bull was sacraficed for the High Priest’s sins. Then two goats were brought in: one to be sacraficed and the other to be driven to the wilderness. The sacrafice was a grave reminder that there could be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. The one driven out, the scape goat, symbolically bore the sins of Israel as it was expelled into the wilderness.
Christ as the High Priest
Wow, incredible insight into His function as our High Priest. Christ bears our weight on his shoulders with the stones of remembrance (and I would suggest that His scarred hands do the same) and when he enters God’s presence, He continually has us on His heart.
When it comes to atonement, Christ did not need to sacrifice a bull, because he was blameless. However, we were not blameless and blood had to be shed. On the cross, He acted as both the sacrifice for us and the scapegoat, as He bore the sins of all.
While God continues to hear our prayers (as we are all priests), it is our High Priest, Yeshua, who continues to act as our liason, bridging the chasm caused by sin in our lives.
Have you ever thought about Christ as your High Priest?