Jesus belongs to a greater priesthood
Hebrews 6:20 describes Jesus as “a high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” . To be a high priest in Israel you had to belong to the tribe of Levi, the first being Aaron (Exodus 28:1-3). However, there is an exception. Melchizedek was a priest before the Levitical priesthood even existed (Genesis 14:17-20). This means that Jesus is not a High Priest from the Levitical priesthood but belongs to a priestly line far superior – the Melchizedekian priesthood.
The Levitical priesthood was temporary, but Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. Like Melchizedek, he is both a priest and a king, now and forever as revealed centuries before in Psalm 110:1-4.
Jesus brought a greater sacrifice
Sacrifices brought by the priests on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) provided a temporary covering for Israel’s sins. This pointed toward a greater sacrifice our Great High Priest would bring before the altar of God – Himself. He lived a perfectly sinless life (1 Peter 2:22) which you and I cannot live ourselves. He bore the punishment we rightly deserved on the cross to atone for our sins, reconciling us unto God and delivering us from his wrath. Through faith in the atoning work of his blood we are made right with God, once and for all.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Our Great High Priest gives us full access to God
In John Calvin’s exposition on the nature of our heavenly High Priest’s intercession, he stated:
As He appears continually as the one who died and rose again, and as His death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, He is justly said to intercede for us.
On earth, His intercession for His people took place on his knees (John 17). In heaven, it’s His very presence at the right hand of the Father! As theologian Ian Hamilton puts it, “Our Saviour’s nail-pierced hands and feet are our intercession.”
Jesus is presently and unrelentingly interceding for us. He does so with great empathy (Hebrews 4:14-16) because He knows what it’s like to live in this sinful world. He will never quit on us because He intimately understands our struggles. The atonement through the sacrifice of Himself is final. Accordingly, our access to God is direct, unrestrained and irrevocable.
Jesus’ intercession for us is crucial to our sanctification
Have you ever wondered why the longer you walk with God, the heavier the guilts feels when you sin? This is because sanctification sees us progressively become more like Christ and gradually free from sin. As we mature, we increasingly hate sin because we love God more. Thankfully, Jesus’ intercession mutes Satan’s accusations which intend to cast doubt over the assurance of our salvation when we stumble. With Jesus interceding on the basis of His payment for our sins on the cross, He preserves us. This ensures that though we may fall into sin, we never suffer total and final falls beyond God’s grace.
Our Great High Priest is interceding for you at this very moment. He is the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). We persevere in this Christian race not because of our own strength. It is by His intercessory work for us that we endure to the end. Dr. R.C. Sproul declared:
My confidence of my preservation is not in my confidence to persevere. But my confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession for us, that He is going to bring us safely through.
Dr. R.C. Sproul
Our obedience may fail, our faith may wane, but Christ’s intercession will never fails us.