I used to love sports video games as a kid. My favorite games were Madden and NBA 2K. Every year a new version of each game released. My friends and I would count down the days until we could have the new video game. Now, unlike my friends, I had to wait from the time the game released until my birthday before I could play it. For a few years on my birthday I would receive the same gifts each year: the new Madden and NBA 2K video games. My dad always teased me about my excitement for the new year’s game. He would say, “This game is exactly like last year’s game! What’s the difference?”
From a distance, he was right. From one year to the next there were few changes to the game. But for those of us who really played, we noticed every single difference. Even though, yes, there were many similarities between last year’s game and this year’s game, the differences were just enough to keep us playing for hours. The Old Testament prophets, priests, and kings are like last year’s video game. They are a little like the new, but once the new has come, there is no turning back to the old. We’ve said that as our Redeemer, Jesus performs the roles of a prophet, priest, and king. We are thinking this week about Jesus as our priest.
There were many priests in the Old Testament. In fact, if you read the book of Leviticus, you’ll learn a ton about these priests and all the things they had to do in order to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. The main goal of a priest was to stand between God and man as a mediator to atone for man’s sin against God, so their relationship may be restored.
The Old Testament priests accomplished this goal by offering sacrifices on behalf of the people to God. Priests offered sacrifices throughout the year. Once every year, on the Day of Atonement, the priest would offer a special sacrifice to God for the sins of all of God’s people (see Leviticus 19). Priests had access to the presence of God and atoned for the sins of the people so they could dwell in the presence of God. These Old Testament priests failed over and over to do their jobs. But Jesus is a far greater priest. Michael Horton writes, “Jesus in not just another high priest who serves in the Holy of Holies, but is one greater than the temple itself.”
When people were first created, Adam and Eve had unlimited priestly access into the presence of God. However, after sin entered the world, fallen human beings no longer had priestly access into God’s presence. Sin cut us off from God. When Jesus came, he perfectly fulfilled the role of a priest that Adam and the Old Testament priests failed to fulfill. As our perfect high priest, Jesus lived a sinless life so that he could not offer an animal sacrifice for himself or others, but instead offer himself as the supreme, spotless sacrifice to God for sin. And although Old Testament priests had to be replaced, through his work as our eternal priest, Jesus brings us into the presence of God to dwell forever.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.