“He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to savethose who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us to trust Jesus Christ above all else; His Atonement for our sins is established forever, and nothing can separate us from His love.
The Levitical priests that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews are referring to served an incredibly important function for the Israelites, as an intermediary between the people and God. The priests offered ritual sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel for the forgiveness of their sins, both individually and collectively. The high priest performed the sin offering on the day of Atonement, which was offered on behalf of all of God’s people, wiping the slate clean, as it were. The new covenant in Christ, the writer tells us, replaces the old covenant, which was based on offering the sacrifices required by the law of Moses. The new covenant does not depend on our own efforts or our own sacrifices, but on the grace of God. The author explains that Jesus is our Great High priest forever, a priest who is not a priest based on genealogy, as the Levitical priests were, but based on being anointed by God to absolve human sin forever. Theologian William Barclay writes: “Jesus can do what the old priesthood never could—he can give us access to God…Jesus came to show men the infinite tender love of the God whose name is Father—and the awful fear is gone. We know now that God wants us to come home, not to punishment but to the welcome of his open arms…Jesus on his Cross made the perfect sacrifice which atones for sin. Fear is gone; sin is conquered; the way to God is open to men.”
I’ve come to learn that shame of my own sinfulness can prevent me from bringing all of myself before Christ. Jesus wants all of us, not just the parts we deem worthy. By His atoning sacrifice He has made us worthy once and for all time. We can bring our whole selves—however broken and blemished—before Christ and say to Him just as He said to God, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
Our Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist states: “The entire life of each member of Christ’s body is intercessory. Christ takes up our whole self to the Father. If we abide in Christ he will show us that he accepts our labors, our struggles, our afflictions and the ordinary actions of our daily lives as sacrificial, and uses them to bless and uphold the world.”
Although we continually struggle and often fail to love and honor both ourselves and our neighbor as we ought to, our efforts are not in vain. We will inevitably fail to recognize Christ among us, both in our neighbor and in ourselves; however, we must trust in the mercy and the power of our savior, Jesus Christ. By His Atonement we are His forever, and nothing can separate us.
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