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January 18 , 2015

Jesus Intercedes for Us

Hebrews 4:14–5:10


Recently, news outlets reported the discovery of the tomb of a previously unknown queen in Egypt, dating to the Fifth Dynasty of the Pharaohs, about 4,500 years ago. This dynasty saw the first of the pyramids to be built.1 Many of the discoveries found in tombs and pyramids from ancient Egypt give us clues to the role of their cultic priests.

The role of Egyptian priests was not to care for the congregation but to care for the needs of a specific god. Their job was to keep the god happy so the god would remain on earth. For instance, the priests would awaken the god at dawn and offer him a breakfast meal. The food was taken away “once the god [had] his fill.” This action would be repeated for the noontime and evening meals, before the priests prepared the god for nighttime sleep.2

In contrast, Jewish priests offered sacrifices for sin, for themselves and for the nation. The priests helped the people in seeking forgiveness. Through this atonement, God reconciled the Israelites back to God. Much as that of clergy today, the priests’ job included spiritual care of the congregation. As High Priest, Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice to atone for our sin. Unlike the Levite sacrificial system, Jesus’ sacrifice was a one-time-only act. We do not repeat that sacrifice; we remember it.

One of the high priests’ jobs was to mediate directly with Yahweh on the Israelites’ behalf in the Holy of Holies, believed to be where Yahweh dwelled. At Jesus’ death, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two. With this dramatic proclamation, the people no longer needed a priest to speak to God on their behalf.

Christ’s sacrifice grants us direct access to God. Our High Priest forever mediated on our behalf so that we may live today and eternally in the perpetual presence of our Creator and Savior.

 

1.    How has the role of priest changed over time and with different establishments of worship and religion? When you think of a priest, what role do you think of?

2.    How does care for a congregation differ from care of a god? What is the priest’s focus in each case?

3.    What role does Jesus’ sacrifice play in your life? What does the tearing of the curtain mean or symbolize for you? How do you experience Jesus interceding on your behalf?

 

 

 

1From “Queen Khentakawess III’s Tomb Found in Egypt” at BBC News Africa (bbc.com/news/world-africa-30674339).

2From “Priests in Ancient Egypt,” by Marie Parsons at Tour Egypt (touregypt.net/featurestories/priests.htm).

  

Reverend Katie Shockley is a licensed local pastor and serves as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Sachse, Texas.

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