The perfect pastor?
The letter to the Hebrews has many parts to it that are difficult for non-Jews to understand. Let’s focus in on one bit from our reading for today and see what we can make of it.
This was confirmed with an oath; for others who became priests took their office without an oath, but this one became a priest with an oath, because of the one who said to him,
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever’”—
accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.
Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save[a] those 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.
Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:20-28)
The main point that the writer to the Hebrews makes over and over again for his Jewish audience is that Jesus is superior to everything that has gone before. In this section, the author of this letter emphasizes that Jesus is a superior priest because his achievement as priest is permanent.
It has been estimated that there were 83 high priests from the time of Aaron right up to the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. Some priests were probably better than others but one thing was certain of all of them… they did not last. All of them died. No matter how good they were (and none of them were perfect) their priesthood did not last forever.
When I visit a new church, I always find it interesting to look at the pictures of the former pastors that usually hang in the narthex. It is intriguing to see which ones lasted the longest and which ones stayed only a short time. I have read that in England there is a board, usually inside the entrance to the church, which states the names of all the pastors who have had charge of that particular parish. In some cases those lists go back to the 8th and 9th centuries. But even with those impressive lists, consider this: where are those pastors now? All but the most recent ones are lying in a graveyard somewhere, maybe even next to the very church they served. They held office for a time, they served God and his people for a time, and then they moved on, hopefully to their eternal reward.
What would it be like to meet a pastor who had served a church for one hundred, two hundred, or even a thousand years? Would it not be fascinating to get his or her perspective on all of that past history, not only of the church, but the world? I sure would not want to follow a pastor like that!
What would it be like to have one person like that running a church for a thousand years? Most parishioners probably would not like it. Most churches like to rotate pastors every so often so that each of their different talents, as well as their weaknesses, will balance each other out over time.
Now imagine that you had a pastor who lasted forever, and who was perfect in ever way, who met not only your every need, but every need for the entire church… forever. That is just what the writer to the Hebrews is suggesting we have in Jesus. All the priests in Judaism, from the time this letter to the Hebrews was written, stretching all the way back to those priests who even served in the tabernacle in the wilderness, all of them had one thing in common: death. All of them died, or were destined to die. But Jesus conquered death. And as a priest who lives forever, his achievement is permanent. He is able to save for all time those who draw near to God through him. There is no need for us to go to any other priest, any other mediator, because Jesus always lives to intercede for us.
If you would like to listen to the entire sermon I preached on this passage, then you may click here: http://willvaus.com/hebrews.