Topic:Priest and Victim
…who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.
The writer joins two phrases to get the main thought: “he offered up himself” and, he “was made perfect.” As a priest, there was no unblemished sacrifice he could offer except himself, so he offered himself. There was found no other priest worthy of offering such a sacrifice, so Christ became both Priest and Victim.
This reminds us of the words of Christ from the cross. In uttering the first three words from the cross, Jesus is a priest: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34). He is interceding for the bloody murderers who have nailed him to the tree. Then he turns to the thief at his side and says, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43 KJV). He is ministering grace to this revolutionary who admitted his need. Then to his mother and the disciple John who were standing at the foot of the cross, he said, “Woman, behold, your son!” “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27 RSV). He is still a priest, ministering comfort to their hearts, giving one to the other to meet the need of life. But at this moment a change occurred. The sun was hidden and a strange darkness fell across the land.
The first word from the cross out of the midst of that darkness is the terrible cry of dereliction — Immanuel’s orphaned cry — “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Now he is no longer a priest; he is the victim, offered as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross. Then from the midst of that hot hell of pain, and even more excruciating anguish of spirit, come the words, “I thirst,” (John 19:28).
This is followed by the last two cries from the cross when with a loud voice at the end of the three hours, he shouted, “It is finished” (John 19:30); and then, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46 RSV). Immediately, he gave up the ghost. In those last words he is still a sacrifice, having completed the work that the Father gave him to do.
If you join two more phrases of this passage you get the complete thought of the writer. Not only did Christ offer up himself as the perfect sacrifice, but he did it “once for all” — forever. The cross is a timeless event. It is not simply a historic occurrence that we may look back upon and study as we would the Battle of Gettysburg. It is an intrusion of eternity into time. It is timeless. It is as though it is going on forever and had been going on since the foundation of the world. It is therefore eternally contemporary experience.
Every age can know for itself the meaning of this cross. It reaches back to cover all history so that it can be said that Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” (Revelation 13:8 KJV). Thus all those of the Old Testament who had not yet known of the historic presentation of Christ, but who believed God’s promise given regarding their blood sacrifices, could be saved, just as we are saved today. For the cross reached backward into time as well as forward. The cross of Jesus Christ, from God’s point of view, is the central act of history, everything flows from that. From that great event all hope is flowing, all light is flaming. It is to it that all events must look for meaning.
Lord Jesus, thank you for not only being my Great High Priest but also the willing victim of the cruelty of man so that I may know forgiveness and hope.
God’s view of the Cross of Christ places it as the central act of history. Is it the central focus for us, the ones for whom the Lord Jesus became both priest and victim? In what ways do we compromise the wisdom of the Cross by worldly wisdom?