Intercession for the Transgressors
by Seattle ALC
Sacrifice and intercession belong to the office of the priest. Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, was the first high priest. He became the head of the priestly order which then by divine command was passed down from father to son in succeeding generations.
Before entering the holy of holiest in the temple on the annual day of atonement, the high priest was required to exchange his ordinary attire for the white linen garments that had been made for glory and beauty (Ex. 28:2). On that day he would offer sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people. Two goats were provided for this service: one was slain as the sin offering, and the priest would place his hands on the head of the other goat while he confessed the sins of the people. This second goat was then released into the wilderness a symbol of the coming Christ, the great sin-bearer.
This divinely prescribed worship was a figure of the coming of the true High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When He came, Jesus did not serve in the priestly order of Aaron- He was not a descendant of that line. He was a High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. The priests from Aaron’s line were required to make atonement for sin each year. But Jesus made one offering for sin and thereby perfected forever them that are sanctified.
Jesus did not approach the altar upon which Aaron offered sacrifice. He did not enter the holy places made with hands, which are the figure of the true, but He entered heaven itself with His own blood to appear in the presence of God for us.
Although He did not wear the holy priestly garments of Aaron, He possessed a beauty not evident to the human eye. This beauty can be seen only by those who have become partakers of the work that He came to do-a work described in His High Priestly prayer when He said: And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth (John 17:19).
In Him we observe both a perfect obedience and a love that is pure and undefiled. He came into this world to do the will of the Father–not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life as a ransom for many. Having loved His own which were in the world , He loved them unto the end (John 13:1).
In describing this love, Martin Luther has written: ” The love of our Lord Jesus Christ is such that He passed through affliction as through fire in order to reach down and grasp us with the hand of mercy and affection. Now this is the fitting garment with which our eternal High Priest is clothed. This is not an outer vestment for the eye of man to see, but the eye of faith is able to perceive it in Him.
The first of the seven last words uttered by Jesus on the cross is indisputable evidence of this love. In silence He endured the mocking’s and reviling’s of sinners. When He spoke, He offered intercession for the transgressors. ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. ‘With this intercessory prayer, Jesus protected sinners from the well-deserved wrath of the Almighty God. He pleaded for mercy for them before the throne of God.
“How can we comprehend such great love? How can we understand His willingness to intercede for us? This side of eternity we will never fully comprehend His love nor completely understand His willingness to intercede for us. Praise God, we have experienced them by His grace.”
Ah, Holy Jesus For me, kind Jesus was thine incarnation Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation; Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, For my salvation. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, Think of thy pity and thy love unswerving Not my deserving. Johan Heermann, 1585-1647
From the Archives of the late Pastor A.C. Holmgren, March 2003
Submitted by Pastor Stan
May 06, 2022
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