Why did Christ become our High Priest? Even before time began as we know it, Jesus was going to be the one to become our eternal High Priest. His role was necessary in order to deal with man’s sin and ongoing transgressions and to provide man the ability to have a relationship with God and fellowship with Him.
Let’s first understand the function of a priest as the intermediary between the people and God. A priest was to represent the people and acted on behalf of the people with prayers and sacrifices before God. In the same way that people became familiar with the role of the priest in the community and the high standards of holiness in how a priest was to approach the throne of grace, Jesus was to become our permanent priesthood (Hebrews 7:23-25).
As sin had taken place before man was created and how even God judged the angels who were in rebellion (2 Peter 2:4), He still provided a way for the godly to escape judgment and to obtain righteousness (2 Peter 2:9). His priesthood was not just an assumption but as an appointment (Psalm 110:4). While the history of high priests reflect an appointment by other men (Hebrews 5:1-6), Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be our High Priest. His birth into humanity allowed for Him to be appointed by God (before the foundations of the world) to become a child before other men, raised up as a man, and living as a man to become our High Priest. He became our High Priest in that He had to live amongst us and show that He was our connection to eternal salvation. “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was (Hebrews 5:2-4). “During his earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Though a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. After He was perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, and He was declared by God a high priest ‘in the order of Melchizedek.’ (Hebrews 5:7-10)” (also see Hebrews 7:14-17). Jesus is our High Priest because He can relate to us. He knows what is to be tempted, and yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus often emphasized the importance of obedience to God because of the deception of sin. It is one’s personal desires that causes one to sin (1 John 3:4). Thankfully, Jesus Christ was willing to do the will of His Father and to be the sacrifice (John 6:38; Luke 22:42). It was Jesus, in His humanity, that had to pray to God to overcome the temptation of the fear of going to the cross, yet He remained obedient to the Father in His role as a High Priest. Jesus Christ certainly could have come down from the cross and declared Himself to be God (even though other miracles were already evident), but it was ultimately most important for Christ to fulfill God’s will (Hebrews 5:8) in order to bring salvation to His people.
As our permanent and eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ is both the Sacrifice and the one who sacrifices. He is the Priest and the Lamb of God (Hebrews 7:27-28). In His work, Jesus Christ fulfilled the three works of the priest and the act of sacrifice: through the works of redemption–which God had demanded, propitiation–which met the righteous demands of God, and reconciliation–for all of mankind (Hebrews 9:23-28).