Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. Hebrews 8:1-6
If we settle for less than Christ, we will find ourselves without our exalted Servant, who lives to mediate between God and man.
We find this truth in verses one and two, where an abrupt contrast takes place and, if we read too quickly, we will miss a great truth. First, we see Jesus as the High Priest of a new order who does not just enter quickly into God's presence and then leave, as Aaron and the rest of the high priests did upon entering the Holy of Holies. Instead, Jesus actually stays and dwells in God's presence, symbolized by His sitting position, which indicates a completed work. Our Savior is in heaven, the dwelling place of God, and being at the 'right hand” of God, Jesus occupies the highest place of honor in the most glorious place in all creation.
At this point, one would expect Jesus to stop and simply soak in all the praise and honor due Him. After all, He has done what no other could do: He has saved all of mankind from their sins by sacrificing His own life as a willing gift to mankind. We could praise Him for the rest of eternity for that simple fact and never run out of reasons for doing so. But the interesting and marvelous thing is that Jesus doesn't stop there. He doesn't just sit in His glory and take in all of our rightful adoration. Instead, from this highest of places, Jesus continues to serve (v. 2) mankind. His exaltation is also a call to service.
The actuality of His death occurred once for all, never to be repeated, never needing to be reenacted at the altar, and His glorified body and blood (9:12) now inhabit the 'true tent that the Lord set up, not man” (v. 2). But the application of His death and resurrection is an ongoing work, and Jesus still serves us in this way as a high priest by offering to us the atoning work of His sacrifice, that we might be reconciled with God. His blood, death and resurrection power are still being applied so that 'everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
What we are seeing is a glorified Christ who is still in the service business.
And His service is a service to God—who desired the healing of a broken relationship such that He would sacrifice His Son—and to man, who may now take the gift of the Son into the Father's presence, where the Father will find it a 'fragrant offering” (Ephesians 5:2). Christ's majestic position in heaven now affords Him the continued opportunity to serve, which is His heart and His example (see John 13). Jesus combines divine service with divine majesty. His glorified position in God's presence was given not so that He may enjoy it in unapproachable divine isolation, but so that others may enjoy it too. Jesus continues to serve our needs, and His position in doing so is as a mediator (see v. 6).
This word mediator in our passage comes from the Greek word mesos, which means 'in the middle.” In our passage it stands for a man who stands in the middle and brings two parties together. It was used of Jesus in 1 Timothy 2:5, and our author will refer to Jesus as our mediator three more times in his letter (8:6; 9:15; 12:24). It was for just such a person that Job cried out in the middle of his misfortune when he said, 'If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand up on us both” (Job 9:33, NIV).
As we envision this word applied to Jesus, three great truths come to the surface. First, Jesus was God's intermediary. God desired to show himself to His creation, and He did so through Jesus. He is the messenger of the King, and as such He speaks God's words (see John 12:). Second, He is the one who stands between God and man in order to bring them together. When two people disagree, sometimes they need a third party to help them come to an agreement and an understanding. The work of the mediator was to accomplish that goal, and Jesus did so at Calvary. And finally, if a mediator is to be effective then he must perfectly represent both parties. Irenaeus, a second century bishop in Lyons in Gaul, said that Jesus showed God to men and exhibited men to God. Jesus, as our God who became man who returned to the right hand of God, perfectly understands both God and man. That is why Jesus, and Jesus only, is qualified to be the mediator between God and man. There is not a person, living or dead, who is capable of interceding or mediating between sinful man and Holy God. Only Jesus can fill that position, and He does continually so as He abides in the presence of God.
Now, since Jesus is not merely visiting the sanctuary of God but actually abides there, we have proof that He brought to the dwelling place of God a sacrifice God found acceptable, one without defect or blemish (see Leviticus 22:21). We know it was not a lamb or a bull, for Jesus was not an earthly priest, being from the tribe of Judah and not Levi. 'Every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices” (v. 3), and this was Christ's appointment also. So Christ, the 'Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), offered himself to God as a sacrifice, 'holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners.” It is further proof that the Old Testament laws and rituals have been replaced by the work of Christ. Jesus had no offering to bring to God according to the Old Testament, so He did with His own life what the Levitical priests could never do with the sacrifices of thousands of lambs and bulls: He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, once for all. Now the high priesthood of Jesus Christ and the high priesthood of Aaron cannot coexist. There are not two ways to heaven, for Jesus is the only Way. And because the priesthood that daily sacrifices lambs and bulls has nothing to compare with the priesthood which sacrifices 'once for all,” then the work of Christ becomes a better covenant.
So now Jesus has completely fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament laws and rituals.
He did not abolish them, as He told us, but He fulfilled them (see Matthew 5:17). But that fulfillment did not come as we would have expected. Many times I have heard preachers expounding upon the ways in which Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament laws, right down to being the Lamb of God who did not have His bones broken on the cross, for God commanded that the bones of the Passover lamb must not be broken (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). Too often we are amazed at how perfectly Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament requirements of being a sacrifice. We marvel at how well He knew the Law and how He never broke it. The problem is that we are comparing Jesus with the Law when we should be comparing the Law with Jesus. The reason the Law required what it did was because it had as its foundation the work of Christ. We must remember that Jesus is the original, so that the Old Testament laws and rituals are patterned after Jesus, not vice versa. Jesus did not come to earth because the Law needed to be replaced. Rather, the Law came to earth as an introduction to the work of Christ that had been planned since the beginning of creation. Jesus was not called the Bread of Life because first there was manna and then there was bread in the tabernacle. Instead, there was bread in the tabernacle and manna in the desert because Jesus is the original Bread of Life (John 6:32-35). Jesus did not sacrifice himself because the Law said so, but instead, the Law required sacrifices because first Jesus had planned to sacrifice himself.
Remember, Jesus is the original, and the priests all served at a 'copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (8:5). The priests served at the copy, but Jesus serves us in the original. The priesthood of Aaron was patterned after Jesus, but when the original came, the pattern was discarded. So now we understand why the author writes that 'Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (8:6). The reason it is founded on better promises is because Jesus is the original promise. Jesus has done everything first, and then He ended His ministry by saying, 'I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). If we are going to copy someone, if we are going to emulate a hero who has done something no one else has ever done before, then our imitation should be of Christ, the first among all creation, the origin and the original in all the universe.