Hebrews 4:14 (ESV) … “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
Aaron was a “high priest,” but Jesus Christ is the GREAT High Priest. No Old Testament priest could assume that title. But in what does our Lord’s greatness consist?
To begin with, Jesus Christ is both God and Man. He is “Jesus, the Son of God.” The name “Jesus” means “Saviour” and identifies His humanity and His ministry on earth. “Son of God” affirms His deity and the fact that He is God. In His unique person, Jesus Christ unites Deity and humanity, so that He can bring people to God and bring to people all that God has for them.
Not only in His person, but also in His position Jesus Christ is great. Aaron and his successors ministered in the tabernacle and temple precincts, once a year entering the holy of holies. But Jesus Christ has “passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14, literal translation). When He ascended to the Father, Jesus Christ passed through the atmospheric heavens and the planetary heavens into the third heaven where God dwells (2 Cor. 12:2). How much better is it to have a High Priest who ministers in a heavenly tabernacle than in an earthly one!
But there is another aspect to Christ’s position: not only is He in heaven, but He is enthroned. His throne is “the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). The mercy seat on the ark of the covenant was God’s throne in Israel (Ex. 25:17–22), but it could never be called “a throne of grace.” Grace does not veil itself from the people. Grace does not hide itself in a tent.
Furthermore, the common people were not permitted to enter the holy precincts of the tabernacle and the temple, and the priests got only as far as the veil. The high priest alone went beyond the veil, and only on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). But every believer in Christ is invited, and is even encouraged, to “come boldly unto the throne of grace”! What a great throne it is because our Great High Priest is ministering there.
Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, is enthroned in heaven. Something else makes Him great: He is ministering mercy and grace to those who come for help. Mercy means that God does not give us what we do deserve; grace means that He gives us what we do not deserve. No Old Testament high priest could minister mercy and grace in quite the same way. When an Israelite was tempted, he could not easily run to the high priest for help; and he certainly could not enter the holy of holies for God’s help. But as believers in Jesus Christ, we can run to our High Priest at any time, in any circumstance, and find the help that we need.