Advent: Seeing Jesus as Priest

Matthew 9

Last week we looked at Jesus the prophet… today we look at Jesus as Priest.  This is harder to find in the Gospels.  The crowds tried to crown Jesus as their King!  The crowds after witnessing a miracle would cry out:  “He is a prophet… mighty in word and deed.”  But the term “priest” is not there.

The Theological Ground Work for the concept is actually found within the NT book of Hebrews.  Hebrews 4:14 reads:  14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”    That is well and good, but this series I’m preaching is using the Gospels for texts… so I searched the Gospels to find a place where Jesus was acting very “priestly” and I settled on Matthew chapter 9.  It is there that Jesus tells a paralytic:  “Your sins are forgiven!”

This had to stun that paraplegic.  Imagine you are this individual.  You have little control over your life.  You are immobile… unable to care for yourself.  You might not have even wanted to go see Jesus.  Your friends may have carried you there as you angrily protested along the journey.   But finally your mat is laid before this faith healer… a living legend in Capernaum, a town that had become like a second home to Jesus, a town in which Jesus had performed miracle after miracle.

So you are going to be like healing #258… but instead of Jesus saying something like:  “Be healed.” Or “Stand up and try out your new legs.”  He says:  “Your sins are forgiven.”

Talk about the old bait and switch.  You’re there to be healed of an ailment not absolved of a sin.  And yet this Galilean who spoke with such authority over illness, now speaks with that same power over your iniquity.  Why does Jesus make this curious pronouncement?  Many commentators sight a connection between the man’s sin and his sickness.  Sin and sickness are not always, but can be linked.  Guilt over sin can turn your hair grey, overwork your heart, cloud your mind with depression and completely obliterate your immune system.

But I believe Jesus is doing something else here.  Gazing at this man, He doesn’t see the sickness as being the worse thing to befall him.  The guilt of this man’s soul is far worse than the paralysis of the man’s limbs.  He needs a priest… not a healer.  So Jesus intercedes and forgives the man’s sin.

Jesus says to his critics that day:  5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  Which is easier?  On the surface (and his critics probably believed) that “Your sins are forgiven” was easier.  Because there was less evidence one could present of its taking place.  If he said:  Get up and walk… and the man continued to languish.  Jesus would be proven a fraud.

Who could know the condition of a man’s soul?  Who would know if a man’s sin had actually been forgiven?  But Jesus is saying:  “Get up and walk” is child’s play compared to “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus was able to speak the words:  You’re forgiven… because he was already committed to paying the price to back those words up.  He knew the cost of that forgiveness.

He would be beaten.  He would be stripped bare.  He would hang in agony and pain between two thieves.  Nails in his hands.  Thorns on his head.  Even in Bethlehem… the shadow of a cross fell across his cradle.  Even in this story… so early in his ministry.  The shadow of a cross falls across His path.

“Your sins are forgiven.”  Not so easy to say.  But the words of a perfect High Priest:  Hebrews 7:26-27:  Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

We all need a priest!  Jesus is our High Priest.

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