Names of Jesus: Great High Priest

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Names of Jesus: Great High Priest

As we explore some of the many names of Jesus as the Son of Man, the name of the Great High Priest holds a special place in my heart. There is so much to understand in this name. When studying Jesus’ name as Great High Priest it is important to have background knowledge of Exodus and Leviticus where we read about the priesthood being established.

Taking a step back to Moses and Aaron’s time, God commanded Moses and Aaron to lead the people in establishing the priesthood, tabernacle, and sacrificial system. All of this is incredibly relevant to understanding what it means for Jesus to be our Great High Priest.

For even more context on Jesus as the Great High Priest, I encourage you to read through the intricate details in the books of Exodus and Leviticus and then bring that context over to Jesus as the Great High Priest. We find a detailed explanation of this name for Jesus throughout the book of Hebrews, which is where we will focus today.


What does High Priest mean in the Bible?

In the Old Testament, the Priesthood was established. There was a High Priest who was specifically responsible for sacrifices and gifts to God on behalf of the people. The High Priest was the only one who could enter the Most Holy Place, or the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle, which was separated by the outer sanctuary, or Holy Place, by an incredibly thick curtain that was approximately 4 inches thick. In the inner room was where the High Priest would come to be in the presence of God and offer a blood sacrifice once a year for himself and the people.


Qualifications for High Priest:

  • A man who is divinely appointed by God to intercede with God on the people’s behalf (Heb. 5:1)
  • Exhibits compassion, grace, and mercy to fellow sinners (Heb. 5:2)
  • Offers sin sacrifices for himself and the people (Heb. 5:3)
  • Must be called by God for this work (Heb. 5:4)

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Hebrews 4:14 NKJV

The High Priests were always descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. It was required for them to be without any physical blemish. It was also required for them to be godly in character, compassionate, and divinely appointed by God to this high station. They were not only responsible for the sacrifices and gifts of the people to God, but they also acted as overseers for the other priests and the people. He was the primary leader of the whole congregation.

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What is the Importance of the High Priest?

The most important role of the High Priest was during the Day of Atonement, which is when he would make a blood sacrifice and offer it to the Lord in the Most Holy Place once a year. This blood offering acted as a sin offering to cover the sins of himself and his whole congregation for the year. He would sprinkle the blood on the people, and then take it into the inner room to sprinkle it on the Ark and specifically on the mercy seat where he would meet with God.

For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 
He can [a]have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 
Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. 
And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.

Hebrews 5:1-4 NKJV

Moses was told that all of this – the entire tabernacle, sacrifices, offerings, rituals, and roles – were all a foreshadowing of an even greater covenant yet to come and that the greater covenant would come at the appointed time and change the old covenant. Every single detail of God’s commands for the designs and plans of the tabernacle and priesthood was important and give us the insight to help better understand the new covenant we have through Jesus.


11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 
13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has [b]officiated at the altar.

14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning [c]priesthood. 
15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 
17 For [d]He testifies:

“You are a priest forever

According to the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 
19 for the law made nothing [e]perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 
21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:

“The Lord has sworn

And will not relent,

‘You are a priest [f]forever

According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”),

22 by so much more Jesus has become a [g]surety of a better covenant.

23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 
24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 
25 Therefore He is also able to save [h]to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, [i]harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 
27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 
28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever

Hebrews 7:11-28 NKJV

Why is Jesus the Great High Priest?

God revealed to the Israelites that a new covenant would eventually come and change everything. When Jesus came, He brought that change with Him through the works He accomplished through His earthly life and ministry, and then His death on the cross. Jesus is our Great High Priest, far better than any High Priest the world has or will ever know.

While the High Priests would make atonement for their own sins and the people’s, this could never cleanse the people of their sins or perfect anything. This was always a temporary covering. God, being a holy God, cannot be in the presence of sin, therefore in order to have access to God people need to be redeemed of sin. Jesus giving Himself as the ultimate sacrifice is the way for us to have access to God. It is only through the washing of His blood that we can be redeemed of our sin and enter into a relationship with God.

When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the tabernacle was torn in half. This was not something that was physically possible for any human hands to do – it had to be the divine power of God. It was done to symbolize that the veil is now torn that separates us from God. Those who choose to have faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for their own personal sins can enter into the Most Holy Place and be in the presence of God.

There is no longer any need for blood sacrifice because Jesus is the final blood sacrifice, worthy of washing away the sins of the entire world. There is also no longer a need for the physical tabernacle, which was also a foreshadowing of the new covenant – accepting Christ as your savior invites the Holy Spirit in to dwell inside us, building us up as a holy temple for the Lord, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.

Just as all those intricate details in designing, planning, crafting, and putting up the entire tabernacle in all its beauty was specific in detail in order to be a worthy sanctuary for the Lord, we too must allow Jesus, our Great High Priest, with the help of His Holy Spirit, to build us up to be a holy people set apart for our holy God.

We are called to trust in our Great High Priest who is without any sin or blemish to intercede for us with God on our behalf, making us right with God and able to enter into His presence and receive His Spirit. Just like the Israelites were all given specific jobs to do, we too are called by God to work for Him and bring Him glory throughout our lives.

As we lean into His Spirit and trust our Great High Priest we will learn and grow in our dependence on God, our humility and recognition of our sin condition, and seek His forgiveness and provisions to become more like Him all the time.

The earthly priests could never obtain salvation for themselves or the people through their rituals, but through the High Priests and the Tabernacle, we can learn and grow in our understanding of Jesus as a far superior Great High Priest who is able to intercede forever on behalf of all mankind who trust Him as their Great High Priest, and to wash away their sins with His very own blood, so that they may receive the gift of salvation because of the grace and mercy of our holy God.

23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be [j]purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 
24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are [k]copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 
25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 
26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 
27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 
28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Hebrews 9:23-28 NKJV


Have you accepted the grace of God?

If you have not accepted the grace of God and chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to pray to God now and invite Him in, accept Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins, and repent of your sins. Submit it all to God, lay it at His feet, seek the forgiveness of God, welcome Him into your life, and believe that Jesus died and rose again to save you from your sins.


If you would like to learn more about salvation, you can find a couple of studies that may help here:

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Salvation
  2. Prayer of Salvation
  3. What is grace and why do we need it?
  4. What does it mean to be justified by grace?
  5. Don’t Reject God’s Grace
  6. Don’t Reject Christ
  7. Godly Women – what it means to live a godly life
  8. Redeemed Women – what it means to be redeemed
  9. What is Biblical Love?
  10. What are Spiritual Gifts?
  11. How to live in Spirit and Truth
  12. How to test what is pleasing to God

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Names of Jesus Great High Priest
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