“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

“Behold the Man: A God Who Prays” (Exodus 28:1-12; Hebrews 7:20-28; John 17:1-26)

“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.” Well, that must’ve been quite a sight. I wonder if the Israelites in the wilderness protested at the elaborate details and the exorbitant expense of making such vestments for Aaron. I wonder, did they have to scuttle these plans until the voters could approve the design and expense? Did they put it out for bids to see if someone had a source for pure gold or blue dye, so they could come in under budget and then put the rest in a CD? “I don’t know why one priest needs to be dressed in something way more elaborate and costly than anything we buy or make for ourselves. Does Aaron think he’s better than us?” “I don’t see why we have to use all this gold. Tin would look almost as nice for a tenth of the price!” I could just imagine the grumbling Israelites talking like this.

Nevertheless, when the Lord commanded what sort of vestments Aaron was to be dressed in as he was consecrated to be high priest, his orders were very particular. First, the ephod, made of gold, with two gold shoulder pieces, each with an engraved onyx stone with six names of the sons of Israel on it, joined together with blue and scarlet yarns and fine linen. Second, the breastpiece, matching the ephod, of gold, with blue and scarlet yarns and fine linens, with twelve different stones set in gold settings, and two gold rings to attach it to the ephod. Then the robe, all blue, with blue and purple and scarlet pomegranates on the hem, interspersed with golden bells. Next, the engraved gold plate attached with a blue cord to the front of Aaron’s turban. Finally, a cloak, the turban, and a sash of fine needlework. All these garments Aaron is to wear when he presides as high priest.

How beautiful those vestments must have been! But no matter how beautiful the garments for the priesthood of Aaron and his sons, they were mere shadows of something more beautiful, of a permanent priesthood, a high priest whose service endures eternally. Aaron’s vestments, like a pastor’s vestments, are a sign of the beauty of the office he occupies, yet an office that does not truly belong to him. It is the office of one who stands as mediator and intercessor between God and his people. The vestments glorify neither Aaron nor the pastor, but Christ. The office is beautiful because of Christ, no matter how lowly the men in the office.

Aaron is no longer the one to intercede between God and men. Nor is your pastor. But behold the man! There is one to intercede, one who is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, the priestly king of righteousness. Behold the man who, though also God, intercedes for men before God. Behold God who has become man and who, as man, intercedes, prays for us men.

But who wants an intercessor, a priest, a go-between? A go-between implies that you are not sufficient for the task of getting yourself to God. An intercessor implies that you cannot climb the ladder of heaven to plead your own case. That God’s own Son had to take on human flesh to be an eternal priest between men and God implies that you, on your own, are not good enough to do that. You need someone else to take up your case. Behold the man!

Because, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re not good enough. This season of Lent is a time for increased devotion to God and dedication to prayer. But who seeks for God as he ought? Whose thoughts are undistracted in prayer? Whose conflict with others does not interfere with his prayer? Who loves God perfectly enough to be able to approach him boldly in prayer? Who keeps the Sabbath perfectly, hears the Word of God gladly and regularly? Who uses the name of the Lord correctly and calls upon his name regularly in prayer? Who? No one. Well, at least not you or I. We make a sorry excuse for our own priest. So behold the man!

Jesus is the perfect high priest. Sinful mankind cannot approach a holy God. We need someone to take our place, to plead our case. Behold the man! Jesus has taken on our flesh. He will take up your cause before his heavenly Father. Jesus, our perfect high priest, bears our names on his shoulders as he comes before God. Behold the man! Jesus has a voice that he raises before the Father. He has hands that he lifts up in prayer. He has a head he can bow reverently. Behold the man who prays perfectly. Behold the high priest whose office, whose role, is to pray for you, beloved. Behold the man who prays for you without ceasing.

Jesus is man so that he can intercede for men. And for whom does he pray? For his disciples. For his church. For you. Because sinners cannot approach a holy God, Jesus intercedes for us. Because rebellious man’s petitions will fall on deaf ears, the only obedient Son of God has taken flesh in order to pray for you, to give voice to your needs, to pray for you.

Since you could not keep yourself from sin, idolatry, and rebellion, Jesus prays that the Father would keep you. That he would keep you in his name, which was put upon you in Holy Baptism. That he would keep you from the evil one, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “but deliver us from evil.” Yes, Jesus prays these things for you. In his high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus was praying these things first for his disciples. But then he adds, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” And that’s us! We are those who believe in Christ through the testimony of the apostles. So you are included in Jesus’ high priestly prayer! Jesus, even now, as perfect God and man in one person, is praying for you. Behold the man who prays for you constantly before his heavenly Father.

In Christ, who died and rose for you and who prays for you without end, no longer are you rebels against God in heaven. No longer are you strangers and aliens. No longer are you unable to reach the Father’s ear with your petitions. On the contrary, now you are God’s beloved children, members of his household. Now you are invited to approach God’s throne of grace with boldness and confidence. Why? Because you are in Christ, and Jesus prays for you and with you perfectly. Not because you pray as regularly or correctly as you ought, but because you are in Christ, your prayers are perfect. Because Jesus lifts up his hands perfectly in prayer, so do you. Because Jesus lifts up his voice to God perfectly in prayer, so do you. Because Jesus is the man who intercedes for the rest of mankind, now you have hope. You have a Lord who prays for you. You have the God who became man, to redeem you from your sins and to gift you with his righteousness. You have a Savior, the man on the cross. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Behold the man! The man Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest who bids you pray and who prays for you and with you without ceasing.

Published in: on March 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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