The letter to Hebrews may be in the form of a sermon, circulated to Jewish Christians familiar with the temple, and the role of High Priest. He had a particular role in the yearly sacrifice rituals of the Day of Atonement, standing between God and his people.

The writer recognises Jesus as the ultimate High Priest (see this in Hebrews 5:1-10) . In place of the repeated Day of Atonement sacrifices, Jesus offers himself, the “one perfect and sufficient sacrifice”. Since the sacrifice is perfect, it is not repeated, though always remembered. So we understand that Jesus brings God to us, as he lives a human life and faces temptation and suffering. He also takes us to God, opening a way we could not, and offering Intercession for us.

The role of Jesus is vital, and a separate order of priesthood is created for a descendant of Judah – this is the point of Melchizedek, the early priest and king of Jerusalem who met and blessed Abraham, for Jesus was not in the priestly line of succession from Aaron.

With such a High Priest, some Christian leaders prefer the titles of minister, elder (or presbyter, from the Greek) or pastor, rather than priest. All know that, while delighted to help people meet God, they are not essential (as Jesus was) to that meeting. Indeed, some of us prefer to stand during worship to one side, or behind a table, so as not even to appear to “get in the way”.

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