The book of Hebrews is a book about Jesus. It’s a book that wants us both to understand and appreciate the magnitude of the work God has done for us in Christ. Through careful argument built upon an in depth look at how God has acted on humanity’s behalf down through the ages, it seeks to convince us of the greatness of Christ and so that we might be fully devoted to him.
This passage is a good example of such an argument. It is part of an ongoing and exceptionally thorough analysis of priesthood, what it is and what it does and why it is important.
To understand the significance of the priesthood we have to start with God, and with a God who loves people so much He never wants to lose touch with them. He never wants to be disconnected from them, to be separated from them by a broken relationship.
Unfortunately, we all find ourselves separated from God. Such separation is painful for us. But it is important to remember it is also painful for God, and so He made a way for our relationship with him to be restored, healed, and made whole once again.
In the Old Testament, this way was through the ministry of the priesthood. Priests stood between people and God for the purpose of reconciling wayward people to the God who longs for their return.
Still, there were problems. Priests died, for instance. Their ministry was only a temporary one. Priests were (and still are) also subject to weakness that caused them to behave in ways counter to the character of the God they were called to represent.
So God, longing for His people, stepped in and offered a better way—the perfect and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, our connection with God is completely assured; he is the guarantee of our relationship to Him; he is our best hope for the reality of the life we long for.
Today people around us may not be tempted to put their trust in ancient priests, but they still trust in things that are temporary, impotent to deliver upon their promise, and imperfect. Even good, upstanding, devout Christians find themselves tempted to put their hope in something other than Christ, and so falter in their devotion to him.
Don’t do it, Hebrews say. Don’t shrink back. Stand firm. Only Christ is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
So-- where is our hope? What exactly are we hoping for, right here, right now? To know Christ better? To serve him more faithfully? Anything else, argues Hebrews, is settling for second best.