We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Christ the Center, suggested that in the Christian life we put too much emphasis on “How” and too little on “Who.” He said that by giving priority to “How” we are putting ourselves at the center and Christ to the side. By answering the “Who” question we will answer the “How.” In the New Testament we see that the “Who” of the Christian life is of course Christ. Listen to Paul: “For to me, living is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Or, listen to Jesus: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20), and, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
Keeping our eyes on the “Who” opens new and exciting vistas for us! That means seeing Christ as our High Priest representing God to us, yes, but also representing us to God. Right now, Jesus stands before God for us. This is beautifully symbolized in the typology of the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On that highest and most holy day, the high priest gathered up all the sacrifices and worship of the people and carried them with him into the Holy of Holies, presenting them to God. The high priest acted as God’s representative for the whole nation, acting in solidarity with them. His representation of all of the people was symbolized in the names of the twelve tribes emblazoned on his breastplate. When the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, God was accepting all of the people in him.
The New Testament looks at the high priest’s actions on the Day of Atonement and reveals that all these actions are fulfilled in the Christ who came to be our great High Priest. Christ offered up to God not a sheep or a goat, but offered up Himself. As our High Priest, in behalf of us, He presented to God a life of perfect obedience, perfect prayer and worship. In Christ’s ascension He carried us with Him into heaven’s Holy of Holies. The language of today’s Scriptures presents Christ as “a forerunner on our behalf”, standing before God for us, acting in our name.
John Calvin, in his commentary on the book of Hebrews, rejoices in the “Who” of what Christ our High Priest is for us:
“For the high priest entered the holy of holies, not in his own name only, but also in that of the people, inasmuch as he bare in a manner the twelve tribes on his breast and on his shoulders…so that in the person of one man all entered into the sanctuary together. Rightly then does the Apostle speak, when he reminds them that our high priest entered into heaven; for he has not only entered for himself, but also for us” (emphasis added).
Acting for you and for me, in our place, in our name, Christ has offered up to God the perfect life that we have not lived. He is our “forerunner” who stands before God in all of His righteousness and goodness. He empowers us to take His name and to pray in His name, because He has first prayed in ours. Christ is our life, and He lives in us! He is the “Alpha and the Omega” of life.
Christ, then, is the “Who” of the Christian life. What is the “How”? The same book of Hebrews tells us the “How”: “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It’s all about keeping our eyes on Him; it’s about keeping Christ at the center of our lives, our homes, our churches, and our work!
Grace and peace,