For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Christ is the Center, says that in Christian living we often place too much emphasis on “HOW” and too little emphasis on “WHO”. He says that by giving priority to “HOW” we place ourselves at the center, and Christ on the periphery. Bonhoeffer suggests that by first answering “WHO” we get to the “HOW”.
For the New Testament it is clear that the “WHO” is Christ. Just listen to Paul: “For me to live 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). Focusing on the”WHO” in our lives opens up wondrous and exciting possibilities.
We see Jesus in Scripture as the “WHO” acting for us as our great High Priest who represents us to God and God to us. Note in today’s scripture that Christ appears “on our behalf” in the very presence of God. Christ acting for us is vividly symbolized in Old Testament typology on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. On that highest and holiest day the high priest symbolically gathered all the sacrifices and worship of the people, carrying them into the Holy of Holies. There in the Holy of Holies, he presented the worship and prayers of the people. By that the high priest acted as God’s designated representative of the people, ministering on their behalf. His representative role was symbolized by the names of the 12 tribes emblazoned on his breastplate. He entered the presence of God to act on behalf of the people. As he entered the Holy of Holies, God was accepting in him all the prayers and worship of the people.
The New Testament looks at the high priest on the day of Atonement as the foreshadowing of Jesus as our great High Priest, taking our place and representing us before God. Christ did not offer up a lamb or goat for a sacrifice, but offered up His very life. Acting on our behalf, in our place, He presented to God the perfect obedience we could never offer. And now, Jesus takes our prayer, worship, and service, and presents it to God as perfect.
John Calvin writes about Christ as our High Priest, as our “WHO”, acting on our behalf:
“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.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews, emphasis added)
So, if Jesus is the “WHO” of Christian living, what is the “HOW”? The same book of Hebrews, from which comes to today’s text, answers the “HOW”: “Looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, is the “HOW” of Christian living. He is the One who gets us going in faith and the One who will see us home!
A fellow traveler,