Introduction: Whitney Houston’s brother, Michael Houston, just gave a very poignant interview to Oprah Winfrey, in which he says that after Whitney’s death, he relapsed back into drug abuse and nearly died. He said that he and his sister started using drugs together many years ago. “It just happened,” he said. “We were traveling. We were on the road. We were young. We just got caught up. It’s been a battle ever since.” He thought Whitney had beaten the habit, but she relapsed and died. He felt responsible for her, and her relapse made him relapse and he nearly died too. He said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t sleep, wake up, and cry.” I think the word “relapse” is one of the saddest words in the English language. We use it in a couple of ways. We use it, as Michael Houston indicates, in an addictive way, to indicate a return to compulsive addictions—drinking or drugging. Then we use it medically to talk about the return of some disease. But there’s another way we can relapse. We can have a spiritual relapse. We can revert back to our old pre-Christian lives, to behavior patterns that characterized our days before we met Christ. The writer of Hebrews was worried that the Jewish Christians of his day were going to relapse back into Judaism. So he wrote to them, telling them to stay true to Christ, because Jesus is greater than the Old Testament prophets, better than the Old Testament angels, better than the Old Testament heroes like Moses and Joshua, and greater than the Old Testament priests. The section we’re in now is stressing our Lord’s superiority to the Old Testament priesthood. This morning we saw in Hebrews 7 that our Lord was from a greater order of priests than the Levitical order; He was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. And tonight we’ll see in Hebrews 8 that our Lord is high priest over a better covenant than the Levitical or Mosaic covenant.
1. We Have a Sitting High Priest (verses 1-2) – Here the writer summarizes what he’s just been saying: Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven…. In telling us Christ “sat down,” he indicated that His work was done (“It is finished.”) In the Old Testament, the priests never sat down. Kings sat down on their thrones, but there were no chairs in the tabernacle or temple. The priestly work was cyclical, never-ending, endlessly repeated. But Christ offered Himself once for all. See Hebrews 10:11-14.
2. We Have a Sacrificial High Priest (verse 3) – Our great high priest had to have “something to offer.” He offered Himself and His own blood. See Hebrews 7:27; 9:11-14; 10:1-7.
3. We Have a Superior High Priest (verses 4-13) – He not only is from a superior order (chapter 7, the order of Melchizedek); He mediates a superior covenant. The Old Covenant was the Mosaic Law, which told worshippers how to be perfect before God. But they could never do it. The New Covenant is a Covenant of Grace, in which the Lord gives us:
- An internalized righteousness (verse 10a) – His laws written on our hearts.
- A personalized relationship (v. 10b) – His is our God and we are His people.
- A universalized faith (v. 11) – A time is coming when all will acknowledge Him.
- A sanitized heart (v. 12) – Our sins will be remembered no more.
Conclusion: How would you feel if you went to New York City and paid $150 or $200 for a ticket to Spiderman or Mary Poppins or The Phantom of the Opera or Wicked, and you got there a little early and took your seat and while you were watching the stagehands get every ready for the production. They moved everything in place. They tested the lights. They kept checking and double-checking the props. They tested the microphones. But no actor ever arrived. No action ever took place. The play never started. You spent the whole night just watching the stagehands moving the set and the props around. I think you’d want your money back. Well, in a way that’s the theme of the book of Hebrews. The writer was saying, “You know all those priests and sacrifices and rituals in the Old Testament? That was simply setting the stage. That was simply getting things ready. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who stepped onto the stage of history when everything was ready.” Don’t relapse into anything in your old lives. Keep your eyes on Christ, press ahead, and discover the power of His priestly ministry to your soul.