Jesus, our High Priest

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Jesus, our High Priest
4th Saturday in Great Lent
12 April, 2008
Hebrews 9:24-28 ; Mark 8:27-31

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today, after our Saviour asks : “'Who do men say that I am?'” The Apostle Peter replies : “'You are the Christ'”. This word “Christ” comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”. “Messiah” means : the Anointed One, who is sent by the Father to be the Saviour and the Redeemer. At that time, our Saviour charges them to tell no-one about Him, because it was not the right time to talk about it. In other words, the Apostle Peter certainly made the correct confession, but no more was to be said about this until later. Then our Saviour, if we recall from the Gospel, went on to teach them what was going to happen to Him : He had to be arrested ; He had to endure suffering ; He had to die, and be crucified ; He would rise again on the third day.

I am putting all this emphasis on these words because quite soon, when we come to Holy Week, we are once again going to be living through all the Events of the Passion of our Saviour, along with the disciples and apostles. We are going to see the apostles being overcome with fear, forgetting everything that our Saviour had taught them. It is going to take a long time after the Resurrection, many weeks, before they will truly be able to accept what has happened, and to begin to live in accordance with these Events.

I am putting a great emphasis on this because we tend to live lazily in the wake of the apostolic experience. We, in the same way, will very easily confess that Jesus is the Christ. He is the Messiah. He is the Anointed One. He is the Saviour. However, we then too easily forget Who He is. We get overcome by fear because we get so distracted by the multitude of the difficulties of life. We forget to turn to our Saviour for help. We forget that we can call upon our Saviour for help, and we neglect to turn back to Him when we slip and fall. At its worst, we can even forget in our confusion that He rose from the dead. In fact, it seems that forgetfulness has become a major characteristic of how we live our lives.

The Apostle, when he was speaking to the Hebrews, said that when sacrifices in the previous ages had been offered, they had been offered by priests who, themselves, were fallen human beings. In fact, those sacrifices could not by themselves do anything or accomplish anything regarding the restoration of the broken communion between us and the Lord. It was only this great Event of the Death and Resurrection of Christ that could accomplish it. The Apostle then explains that our Saviour is not like the high priest who goes once a year into the holy place of the Temple with the blood of animals to sprinkle the blood there. Rather, He is the One who, Himself, as the Great High Priest, goes into the Holiest of Holies in Heaven in the presence of God, having offered Himself wholly and completely in a manner we cannot explain, no matter how we talk about it.

We talk about it and we write very much about it, but we cannot really explain it. We can only accept that it happened. Our Saviour is the one and only Saviour. He is the true, eternal High Priest who entered into the Holy of Holies once for all, on our behalf, offering Himself, His Blood, everything about Himself, and bringing us with Him. It is He alone, by doing what He did : dying, and rising from the dead, who re-opened the possibility of life-giving communion in love with God, because He is, Himself, God.

Only He, Himself, could bring about the restoration of full communion between human beings and God. He emptied Himself, and became a human being. He let us try to overcome Him because we are co-operators with the evil one. We are so stupid. We cannot see ; and then, when we do see, again overcome with fear, we run away. We accept to believe in all sorts of other things, counterfeit things. We accept cheap substitutes that are no substitutes at all, but only fakes – instead of remembering that Jesus Christ said : “'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life'” (John 14:6). No matter how much pain, no matter how much turmoil, no matter how much sorrow we have to experience in life, nothing is going to bear fruit without being in the context of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the only One.

Therefore, when it is time in a few weeks to walk with them again on the way of the Passion, let us not be judgemental of the disciples and apostles. Instead let us give thanks to God for His love for us. Let us give thanks to God for those apostles who repented, who woke up, and who lived by the Resurrection.

Let us ask their prayers that we, too, may be able to wake up, stay awake, and not keep falling asleep. Staying awake, may we keep following our Saviour with the focus of our hearts and our whole lives on Him, and Him only, no matter what happens. Let us glorify our Saviour, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.