(I plan for this to be a multi-part post as the subject is rather extensive. Here is a study from a series delivered in 2008. The series dealt with the typology of several Old Testament feast days and their attendant sacrifices. Herein is an attempt to show the beauty of God’s plan and His foreknowledge of what it would take to redeem mankind. Let me start with a caveat, a warning: In types, as in parables, not every detail and sequence will always match exactly between type and antitype, symbol and substance. The main gist of the matter is, however, fairly easily seen in the parallels that are obvious. Although the crucifixion of Jesus happened during the time of the Passover, the parallels with the Day of Atonement are striking.)
In this study of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) we want to do our analysis through three elements of the ceremony: 1) The Priest, 2) The Sacrifices 3) The Rituals. We will not touch every facet of the rituals of this ceremony. I hope to provide a rudimentary guide for your own studies in depth. I often described my Bible studies as hanging a pegboard with a few hooks to provide a framework on which you can hang the treasures of your own study.
The High Priest:
A first focal point of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement was the priest. While ‘lesser’ priests may have assisted in peripheral, minor matters, the main burden of the day fell upon the performance of the high priest alone (Leviticus 16:17). Although the ceremonies required that the high priest make multiple trips into the holy of holies, this was the only day of the year that even he could enter that sacred place (Leviticus 16:34). This symbolized the unique, one-time nature of the real atonement sacrifice.
In contrast to the importance of this day, the high priest laid aside his garments of glory and beauty (Exodus 28:2) and dressed simply in linen after washing himself (Leviticus 16:4). As with any important endeavor, there grew up a great body of tradition and ritual concerning the performance of the high priest on this day. Among the scriptural requirements for this office, at any time, was that the high priest was not to ‘rend his clothes’ (Leviticus 21:10). To do so disqualified him from his priestly duties, at least until he could go through the appropriate rituals for cleansing, an often lengthy process.
Jesus the Priest:
During the trial of Jesus the high priest disqualified himself from officiating by rending his garments (Matthew 26:65; Mark 14:63). This left no one from the Levitical priesthood able to preside over the coming sacrifice. However, there was another high priest (Hebrews 9:11) from a different order (Psalms 110:4) standing by to officiate over the most important sacrifice in history.
After the Order of Melchizedek:
Prior to the birth of Levi, God established an eternal priesthood based on the power of an endless life (Genesis 14:18 – 20; Hebrews 7). Jesus, as priest after the order of Melchisedec, could perform the sacrifice when the representative of the Levitical priesthood failed. Melchisedec officiated at offerings before there was a Levitical priesthood. The Old Testament type of the atonement sacrifice called for a yearly offering. The sacrifice Jesus made was a one-time only offering (Hebrews 7:27).
There were requirements for officiating as a Levitical priest. The first requirement was related to genealogy. To serve as a high priest a man had to be a direct descendent of Levi and of Aaron. “He was to be ceremonially pure and holy. He must be physically perfect. Any defect or deformity disqualified a member of the priestly family from performing the duties of the office (Leviticus 21:17-21). The Law spoke with the utmost precision as to the domestic relations of the high priest. He could marry neither a widow, nor a divorced woman, nor one polluted, nor a harlot; only a virgin of his own people, a Hebrew of pure extraction, could become his wife (Leviticus 21:14-15). Nor was he to come in contact with death. He must not rend his clothes, nor defile himself, even for his father or his mother (Leviticus 21:10-11). His sons might defile themselves for their kin, but the high priest must not” (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.).
A later post may consider Melchisedec, but for now it is enough to consider that Jesus, being ‘after the order of Melchisedec’ was God manifest in the flesh as well as the perfect sacrifice, satisfying all the requirements of both the offering and the offerer. In this capacity He truly showed Himself to be Jesus – Jehovah become salvation: the one Who would save His people from their sins. The characteristics and qualifications of Melchisedec are given in Hebrews 7:2 – 3. Jesus met all these requirements and was qualified to be high priest.
God is a spirit (John 4:24) and, as such, has not flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). The incarnation provided a body (Hebrews 10:5) which could be offered as a sacrifice. In the incarnation He who had no blood made a way to shed His blood (Acts 20:28). He who could not die went to Calvary to experience death for all men (Hebrews 2:9).
In preparation for the atonement, the God of eternity laid aside His glory and beauty (Isaiah 53:2) and took on the simple likeness of a man (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14-17). Since animal sacrifices could never deal with the sin problem (Hebrews 10:4), God made a way that He could offer and accept the blood of a perfect, untainted sacrifice.
As a perfect and sinless man Jesus could step in as the great high priest to fill the office made vacant by the willful passion of sinful man. Jesus completely fulfilled the Law of Moses, so there was no impediment to his officiating in this most crucial of sacrifices.
Next time we will consider the animals used in the Levitical sacrifice of Atonement.