The Splendor of the Crucified
I’ve just recently finished studying the Pentateuch with my two Old Testament Tour classes. They read a lot of passages, weird and/or wonderful, that they probably would have skipped, had I not held homework grades over their heads.
Exodus 28 maybe fits both categories as it describes the clothing to be created to give “dignity and honor” to the Levitical high priest: A linen robe embellished with gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn; golden shoulder ornaments boasting engraved onyx stones; a breastplate set with semi-precious jewels; and on it goes. Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, must have been an awe-inspiring sight arrayed in garments designed by God himself. Engraved in gold, the words “Holy to the Lord” adorned his turban when this magnificent priest entered the holiest place in the Tabernacle.
Fifteen hundred years later, another high priest appeared with “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
A stripped, bleeding man hung fastened with crude spikes to a rough cross. Sharp thorns, mockingly twisted into a crown, pierced his forehead. His flesh had been bruised and tattered by a scourge. Not awe, but revulsion filled those who saw this man disfigured by torture, “marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).
Jesus was a high priest like Aaron, entrusted with the dreadful responsibility of gaining forgiveness for the sins of his kinsmen. While Aaron presented the blood of animals, the blood Jesus offered was his own. He took on the ugliness of sin to make us lovely in God’s eyes.
But that is not the last image of Jesus given to us in scripture. After defeating death, he visited with a number of people over a period of forty days. (Paul lists the people in 1 Corinthians 15.) But even that is not the final image we have of Jesus.
After ascending to his place of honor at the Father’s right hand, our high priest appeared to John the Apostle in breathtaking splendor, his eyes blazing like fire, his face shining brilliantly like the sun, his voice thundering like rushing water (Revelation 1:12 - 16). Though frighteningly powerful and beautiful, Jesus continues to serve us as a priest.
“There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:23 – 25, NLT)
LIVES FOREVER—did you catch that phrase twice in fifty-one words? (I hope my italics helped.) LIVES FOREVER and pleading for you.