In the Old Testament, the people of Israel had a high priest who would make sacrifices on their behalf. This was necessary in order for their sins to be forgiven, but there was a problem. The high priest was also sinful. “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people” (Hebrews 5:1-3).
This was a problem because it meant the sacrifices would never end. They would never be enough because the sacrifice was never enough. That’s where Jesus came into the picture. Because he was perfect, “he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (verse 9). He was chosen by God to be the ultimate high priest – the priest who would sacrifice himself and end the need for sacrifices forever.
The concept of Jesus’s sacrifice seems strange to us. We can hardly comprehend such a need or such a willingness to lay down our lives. James and John didn’t understand it, either. They asked Jesus, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37). They thought Jesus was all about glory – a conquering hero. They wanted to be at his side when he took over. It never crossed their minds that this wasn’t his intention; but Jesus had a different goal and a different method in mind. Far from a conquering attitude, he said this: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all” (verses 43-44).
This was Jesus’s attitude: he “came not to be served but to serve” (verse 45). As strange as it sounds, this is the attitude we should have as well – and this is the attitude we can only have because of Jesus’s sacrifice for us. He has reframed our worldview from hopeless to hopeful, from conquering to serving, from greatest to least. And just like the high priests, we too are appointed to act. We should not take this new worldview and sit on it. Instead, we should take this new worldview and use it in our everyday lives to bring others to Jesus.