What does Jesus’s role of judgment have anything to do with His role as priest? Isn’t judgment an aspect of His role as king? Yes, it is, but not exclusively. There’s great comfort, and great conviction, that we can discover when we see the priestly aspect of His judgment.
Clean or unclean
One of the main themes of the Mosaic law was the idea of holiness. God is holy, set apart from evil, and those who come to Him must be holy too. Holiness is a hard concept for us to grasp; it’s not a tangible, visible thing since it’s a condition of our hearts.
To help the Jewish people understand the idea of holiness, God prescribed that those who were ready to enter His tabernacle to worship Him were considered ceremonially “clean” while those who were not were considered ceremonially “unclean.”
This is helpful. We know what these terms mean. It’s easy to understand how something clean can become unclean, and that you don’t want unclean things to contaminate clean things. This is the idea of holiness and unholiness made visible and practical.
To be sure the people understood when they were clean or unclean, God gave specific guidelines for determining if they were ready to enter God’s presence to worship Him.
Sometimes people would become unclean through things they could control, such as touching a dead body or eating an animal they were forbidden to eat.
Other times, people could become unclean due to nothing they did, such as when a person would contract a disease or even when a woman would give birth.
The priest’s job
Who was the one who would determine if someone was clean or unclean? God gave that job to the priests. They were the ones who were required to understand the law and make a judgment on if a person was clean or unclean.
What made the priests qualified to determine if someone was clean or not? Their judgment was based on God’s word. They would review the law and judge based on what it said.
- If the person was clean, the priest would permit him to participate in the ceremonial worship that God commanded.
- If the person was unclean, the priest would describe the way the person could become clean and gain access back to true worship.
Often the path to becoming clean again was to wait a certain amount of time, take a good bath, and wash the soiled clothes. Other times, the priest didn’t have anything to offer the unclean person. If their uncleanness was a result of a sickness or condition for which there was no cure, they were hopeless to ever be able to enjoy worship in God’s house again.
As we look at Christ’s role of judgment, let’s remember that His role as priest is a role as a mediator, a go-between. How does His job of declaring who is clean and unclean apply to His Father?
It may seem obvious, but let’s not move past this point without addressing it. The very fact that Jesus has this role is because God is clean; He is holy. Christ can attest that He has seen His Father and declared Him to be the Holy One. Because God is immutable, never changing, His holiness doesn’t change either.
One of the most striking parts of Jesus’s earthly ministry was His tendency to make startling claims about someone’s cleanness, wholeness, and standing before God.
Jesus would declare the religiously, ceremoniously “clean” to be filthy, unwashed, and in need of forgiveness. He called the spiritual leaders the “blind leading the blind” and “sepulchers full of dead men’s bones.”
To the lepers, He declared them healed. Those with palsy or withered limbs He declared whole. To harlots and thieving tax collectors, He declared their sins forgiven. Not only did Jesus declare it: it happened! Every time, when Jesus told a person they were healed, or clean, or forgiven, they were immediately what He declared of them.
What makes Him qualified to make these declarations, these judgments? His judgment is based on His Father’s word.
John 5:30 “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
John 8:26 “I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.”
John 12:49 “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”
Just as Jesus declared while He was on the earth who was clean and unclean, holy and unholy, so now He retains that authority. In His priestly role, He judges the earth, comparing them to God’s perfect standard. God’s word tells us that we are all sinners; we’re all unclean without Jesus. We must be made clean before we can worship God and experience His life.
Just like the Jews in the Old Testament, we’re unclean through a combination of our own choices and through things we had no control over. We’re all sinners, both because we choose to sin and because this world we’re born in is full of sin. We’re contaminated. We need cleaning, healing, but there is no cure for sin on the earth. We can’t clean ourselves.
Although there were many who were unclean that the priests could not help, Jesus is able to declare anyone who comes to Him in faith to be clean. Why? Because that is what God the Father has said.
Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”
If we’ve trust in Jesus, His role of judgment should not make us afraid. We should find great comfort in His judgment as a high priest for us. When He looks at those who place their faith in Him, He does not see them as unclean, just as He didn’t see the tax collectors or the blind or lame or sinners as unclean. He declared them clean, and He also declares us clean who trust Him! We’re holy, because He says so!
Jesus’s role of high priest gives Him authority to judge who is clean and unclean.
Toward God, Jesus judges His Father to be the Holy One, perfect and pure.
Toward us, Jesus judges that the world is unclean in sin, but those who trust in Him are clean. When Jesus judges that we are clean or unclean, we cannot argue. He is right. If we are unclean, we must listen to how He says to become clean. If we are clean, we must believe His judgment and rest in His word.
Praise God for Jesus, our judging high priest!