The stench must have been wretched: long lines of livestock, birds, and produce coming to the temple to meet their ends for the sake of sacrifice to Yahweh. The smell of the temple mount must have been something like the mixture of a zoo, a slaughterhouse, and a barbecue joint all mixed together. On and on it went, day after day, slaughtered animal after slaughtered animal. The priests were kept busy spilling the blood and stoking the fires for their own sins and for the sins of the people entrusted to their spiritual care. They kept it up: the weighty, tiresome task of killing for recompense until the ultimate end of sin—that is, death—caught up with them, too. It is almost tragic to ponder. Day after day, they worked until their lives gave out, giving their entire lives to continually offering sacrifices, which, at best, brought right standing before God only temporarily. It was holy work, but at times it must have seemed wholly useless.
It has been said the shortest summary of the book of Hebrews could be, “Jesus is better.” The new oath God makes to us through Jesus is better than the Law God gave Moses. Jesus is a better Priest than the generations that dutifully worked in the temple. There are at least a couple of reasons for this.
First, Jesus lives forever, so He’s able to permanently intercede on our behalf. Death could not keep Him in its grasp. There is no need for generation after generation of priests to do the interceding until death takes them. Jesus alone can carry the baton into eternity.
Second, and even better, there is no longer the need for continual sacrifices. There is no longer the need for the constant parade to the slaughter. Jesus sacrificed Himself once for all, bringing an end to all other sacrifices.
The Law was weak and useless, for the Law made nothing perfect. The Law appointed men as high priests in all their weaknesses. Jesus is better. In Christ, we have a High Priest who is without weakness. In Christ, we—yes, even we—are being made perfect. God has kept the promise to us in Jesus the Son, who has been made perfect forever—holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Yes, Jesus is better. Thanks be to God, Jesus has come to us.
Hebrews 7:23-28 (NIV):
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.