“It feels like spoken words, this bridge. I want it but fear it. God, I want so desperately to reach the other side – just like I want the words. I want my words to build bridges strong enough to walk on. I want them to tower over the world so I can stand up on them and walk to the other side.” ― Markus Zusak, Getting the Girl
Bridges are a powerful metaphor for connection. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer uses many similar metaphors to develop our understanding of Jesus as the ultimate Connector, the pioneer journey man, the bridge-builder.
What does Jesus bridge? He is bridging that sense of dislocation and separation that Zusak summed up in the word “desperately.” He bridges the spiritual realities that we call “earth” and “heaven.”
One of the metaphors is suggested by the word “priest.” The writer of this letter saw three constituents in the idea of “priest” as a bridge. First, that the priest should represent the people before God. Second, that he should offer gifts and sacrifices. Third, that his calling should be from God, and not a matter of personal aggrandizement or self-selection.
This was the idea of the Old Testament. In Judaism the priest was a representative of the people, going on their behalf into the “Holy Place” of God’s presence. He represented the holiness of the nation. But this was notional: the idea was only implied, not fulfilled. He was never holy in himself. He only entered into a fictitious Holy of Holies. For the idea to become real, it must be in One who should actually be what the Jewish priest was by representation, and who should carry our humanity into the real Holy of Holies-the presence of God; thus becoming our Eternal Priest. Only thus would the bridge be finally built.
Second, it was implied that his call must be Divine. But in Psalm 110 a higher call is intimated than that Divine call which was made to the Aaronic priesthood by a regular succession, or, as it is called in the letter, “the law of a carnal commandment.” Melchizedek’s call is spoken of. The king is called a priest after his order. Not a derived or hereditary priesthood; not one transmissible, beginning and ending in himself (Heb 7: 1-3), but a priesthood, in other words, of character, of inward right: an internal call, or, as the writer calls it, a priest “after the power of an endless life.” This was the idea for which the Jewish psalms themselves prepared the people of the Old Testament.
Again, the priests offered gifts and sacrifices. Gifts were thank-offerings; the first-fruits of the harvest- the best that we the people have to give! They expressed gratitude and joy in God’s provision.
Sacrifices, on the other hand, implied a sense of deep unworthiness! And again and again, prophets and psalmists noted that no sacrifice was complete which did not reach the conscience (For example: Psalm 51: 16,17; Hebrews 10: 8-12). The only real sacrifice was a complete surrender to God’s will as the ground of all sacrifices, and that which alone gives it a significance. It’s not a matter of the mere sacrifice of victims… “Then said I, Lo, I come to do your will, O God.” That is the sacrifice which God wills.
And it’s important to realize that every other notion of sacrifice is false. As soon as you introduce some idea of retaliation or vindictiveness… if you think of appeasing God’s fury, or you over-simplify the concept of Jesus dying on the cross as “The price is now paid” then you are missing this point, and the bridge remains incomplete.
This alone makes the worshipper complete as regards the conscience. Only He who can offer it in total surrender, He alone is the world’s Atonement.
Here is F.W.Robertson’s conclusion on this point:
“He in whose heart the Law was, and who alone of all mankind was content to do it, His sacrifice alone can be the sacrifice all-sufficient in the Father’s sight as the proper sacrifice of humanity: He who through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, He alone can give the Spirit which enables us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. He is the only High-priest of the universe.”
And it is finished. The word has been spoken. The bridge has been built.