Do You Have a Priest?
By: Deji Yesufu
Roman Catholics and Anglicans call their ministers priests. It is the same name, but they have different functions in the life of these churches. While the Anglican Priest will operate like a regular pastor in any Protestant church, the Roman Catholic priest has a lot more functions and powers. The Catholic Priest administers the Mass: which is the Sunday morning worship service that incorporates the vital aspect of communion, where, as Protestants contend, Christ appears to be crucified all over again. Catholics will not put it this way though; but what they will not disagree with is that only the priest must administer communion and in the communion is present the body and blood of Christ in a manner more real than figurative. The Catholic Priest also absolves the faithful of sin. When Catholics are dying, the priest is invited to administer forgiveness of sin. Most Protestants do not do this because they are convinced that the Catholic practice is not biblical. I’m of this position too, although this article is not meant to debate the issue – I have other fish to fry. Follow me.
At Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Ibadan, this past Sunday, I taught on the doctrine of Jesus Christ who is our High Priest. One statement I made in that sermon has occasioned this essay. I told my listeners the story of the battle of Normandy that took place on the 6th of June, 1944. It was from that battle we got the word “D-DAY”. The United States of America had eventually taken the decision to enter the second world war. They joined Britain and Canada to form the Allied forces. Germany, Italy, and Japan were called the “Axis”. The USA had thought deeply about the most effective way to enter the war. The answer was found in happening all around Europe. Hitler had spread his army thin all over Europe, first in keeping guard over conquered territories and second to invade Russia, to cease Joseph Stalin’s oil well because Hitler needed money to fund the war. The Allied forces then decided to enter Europe through the South of France: Normandy. They understood that Hitler will station more than enough men on the beach of Omaha to “welcome” any invading force. The Allied figured that if they bring enough men to this battle, a number of these men will be cut down but the remaining that survive will take the beach. And that was what happened. What the Allied did not envision was the sheer number of men that will die doing this. 160,000 troops invaded the beach of Omaha on D-Day itself. An estimated 4,000 men were killed, and the remaining took Normandy. The battle of Normandy is regarded as the beginning of the end of World War 2.
No one has been able to paint accurately the horrors of the second world war. Most of the information we have of it were gotten from testimonies of soldiers who survived the war and many of those testimonies have been made into movies. Probably one of the best made movies on the second world war was the 1998 film by Steven Spielberg called “Saving Private Ryan”. The opening scenes of the movie was the battle at the Omaha Beach. It is estimated that practically all the first batch of troops that landed on the beach were killed by enemy fire. The numbers that will die would however reduce as more and more troops invaded Normandy. In the movie, a soldier/priest crawls up to a dying soldier and helps him to prepare to die properly. He is seen reciting words to the dying soldier, telling him to ask for absolving of his sin and to trust in Christ to save him from an eternal hell. A lot of things happened in that movie but maybe because I am a pastor, that scene stands out for me. It became very clear to me that the day will come when we will all need a priest. I am thoroughly convinced that a Roman Catholic Priest will not succeed in preparing a soul to meet God – the Bible is very clear about that. I do not believe that the efforts of soldier/priest will help either – although it is possible that for a dying soldier to lay hold on Christ by faith (it happened with the thief on the cross). What will save any man at the point of death is if they have genuinely made Jesus Christ their High Priest while they lived. This is what has prompted this question: Do you have a priest?
In the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he came to earth; lived, died, and resurrected, three distinctive offices can be seen: Jesus Christ is our Prophet; he is our High Priest; and he is our King. Christ, as Prophet, instructs us in the ways of God. Christ as Priest saves us from the guilt of sin. Christ as our King rules over us and helps us. The concept of Jesus Christ being a High Priest had been foreshadowed in the high priestly office of Aaron. In Leviticus 16, there is an elaborate explanation with regards to how Aaron was to carry out atonement for the sins of the children of Israel. We see at some point that the high priest himself would have to make sacrifices for his own sins and for the sins of his household. Then he will have two goats before him: one of them will be killed as sacrifice; while he lays his hands on the head of the other, placing the sins of the people of God for that year on that animal, and that animal will be sent into the wilderness as a scapegoat. In the person of Jesus Christ, all of these is fulfilled in a unique way. The book of Hebrew tells us that Christ is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrew 5:6); that Christ has a better priesthood than that of Aaron in that our Lord never makes atonement for his own sins (Hebrew 4:15); that Christ’s priesthood is an eternal one (Hebrew 7:23-25).
The reason why religion thrive in places where people are suffering the most is because adversity makes mortal men to turn to an unseen God for help. During the second world war, religion took up new life in Europe. R. T. Kendall wrote in “Worshiping God” that the last time England had a day committed to prayers and fasting, as one nation, was during the second world war. It was also during the war that C. S. Lewis started a radio broadcast where he gave a couple of talks on the meaning of life. Those talks will eventually be compiled into his ever-green book “Mere Christianity”. So, when a bullet passes through the heart of a man and it is clear to him that he has but a moment to pass into eternity, the prayers of a priest, any priest for that matter, will make sense to him. He will say any prayer if only that prayer will save his soul in eternity. It is the reason why it is most vital to answer the question: do you have a priest? The Christian message presents Jesus Christ to you as a priest. The Bible calls Christ a faithful High Priest. Our Lord is able to forgive your sins; Christ is able to absolve you from all iniquity – washing you white as snow and rendering you as if you committed no sin. It is important that you make Jesus Christ your High Priest. Why?
Because no one knows the day of death. No one knows the time or circumstances that will bring his death. The men who went to Normandy to fight did not plan that their lives will be put into such peril. Most of them were merely boys between ages 16 and 25. In fact no one anticipated the death toll that will befall the first batch of troops. Hours of aerial bombarding of the beach by the Allied forces was believed to have weakened whatever fighting forces the German had on that beach. But the Germans built such heavy bunkers that withstood the bombs so that they remained unscathed and were fully alert when the Allied troops arrived. Those men met with death – a famous picture of troops reaching Omaha beach has the caption “Into the Jaws of Death”. Those boys laid down their lives for others to live. But no matter the sacrifice they made for others; it is still not sufficient to save them in eternity. Only the sacrifice of the High Priest, Jesus Christ, will suffice.
Is Christ your Priest? Are your sins forgiven? Can you enter the jaws of death with the confidence that you will come out unscathed? In the gospel God has given us salvation from sin. God has given us a priest whose sacrifice and meditation alone is sufficient to absolve of all sins. No Roman Catholic Priest can absolve you of sin; no Anglican priest can rid you of your sin; no Pastor can forgive your sin. Only Christ, God’s appointed High Priest, can do this.
Is Jesus Christ your Priest?