Yesterday was Pentecost, considered the birthday of the Christian Church. The events of the first Christian Pentecost are recorded in Acts 2. However, Pentecost was a Jewish celebration of the Festival of Weeks, which is why the first disciples were gathered together on this day.
In church yesterday, our visiting pastor preached on the priesthood of all believers, which is a teaching that comes out of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all the believers of Christ at the Pentecost gathering. He pointed out that although the early church did have apostles, there were no pastors, bishops, priests, or cardinals mentioned in the Acts 2 account. The Holy Spirit came upon all who believed — upon each the same as on the apostles. This was something new and different from what occurred in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the tribe of Levi was set apart as the priests, and only they could sacrifice the lamb on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins. But when Christ came, that changed. When John the Baptist first saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29. No longer would the priests sacrifice the lambs for the people’s sins, for the sacrifice of the Lamb of God would take the place of the repeated sacrifices by the priests.
Interestingly, on the way to church yesterday, I was listening to a song that fit the sermon topic perfectly. It’s by a band called The O.C. Supertones and it’s called “The Shepherd is the Lamb.” The chorus is:
The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb
I wonder, do you understand? God is both Shepherd of the flock and the Lamb that is slain to atone for our sins. In the background of the song, at the beginning and in the middle, is a person speaking, and he says:
The incarnation is God’s grace made evident and obvious. People matter. Life is sacred. Men, women, and children are worth the greatest sacrifice, the supreme effort, the ultimate gift.
It is the amazing manifestation of His unshakeable love for the unloved and the unlovely, the weak, the base, the unworthy and the unwarranted, the rebels and the sinners. . . . You and me.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites had to go through the priests, the Levites, to communicate with God. In the temple, God resided in the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. Only the High Priest could enter there and there was a curtain several inches thick that hung in front of the opening to the place where God was. The unclean — the unloved and the unlovely — had no access to God because they could not even approach the temple courts.
But when Christ died, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, as recorded in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45. The barrier between all believers and God was ripped away so that we became the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to show others the Way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God. We are all, whether pastor or lay person in the church, called to serve one another in love. No longer are we separated from God and in need of another, of a priest or pastor, to do something to atone for our sins. We need only Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away all our sin. Like John the Baptist, we are called to point to Jesus and say to others, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”