On this morning on which our Savior died, there is one final beautiful image of the bloody Jesus that is worth looking at. It is the image of Christ as priest.
We are told that we have a great high priest, that Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek. And all of this is indeed true, but we also have to realize that in His living ministry, we never see Jesus acting as priest. We see Him acting as teacher. We see Him proclaiming as prophet. We see Him working and walking toward Calvary, but we never really understand that this prophet-teacher is about to become prophet-teacher-priest.
After all, who would have thought that the sacrifice could become the sacrificer? (That was one of the primary functions of the priest in Old Testament theology.)
Here, we have to go back to Exodus 29, to the anointing of the first priests after the institution of the Tabernacle (which would later become, of course, the Temple). It's not Melchizedek; it's Aaron and his sons.
The anointing of the priests was a fairly elaborate ritual. First, the one to be anointed comes forward. He is stripped of his common clothes and clothed with the priestly garments, something completely new to put on .Then they come and slaughter a few animals, dabbing the blood on the corners of the altar and pouring out the rest at the base, for the altar must be holy before the priest can be. (It is the altar that makes the priest holy and not the other way around, you know.)
From the third animal that they sacrifice, they take some of the blood and put it on the ear lobes, the thumbs, and the big toes of the anointed. Then they take what is left of the sacrifice into a holy place, and none of it should be left when it is morning.
That's a lot to sort through, I know, but I also tried to edit it down so that the connections with the Cross should be abundantly clear.
Jesus was stripped of his common clothes and on Him were placed just mere rags. Just the basics. Something new for Him to wear. The hill on which He was to die was already covered with blood, already prepared as a place for blood to be spilled. There was already a sanctity to that place, as God has always put an emphasis on blood as the bearer of life.
Jesus becomes the third animal in the sacrifice - He is nailed to the Cross with two thieves, one on His right and one on His left. He has become, therefore, the anointing sacrifice. And the blood of this sacrifice covered His own ear lobes (from the crown of thorns), His thumbs and His toes (from the nails).
When the sacrifice was complete, when Christ died, He was taken outside of the city to a holy place, a tomb in a garden, and He was buried. But not a bit of Him was left in the morning. The tomb was empty. The place abandoned. The sacrifice gone.
The anointed risen.
We have indeed a great high priest. On Calvary this day, He was anointed for us.