Paul taught that Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the “new covenant” (Hebrews 8:8). He explained that Christ’s sacrifice is superior to the Mosaic sacrifices and that the Mosaic ordinances were meant to point the people to the Savior and His Atonement.
Using a flashlight, create a shadow of a small object (such as keys or scissors) on the board. Ask students if they can identify the object by looking only at its shadow. Point out that we can often determine what an object is by looking at its shadow.
Display the picture Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Gospel Art Book , no. 56; see also LDS.org). Explain that the Old Testament records ceremonies and ordinances that functioned as types and shadows, or that symbolized and foreshadowed the Savior and His Atonement.
What are examples recorded in the Old Testament of types and shadows of Jesus Christ and His Atonement?
Explain that every aspect of the law of Moses was intended to function as a type or shadow that pointed the Israelites to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice (see 2 Nephi 11:4; Jacob 4:4–5). Paul explained how several parts of the law did this. He wanted to help the Jewish Saints remain faithful to Jesus Christ instead of reverting to following the law of Moses.
Summarize Hebrews 7:1–22 by explaining that Paul cited an Old Testament prophecy about the coming of a priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4; see also Hebrews 7:1). He taught that Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy. Melchizedek was a righteous king and the high priest who presided over Abraham (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:25–40 [in the Bible appendix]; Alma 13:14–19; Bible Dictionary, “Melchizedek”). Paul used Melchizedek as a type and shadow of Jesus Christ. He taught that Jesus Christ and His priesthood were necessary because the Levitical Priesthood, along with the law of Moses it administered, could not perfect God’s children (see Hebrews 7:11). You may want to explain that the Levitical Priesthood refers to the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood held by members of the tribe of Levi (see Bible Dictionary, “Aaronic Priesthood”).
Display the picture Moses Gives Aaron the Priesthood (Gospel Art Book, no. 15; see also LDS.org) alongside the picture Jesus Praying in Gethsemane. Explain that as recorded in Hebrews 7, Paul compared the Levitical priests to Jesus Christ. You might explain that one role of a Levitical priest was to act as a mediator, symbolically standing between the people and God to resolve their differences.
Write Hebrews 7:23–28 on the board. Divide students into pairs, and invite each pair to read these verses aloud together. Ask them to also read Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 7:25–26. This scripture is located in the Bible appendix. Invite one student in each pair to look for phrases that describe the Levitical priests, and ask the other student in the pair to look for phrases that describe Jesus Christ. Explain that the word they in Hebrews 7:23 refers to the priests.
After sufficient time, invite the students who looked for phrases describing the priests to report what they found. Write their responses on the board under the picture of Moses and Aaron. (Their answers may include the following: the priests needed to be replaced by other priests when they died [see Hebrews 7:23]; they offered sacrifices daily for their own sins and for the people’s sins [see Hebrews 7:27]; and the priests had infirmities [see Hebrews 7:28].)
Invite the students who looked for phrases describing Jesus Christ to report what they found. Write their responses on the board under the picture of Jesus Christ. (Their answers should include statements like the following: Jesus Christ and His priesthood are “unchangeable,” or eternal [Hebrews 7:24]; He can save those who “come unto God by him” [Hebrews 7:25]; He lives to “make intercession for [us]” [Hebrews 7:25]; He was sinless and therefore “needeth not offer sacrifice for his own sins” [Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 7:26]; He only had to offer one sacrifice, which was “for the sins of the people” [Joseph Smith Translation, Hebrews 7:26]; and He is “consecrated for evermore” [Hebrews 7:28].)
Explain that the phrase “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25) means that the Savior’s mission is to intervene on our behalf to help us return to God.
How would you explain the differences between Jesus Christ and the Levitical priests?
Invite a student to read Hebrews 8:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what all high priests, including Jesus Christ, were ordained, or called, to do.
What were the high priests ordained to do?
What truth can we learn from this verse about what Jesus Christ did for us? (Using their own words, students should identify the following truth: Jesus Christ offered His own life as a sacrifice for our sins.)
What phrases listed on the board help us understand why Jesus Christ was able to offer His own life as a sacrifice for our sins?
Invite students to ponder what the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ means to them. Ask them to complete one of the following statements in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
I am grateful for my Savior because …
I know my Savior loves me because …
I have been blessed by the Atonement because …
After sufficient time, invite a few students to share what they wrote if they feel it is not too personal.
Summarize Hebrews 8:5–13 by explaining that because of His sacrifice, Jesus Christ became “the mediator of a better covenant” (verse 6), a covenant which, if accepted by the people, would help them come to “know the Lord” (verse 11) and be cleansed from their iniquities.
Before class, draw the accompanying diagram on the board.
Explain that as recorded in Hebrews 9–10, Paul continued to compare the Levitical high priests to Jesus Christ by discussing the duties the priests performed on the Day of Atonement. Invite a student to read aloud the following paragraph:
Once a year on the Jewish holy day called the Day of Atonement (also called Yom Kippur), the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies) in the tabernacle or, later, the Jerusalem temple. There, the high priest sacrificed a bullock and a he-goat. He sprinkled the animals’ blood in designated places in the Most Holy Place to symbolize Christ’s Atonement for the priest’s sins and for the people’s sins. The high priest then symbolically transferred the people’s sins onto another he-goat (called the scapegoat), which was then driven into the wilderness, signifying the removal of the people’s sins. He also sacrificed two rams as burnt offerings for himself and the people. (See Bible Dictionary, “Fasts”; see also Leviticus 16:22.)
Assign half of the class to read Hebrews 9:11, 12, 24, 28 and the other half to read Hebrews 10:1, 4, 10–12. Ask each group to read their assigned verses silently, looking for how the events on the Day of Atonement were types and shadows of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. After sufficient time, invite students from each group to report what they found. Then ask:
Just as the high priests entered the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement, what “holy place” (Hebrews 9:12) could the Savior enter because of His Atonement? (Heavenly Father’s presence, or celestial glory.)
What could Jesus Christ’s sacrifice do that the “blood of bulls and of goats” (Hebrews 10:4) could not?
Why, then, did the high priests perform these sacrifices on the Day of Atonement? (To demonstrate “a shadow of the good things to come” [Hebrews 10:1], or to point to the Savior’s Atonement.)
Invite a student to read Hebrews 10:17–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Atonement makes possible.
According to verse 19, where can we enter because of Jesus’s sacrifice? (The “holiest” place, or God’s presence in the celestial kingdom.)
According to verse 20, how do we enter God’s presence?
Explain that the “new and living way” refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the plan by which we can be forgiven and sanctified through His Atonement and thereby become worthy to return to God’s presence.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we can enter the celestial kingdom if …
Invite a student to read Hebrews 10:22–23 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what we must do to enter the celestial kingdom. Invite students to report what they find.
Complete the statement on the board so that it reads as follows: Because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, we can enter the celestial kingdom if we hold fast to our faith in Him.
What do you think it means to “hold fast” (verse 23) to our faith in Jesus Christ?
Invite a student to read Hebrews 10:35–38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the counsel Paul gave that can help us hold fast to our faith in Jesus Christ.
What can we do to hold fast to our faith in Jesus Christ?
What does it mean to “cast not away … your confidence”? (verse 35).
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in which he explains what it means to “cast not away [our] confidence”:
“In Latter-day Saint talk that is to say, Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you” (“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 8).
Whom do you know who is a good example of holding fast to his or her faith in Jesus Christ?
Invite students to ponder their commitment to hold fast to their faith in Jesus Christ. Ask them to write down how they will increase their commitment and ability to do this.