Zechariah’s vision was about the forgiveness of sin. It was about justification. It was about how God declares sinners righteous by imputing to them his righteousness. In other words, it was about the gospel. This is clear from the rest of Zechariah’s prophecy. The prophet went on to say that what he saw was “symbolic of things to come,” that it concerned the Savior whom God was planning to send, who would remove his people’s sin in a single day (Zechariah 3:8, 9). In other words, it was about Jesus and the salvation of sinners through his death on the cross.
What the Old Testament says about the priesthood points us to Jesus Christ, whom God has appointed to be our great High Priest.
Jesus Christ is the one man whom God has appointed to be our great High Priest forever. The Apostle John hints at this near the end of his Gospel. According to John, “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.” Then John tells us something significant about this garment: it was “seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom” (John 19:23). Earlier he had described the garment as a “purple robe” (John 19:2). John included these details not because he was interested in fashion but because they connected to the Old Testament. For one thing they confirmed the prophecy of Psalm 22 that people would gamble for the Messiah’s clothes. But they also pointed to Jesus’ identity as priest. Who was the man in the Old Testament who wore a seamless robe, woven with purple? It was the high priest, whose robe was made of a single piece, with an opening for his head. By mentioning the seamless robe, John hinted that when Jesus died on the cross, he was doing the high-priestly work of bearing our sin.
The high priest was the symbol; Jesus is the reality. He does all the things for us that the high priest did for Israel. He bears the burden of our sin on his shoulders. He carries our concerns close to his heart. He represents us before God. And as he does this priestly work, he stands in perfect holiness, so that we are holy to the Lord.