By Diane CastonHebrews 4:14 – 5:11
The Hebrew Christians who received this letter were sorely tempted to return to the religion of their fathers. After all, any Jew could travel to Jerusalem and see the temple and the priests ministering at the altar. Here was something real, visible, concrete. When a person is going through persecution, as these Hebrew Christians were, it is much easier to walk by sight than by faith. Some of us have doubted the Lord under much less provocation than the readers of this letter were enduring.
One of the main themes of Hebrews is rest. God Himself ordained rest in the beginning. Entering into the rest is key as Jeri taught last week. If there is no rest; there is no faith. We are continually encouraged to enter His rest. There are overtones of rest all through this book and there are double meanings. It is not just written to Christians as a whole, but also to Jewish Christians who struggled with returning to a system of sanctification through works of the law, although unattainable, instead of wholeheartedly accepting the free gift of grace, or rest in the finished work of Christ. So, the writer encourages them.
Vs. 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession . Do not give up!
This High Priest, Jesus Christ, has a superior title, the Great High Priest, because He is also the Son of God. He passed through the heavens. After He finished the work He came to do, He passed through the heavens, or ascended to His Father, through the atmospheric heavens, and the planetary heavens, to the third heaven where God dwells. His original home. This High Priest was/is also compassionate because He was a man, but He was different because He never sinned. He is God, so He knows no sin in Himself. He did what the earthly priest could not do. Jesus is still working for us now in the heavens.
“Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 He stands before the Father interceding or pleading for us.
Verse 14 also tells us that we HAVE this Great High Priest. It denotes ownership. I have a house, I have children, I have a great High Priest! “I am my beloveds and He is mine!” He is yours, your very own, wholly yours. You can use Him; you can trust Him; you can call on him,; you can depend on Him as your High Priest to bring you before the Father.
Heb.3:1 “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus,”
Consider Him, our Apostle and High Priest. He is the beginning of our faith. He is the one who reached out to us, wooed us to Himself, who taught us to believe by His Holy Spirit, the founder of our faith. He is also the High Priest, the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, so that we could come to Him and come before the Father and not be incinerated! The blood of His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father for our sins!
Vs .15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
“Yet He endured triumphantly every form of testing that man could endure, without any weakening of His faith in God or any relaxation of His obedience to Him. Such endurance involves more, not less, than ordinary human suffering.” (FF Bruce)
He could sympathize. To the ancient Greeks, the primary attribute of God was apatheia, the essential inability to feel anything at all. Jesus is not like that. He knows and He feels what we go through. The ancient Greek word translated sympathize literally means “to suffer along with.”
He was tempted in all points! Think of some of the things we are tempted with - lust, anger, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, pride, idolatry, unbelief. He faced them all. The things we struggle with, He did too, so He understands our difficulties.
For this reason, we hold fast to what we believe. We have nowhere else to go, but to the Rock, Jesus Christ! We cling to Him because He understands. He knows our sins better than we do – past, present, and future. He loves us in spite them.
All our thoughts and intentions are laid bare before Him. Nothing is hidden from Him. Apart from our High Priest this would be terrifying. He understands! He is not insensitive. Every thought we have, every attack by the flesh, all the vile things we have imagined, He has been tempted with too.
Because of this we can come before the throne of grace.
Vs.16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The throne of grace!! What a term! What a place! Aaron and the earthly High Priests ministered in the temple made with hands, which was a copy of what was in heaven. Jesus ministers in the Heavenly temple. Jesus is enthroned, and His throne is a throne of grace. It is open 24/7 to all who come through the sacrifice of Jesus. We can run to Him anytime, with any circumstance, to find the grace we need.
In the Holy of Holies on earth only the High Priest could enter and then only once a year. Now we enter the holy of holies in heaven. However, we do not just come for forgiveness. We come also for the grace that is the empowering to be free from sin. The grace that will help us to be obedient, to become mature, to not fall in the same sin over and over again.
It is difficult for us to have any conception of what heaven is. We tried last week as Jeri gave us various scenarios. It is so high, so bright, and so full of glory that it is inconceivable. Scripture tells us that God dwells in an unapproachable light. It is a place beyond our imagination, beyond time and space, and into the mystery of divine power and glory. John got a glimpse in a vision of heaven.
Revelation 4:1-11 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones, I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”
This is the throne of grace we come before in our prayers! Can you imagine setting foot there apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ? But all glory to the Lamb, we can come, and come boldly, and there we will find mercy and the grace to continue. We will find His mercy every time. We will find His rest.
One work of our High Priest is to bring us to God. Another is to give us perfect confidence in drawing near. The measure of our nearness to God is our knowledge of Jesus. One of the great fruits of our relationship with Jesus is BOLDNESS. The highest form of confidence, unhesitating assurance, a childlike liberty in speaking to our Father. That boldness is the essence of a healthy Christian life. Let us come boldly before Him.
Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. 3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. 4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.”( Ps. 2:7) 6 As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”(Ps.110:4)
The writer compares the difference in Christ’s priesthood to the earthly priesthood. High priests in the Jewish system were men who had to offer sacrifices repeatedly. The earthly high priest could be compassionate, because he also was weak. He had to make offerings for his own sin, and these sacrifices had to be made continually.
No one just decided to become a High Priest. He was chosen by God from among the family of Aaron, the family or line of the priests. Jesus was also chosen.
Wiersbe “The very existence of a priesthood and a system of sacrifices gave evidence that man is estranged from God. It was an act of grace on God’s part that He instituted the whole Levitical system. Today, that system is fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He is both the sacrifice and the High Priest who ministers to God’s people based on His once-for-all offering on the cross.” He fulfills a two-fold relationship, mediation - to God for us, to us for God.
“To the doubting soul Jesus counts it His highest honor to do His work in any needy one that turns to Him. Therefore, the Father appointed Him and it is why He was obedient by what He sacrificed to become our High Priest. Be assured He delights to do His work. Learn to turn from yourself and all human help to trust Jesus your High Priest to lead you into the life and love of the Father.” Andrew Murray
Vs 7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
This is one of the most mind boggling and inconceivable truths of the whole bible. How could the very God of heaven learn through obedience? But we see the conundrum of the Son of God, fully human, fully God. The one who allowed Himself to become subject to the limitations and temptations of human flesh for us!
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
The writer of Hebrews impresses on us the humanity of Jesus, made like His brothers, partaking in flesh like us, tempted in all things like us. Fully exposing the blessed humiliation of the Son of God, he takes us to Gethsemane and the wonderous agony there, the last stage of the preparation and perfecting of our High Priest. ‘Who in the days of His flesh’- His spirit was willing, but His flesh was weak. Just like us, unless the weakness of the flesh was overcome by power received in prayer for help from above, that weakness would become temptation then sin. It is why He asked his friends, his disciples, to pray with Him. He had the terrible reality that His own weakness could become sin.
In the days of His flesh, strong crying, tears convulsing, struggling with temptation. He prayed in Lk 22:42 “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Ever feel like that? Sorely tested, weak in the flesh, crying out to God? He hears our cries. He knows our broken heartedness.
Hebrews 12: 3-4 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. But He had! Praise God He can strengthen us!
“His sinlessness was, at least in part, an earned sinlessness as he gained victory after victory in the constant battle with temptation that life in this world entails.” (Morris)
He had to empty Himself to complete surrender to His Father. He was in the flesh, tested like us, and received the power He needed from His Father. He suffered throughout His life to overcome temptation and the consummation of this was met in Gethsemane and the cross.
Vs 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him ,
Having been made perfect, He is the source of our eternal salvation. Only Jesus can make us mature. There is a phrase in this verse, that sadly I think we often overlook. Our salvation is dependent on our obedience. Just as He suffered to become obedient to His Father, we need to also sacrifice our flesh to become obedient also. Jesus did not die so that we would remain disobedient children. He died so that we would have the access to Him and the power to overcome our sinful flesh!
“Our obedience is as indispensable as His. When we turn all our desire and will to the Lord and give Him free reign in our lives, we will find our true meaning and the fulness of life.”
Jesus came to earth to do the will of His Father. He is our example. We also need to seek the power from above found at the throne of His grace to do the will of the Father. We need to make sure we have not stopped short of the salvation He has for us. It is not just pie in the sky when we die! It is a salvation that demands our all, trusting Jesus for the power to overcome our flesh, and one day be able to be seated with Him on that throne of grace forever!!