Our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Because you and I – and everyone else – have a sin problem, we need a high priest. The role of the high priest is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God for sin (Heb. 5:1). Jesus fulfills that role. “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2). “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). Jesus is our high priest. As our high priest, Jesus is –
A Great High Priest, v 14
Jesus is a great high priest. He is much superior to angels (Heb 1:4). He is much superior to Moses (Heb 3:3-6). He is much superior to the Aaronic priesthood – He does not need to offer continual sacrifices for sin.
Our great high priest has passed through the heavens. Passing through the heavens obviously refers to Jesus’ ascension and exaltation. Jesus ascended into heaven as his apostles watched (Acts 1:10). Jesus has sat down at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus’ ascension and exaltation are significant. Under the Levitical Code, the high priests would enter the holy of holies to make sacrifice for sin (Lev. 16). The high priest could only enter this place once a year. He could never really enter God’s presence – There was a sense in which the high priest entered God’s presence, but there was another sense in which the high priest could never enter God’s presence.
But, Jesus is different. He remains in heaven – It’s not as though he goes there just one time a year to make atonement for sin. He really is in God’s presence – He sits at God’s right hand.
Jesus is the Son of God. This isn’t merely some man going before God. This is God’s very Son who serves before God. You can easily see the benefits of having God’s Son serving before God. If you were on trial, wouldn’t you like the defense attorney to be the judge’s son? That’s exactly the situation we have here – Jesus, the Son of God, defends us before God’s throne.
We can, therefore, hold fast to our confession. “Confession” refers to our faith. In the Book of Hebrews, the Greek term for “confession” is used as a synonym Christianity, that which we believe. “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus Christ” (3:1). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (10:23). Thus, “confession” means Christianity, our faith.
The meaning here is that since we have a great high priest we can keep being Christians when we sin. When we sin, we don’t have to quit. Jesus is before God’s throne. We can, therefore, pick ourselves back up and keep going. What about you? Are you holding on to your confession?
He is Sympathetic, v 15
We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses – we have a High Priest who can sympathize. Those to whom this author wrote seem to have been afraid that since they had a heavenly high priest he didn’t care about their struggles with sin and with temptation.
Jesus does care about our temptations. Jesus demonstrated great compassion for those who were suffering. When two blind men asked to be healed, Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes” (Matt. 20:34). When Jesus saw the widow of Nain weeping over the death of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'” (Lk. 7:13). Jesus will have compassion on us when we are tempted and when we sin – “Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed to resist some temptation strong; When for my deep grief I find no relief, tho’ my tears flow all the night long? O yes, He cares.”
Jesus can sympathize because he “was in all points tempted as we are.” Jesus was tempted to sin. Some have the idea that the only time Jesus was tempted was when he was in the wilderness. Luke records that Satan left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). Satan came back and tempted Jesus again. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus faced fierce, fierce temptations. Satan knew that if he could get Jesus to sin, he had won and all humanity would be cast into hell. Satan, I am sure, pulled all the punches he could in an effort to get Jesus to sin.
Jesus was tempted as we are. Jesus faced the same type of temptations we face. Although the specific temptations may be different, Jesus faced the same type of temptations. Jesus faced all the different types of temptation you face. Jesus endured those temptations so that he could be your high priest.
Yet, Jesus lived without sin. Jesus never sinned (1 Pet. 2:22). If Jesus had sinned, we would not have a High Priest, but because he lived without sin, he can serve before God’s throne on our behalf.
He is Helpful, v 16
We can draw near to God’s throne with confidence. This is God’s throne of grace. Before God’s throne of grace, I can be forgiven of every sin. Rabbis pictured God as having two thrones – the throne of judgment and the throne of grace. God’s throne of judgment was where he sentenced individuals. Yet, when he forgave, he went from the throne of judgment to the throne of grace. We can approach this throne where God forgives.
This we can do in boldness. We can have boldness because we know Jesus has died for sin. We can have boldness because we know God will forgive.
We can receive mercy. Mercy is good-will toward someone who doesn’t deserve it. God forgives us of sin even though we don’t deserve it.
We can find grace to help in time of need. “Help” is an interesting term. The word originally meant to run on hearing a cry. The term was used of the help needed to avert disaster such as quick reinforcement of an army to prevent defeat. Jesus comes to our aid when we need him (1 Cor. 10:13).
We find this help in time of need. Jesus doesn’t wait until it’s too late to come to our aid – he does so when we need him. In the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson defeated the British troops in less than a half hour during which 289 British soldiers died. However, the Treaty of Ghent which ended the war had been signed two weeks earlier, but the treaty had not been ratified by the United States Senate. Ratification of the treaty came too late to save those soldiers. Jesus’ help doesn’t come too late.
As our high priest, Jesus has made sacrifice to God. He sacrificed himself (Eph. 5:25-27). Other high priests would offer animals, but Jesus offered himself. Do you need to come to Jesus and have the forgiveness of your sins?