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OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST
Intro: The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jews who were exiled from Israel. The book was addressed to that Jewish community to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. While the majority of the book was written to believers to encourage them to remain faithful to their commitment to Jesus, this book was also written to unsaved Jews who have abandoned Judaism, but who have yet to believe on Jesus Christ. They are called upon to trust Jesus, to enter into His rest and be saved, Heb. 4:1-13.
The major appeal of thus far has been negative. The message has been, If you do not come to Jesus, you will be doomed. These unconverted Jews are called upon to escape Hell by coming to Jesus for salvation.
Now, the writer shifts to the positive side of the Gospel. While salvation keeps us out of Hell, it does so much more for us than that. Salvation delivers us from death, but it also gives us eternal life.
Salvation also changes our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The lost will face Jesus Christ as their judge; the redeemed know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
The Jews who received this letter were used to gaining their access to God through a human priest, the writer of Hebrews wants them to know that saving faith in Jesus Christ provides believers with a High Priest Who is far better than any human high priest.
This passage highlights the characteristics that make Jesus worthy to be called Our Great High Priest. I believe there is some much needed help in these verses today.
We all need help as we pass through this world. We need someone to support us, to encourage us and to strengthen us. The Person we need is revealed in this passage. I want to talk to you about Our Great High Priest. Notice with me the characteristics that are revealed about Him in these verses.
I. v. 14 OUR HIGH PRIEST
A. He Is Superior In His Personality – The ancient Jews depended on their high priest. He was the man who represented them to the Lord. He was the man who interceded for them before the Lord. He was the man who offered the blood sacrifices that atoned for their sins. The high priest was an important part of their lives, their worship and their relationship with God. The major problem with the Jewish high priests was that they were human.
They needed forgiveness, just like the people they represented. They needed forgiveness, just like the people they represented. They were sinners, just like the people they represented. They were prone to failure, just like the people they represented.
Our High Priest is superior because He is not just a human High Priest. He is the Son of God! He is sinless. He cannot sin. He cannot fail. He does not need forgiveness, for He is perfect!
B. He Is Superior In His Performance – Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest offered a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Before the he could enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement, he had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins. Then he took the blood of the atonement sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the mercy seat. When he entered the Holy of holies, his time there was limited. He could only be there while he was offering the sacrifice. When he was finished he had to leave the presence of the Lord. Every year, this same process had to be repeated. To get to the Holy of Holies, the high priest had to pass through three portals. He passed through the gate into the courtyard of the tabernacle. He passed through the door into the holy place. Then, he passed by the veil into the Holy of Holies. (cf. Lev. 16)
Jesus is superior in His performance because Jesus has no sins of His Own, but He made atonement for our sins, 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 2:24. He did not offer the blood of a goat; He offered His Own sinless blood, Heb. 13:12. He does not have to repeat His sacrifice, Heb. 10:11-12. What He did stands forever. He did not take His blood through three earthly portals; He passed through three heavens (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2) to enter in to the presence of Almighty God. He passed through the atmosphere, through outer space and into the celestial city of God. Jesus offered His blood as the eternal payment for our sin debt, Heb. 9:23-25. Then, Jesus did what no earthly priest had ever done; He sat down at the right hand of God because His work was forever completed, Heb. 10:12. Jesus is a superior High Priest because He purchased our eternal redemption when He died on the cross.
C. He Is Superior In His People – The Jews were a fickle people. No matter how many times their priests made atonement, they Jews were prone to abandon their commitment to the Lord. Time and again, they wandered away from God.
Jesus is superior to human priests because His people hold fast to their profession. The phrase hold fast means, to seize or take hold of. Those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ will persevere in their commitment to Him. We all fail Him from time to time, but true believers do not walk away from Him. They may falter and they may waver, but they do not drop out on God. One sure mark of genuine salvation is that it produces a changed life, 2 Cor. 5:17, a new birth, John 3:3, and a permanent desire to live for the Lord and to walk with Him. Thus, Jesus is superior to an earthly high priest because His followers are committed to Him and to His will!
I. Our High Priest Is Superior
II. v. 15 OUR HIGH PRIEST
A. Because Of His Human Identity – This verse is clear when it tells us that Jesus is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. One of the problems with a human priest is that he simply cannot know how you feel. He hasnt experienced all the things you are experiencing, thus he cannot sympathize with you. Jesus, one the other hand, can.
The phrase touched with the feeling translates one Greek word. It is the world that gives us our English word sympathy. It means, to be affected with the same feeling. It is more than just feeling our pain. It carries the idea of knowing how we feel coupled with a desire to help. It is a caring heart that reaches out to help the hurting.
How did Jesus gain this kind of heart for His people? He gained it by becoming human, John 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:5-8. When God became a man, God broadened His experience. We all know that God is omniscient. That simply means that He knows everything there is to know. The Bible makes this clear in several places. The best known is probably Psalm 139. Heb. 4:13 and Pro. 15:3 tells us that God knows everything. We agree on that, right? Have you every thought about the fact that there were some things that God knew by observation only and not by experience? There are some things that God will never know by experience. For instance, He will never know what it is to tell a lie. He will never know what it is to bury His mother. He will never know what it is to let someone down. He knows these things by observation, but not by experience. When God became a man, He knows many things now that He only knew by observation before.
Some of those things are negative in nature. While He was here He knew:
· Hunger – Matt. 4:2; 21:18
· Thirst – John 4:7; 19:28
· Fear – Luke 22:41-42
· Weariness – Mark 4:38; John 4:6
· Poverty – Matt. 8:20
· Grief – John 11:33-35; Luke 19:41
· Abandonment – Mark 14:50
· Death – John 19:30
· Pain – Isa. 52:14; 53:4-6
· Anger – Mark 3:5
· Hatred – Mark 11:18
· Indignation – John 2:13-17; Mark 11:15-17
· Need – Luke 8:3
· Submission – Luke 2:52
· Disappointment – Luke 22:61; Matt. 23:37
· Misunderstanding – Mark 3:21; Matt. 11:18
· Sadness – Isa. 53:3; Matt. 26:37-38
· Betrayal – Mark 14:11
· He Had Questions – Luke 2:46
· He Grew In Wisdom – Luke 2:40
· He Learned Obedience – Heb. 5:8
· He Socialized – John 2:1-2
· He Prayed – Mark 1:35; 6:46
· He Was Tempted – Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15
Some of those things are positive in nature.
· Love – Mark 10:21; John 11:5
· Friendship – Matt. 11:19; John 11:11; 15:13-15
· Compassion – Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32
· Joy – Heb. 12:2
· Wonder – Matt. 8:10; Mark 6:6
· Family – Mark 3:31-32; Matt. 13:56; John 19:25-27
Having experienced all these things, Jesus is able to personally sympathize with His people when they are in the same situations. That should comport our hearts! He knows what it is like to walk in our shoes. He knows our pain. He understands our trials. He is able to give us grace sufficient for every need we face in life, 2 Cor. 12:9; Col. 1:11.
B. Because Of His Heavenly Integrity – Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. When the Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all points it means that He was tempted in the same ways we are tempted. Our Lords temptation modeled that of Even in Eden, Gen. 3:16; Matt. 4:1-11. He was tempted in the same ways we all are, according to 1 John 2:16, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
We know that Jesus wasnt tempted to steal a car, rob a bank, misuse someones credit card, gamble on a horse race, abuse His children, or beat His wife. Some of those things didnt exist, and others werent a part of His life. He was tempted in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Of course, all sins fall into one of those three categories.
When Jesus was tempted, it was not to see whether or not He would sin; it was to prove that He could not sin. Jesus was sinless. He never sinned, and He did not have the capacity to sin, 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5.
Some would argue that if Jesus could not sin. Then His temptations were not real, and He cant possibly know what we face when we are tempted. The fact that Jesus could not sin does not change the fact that the temptations were real. The fact that He endured them and overcame them gives Him the ability to comfort us when we are tempted.
Let me try to illustrate. Many of you have experienced great pain in your life. But, the fact is, you have never felt the full range of pain. Your body has a defense mechanism called shock. When your pain gets too great, the brain will turn off the pain signals. Many could testify to that fact. Their pain was there, it was real, but the body would not allow them to experience the full depths of pain.
The same is true in the arena of temptation. No one in this room has ever experienced the full range of temptation. After a while we all reach a point, no matter how spiritual we may be, where we will succumb to the temptation, that is a limitation of our fallen human nature. Jesus had no such limitations, so He endured the full force of temptation. Because He did, He is able to help us when we face the temptations that come our way, Heb. 2:18; 1 Cor. 10:13.
(Ill. Dr. John Wilson often told the following story. Booth Tucker was conducting evangelistic meetings in the great Salvation Army Citadel in Chicago. One night, after he had preached on the sympathy of Jesus, a man came forward and asked Mr. Tucker how he could talk about a loving, understanding, sympathetic God. If your wife had just died, like mine has, the man said, and your babies were crying for their mother who would never come back, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying.
A few days later Mr. Tucker's wife was killed in a train wreck. Her body was brought to Chicago and carried to the Citadel for the funeral. After the service the bereaved preacher looked down into the silent face of his wife and then turned to those who were attending. The other day when I was here, he said, a man told me that, if my wife had just died and my children were crying for their mother, I would not be able to say that Christ was understanding and sympathetic, or that He was sufficient for every need. If that man is here, I want to tell him that Christ is sufficient. My heart is broken, it is crushed, but it has a song, and Christ put it there. I want to tell that man that Jesus Christ speaks comfort to me today. The man was there, and he came and knelt beside the casket while Booth Tucker introduced him to Jesus Christ.[i])
I. Our High Priest Is Superior
II. Our High Priest Is Sympathetic
III. v. 16 OUR HIGH PRIEST
IS OUR SANCTUARY
(Ill. Because Jesus understands human experience and because He has successfully endured the full force of temptation, He is able to help us as with whatever we face in life. That is why He invites us in this verse to run to Him in times of trouble.)
A. His Petition – Come boldly unto the throne of grace – The Jews had no concept of what the writer was saying. They could not imagine a God Who would invite people to come before Him when they pleased. In ancient times, a king could only be approached when he invited you to approach him, Esther 4:11. The Jews had that same idea of God.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to know that we can approach God anytime we please. Under the Law, the high priest could only come before God on one day each year, and only with the blood of an innocent sacrifice. When Jesus died, He satisfied the just demands of Almighty God. Now, the throne of God is not a throne of judgment; it is a throne of grace. The saints of God can approach the Lord at anytime to seek His help
B. His Promise – When His people come to Him in a time of need, they are promised that they will obtain mercy and find grace to help in a time of need. When we come to the Lord in our times of trials and temptations, we will find that He is a very present help in trouble, Psa. 46:1. The way to God has been opened and we can come to Him anytime for the mercy, grace and help we need, Matt. 11:28; 1 Pet. 5:7.
May the Lord help us to run to Him when trials and temptations come our way, Psa. 63:7; Psa. 55:22; Phil. 4:6-7.
Conc: Do you ever need help? Do you ever face trials that threaten to overwhelm you? Do you ever go through temptations that appear to be beyond your power? We have a GREAT High Priest! He is Superior in every way. He is Sympathetic in every need. He is our Sanctuary in every trial.
Has He spoken to you about some need in your life today? If He has, come to Him and find the help you need today.
[i] MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The - MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Hebrews – Electronic Edition.