24 Jun Hebrews 08 – The great High Priest
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
5 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honour for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is mighty to save. Can I have amen? Today, there is an invitation for all of us. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter what you are going through, there is an invitation from God today to draw near to the throne of grace that you may receive grace and mercy. This invitation is open not only for sinners outside of Christ but also for every Christians who know that they are in need of God’s grace. How many of you know that you need the grace of God in every single moment of your life? If your hand is not raised then you do not know what it means to be Christian. Let me tell you what it means to be Christians. We did not save ourselves. We did not find Christ. Christ is the one who found us. Christ is the one who saves us. It was grace that saved us. It is grace that sustain us today. And it will be grace that carry us to the finish line. If you are thankful for the grace of God, make some noise.
Our passage for today describes to us the role of Jesus as our High Priest. But before we go there, let me explain to you why we need a high priest. On our last sermon on Hebrews, we talked about the word of God. The word of God is living and active. It does not need your help to accomplish what it wants to accomplish. The word of God has power to accomplish what it sets out to do. When God speaks, it happens. The word of God creates everything out of nothing. And the word of God also penetrates deep into our being and exposes everything about us. There is absolutely nothing you can hide from God. The author of Hebrews liken the word of God to the eyes of God. It is able to see through everything and exposes every heart, every act, every thought and every desire. No matter how clever you are in hiding things, God knows. You might be able to hide it from your parents, you might be able to hide it from your spouse, you might be able to hide it from your pastor, you might be able to hide it from your best friends, and you might even able to deceive yourself into thinking that very thing you try to hide does not exist, but God knows. The word of God exposes us. All are naked before his eyes. The word of God has power to reveal things about you that you did not even know it exists. And not only that, one day you will have to stand in front of God and give account for everything that the word of God exposes. There is absolutely nothing you can hide from God. The word of God will reveal all.
Now, how many of you realize this is an extremely frightening thought? Imagine that God straps an invisible video camera around your neck that record everything you say and do. The camera does not need battery or to be charged and it is active 24/7 as long as you are alive. And not only that, but the camera is also able to record every thought that is in your mind. Quick question. How many of you want to watch that recording? None of us. Why? Because we already know what the video is going to reveal to us. We are so much worse than we would like to admit. All of us have skeletons that we try to hide from other people. The truth is, God knows. He knows exactly how bad we are. He knows all of our skeletons. We are naked before his eyes. It does not matter how clever you try to hide it, he knows.
Now this creates problem. If this is true, if God knows everything there is to know about us, how can we have relationship with him? For those of you who are in a relationship, especially marriage, what do you think would happen if your partner knows all of your thoughts? “Babe, are you okay?” “Yes, I am fine babe. You can go on and play PUBG all the day long and don’t have to worry about me.” But inside you are like, “PUBG you are satanic.” I may or may not have heard one of you say that during one of our fellowship. But you and I know very well that if everything about us are exposed, then we are in big trouble. How can we have a relationship with God if he knows everything there is to know about us? The answer is given in Hebrews 4:14 – Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens… In order for us to have relationship with God, we need a high priest. And not only a high priest but a great high priest.
Three things that we can learn from our passage today. The high priest; the great high priest; the throne of grace.
The high priest
Hebrews 5:1-4 – For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honour for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In these four verses, the author of Hebrews explains the role of high priest for the people of Israel. Their main job is to represent the people of God in front of God. In order for God to have relationship with the people of Israel, there need to be someone who stand in the gap between God and Israel, and made sacrifices for sins on behalf of Israel. We learned already that even though God has chosen and saved Israel, Israel continue to doubt and act in unbelief toward God. Israel are sinful nations and their sins have created a big gap between God and them. In order for God to continue his relationship with Israel, there need to be someone who can make offerings for sin, appease God’s wrath toward sin, and close the gap between God and Israel. This role is given to high priest. It is the duty of high priest to offer sacrifices for sins on behalf of Israel. With another word, high priest functions as a bridge builder to connect the huge gap between God and the people of God. If there is no high priest, there is no relationship.
Now can you see how important the role of high priest was in the Old Testament? This is why you find lots of passages in the Old Testament that speaks on the importance of high priest. The kind of clothes they have to wear, the diamonds and jewels on their breastplate, all those detail information are important because when the high priest offer sacrifices for sins, he did so to represent the whole nation of Israel. So the position of high priest is a very important and sacred position in the life of the Jewish people.
Three qualification to be a high priest:
1. High priest must be human. No matter how awesome your dog is, your dog cannot be a high priest. Son Go Kong cannot be your high priest. High priest must be chosen among men to act on behalf of men. Why? Because it is human who sins against God and therefore a human must stand before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
2. High priest must be appointed by God. You cannot just show up and say, “I am your high priest.” That’s not how it works. God must chose you. It is a specific calling to a specific people. You can’t just show up to RSI and say, “I am your pastor.” I’ll be insecure. I thought I am your pastor. Did I get fired without my knowledge or something? In order to be high priest, you must be appointed by God. In the Old Testament, the calling of high priest exclusively belong to Aaron and his descendants.
3. High priest must be able to identify with his people. The high priest cannot be superman. It has to be someone who can deal gently with those who are ignorant and wayward, that’s you and me every day, and the high priest also must be beset with weakness so that he can sympathize with his people. You don’t want someone who do not understand you to represent you. “Yeah God, I don’t get him. I keep telling him to not come late to church but he is always late. He sucks. Just burn him alive.” No, you don’t want this kind of high priest. A high priest must be able to identify with his people.
However, there is one fundamental flaw to this system. Verse 3 tells us that a high priest is obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sins. With another word, the high priest himself is a sinner. So if what separates God and his people is sin, how can a man with sin stand in the gap? In some sense, the high priest himself needed a priest to close the gap between him and God. And because the high priest himself is a sinner, it also meant that he would die and have to be replaced. So if you think back to the analogy of the bridge, it’s like the bridge have to be rebuild every few years. It is an imperfect and incomplete bridge. It works for a moment but it is not sufficient. But this is the point of history of Israel. Reading the Old Testament tells us that there is a sense of incompleteness to the story that someone has to complete. Everything in the Old Testaments points forward to a greater reality, a greater accomplishment, a greater person that will complete the picture. We need not only high priest who are human, called by God, and can sympathize with our weaknesses, but we also need a high priest who does not need to offer sacrifice for his own sin. We need a high priest who is always present. We need a bridge that will never break down. We need the great high priest. Are you with me?
The great high priest
Hebrews 5:5-10 – 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
The answer that the author of Hebrews gives us is Jesus. Jesus is the better high priest that we need. Jesus is the great high priest. And he is qualified for the role. First, Jesus is human. Jesus did not pretend to be human, he is 100% human. Second, Jesus is appointed by God for the role. Jesus did not appointed himself. It is God who says, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Some of you are like, “Melki who?” Don’t worry too much about it for now. We will talk about him in greater detail when we reach Hebrews chapter 7. All you need to know for now is that this strange character by the name of Melchizedek first appears in the book of Genesis. He is a king but he is a priest at the same time. This is weird. Throughout the history of Israel, the role of king and priest are always separated. But then we have this priestly king by the name of Melchizedek who appears out of nowhere in Genesis to bless Abraham, and then, poof, he disappears again. Then suddenly thousands of years later his name is mentioned in Psalm 110, which the author of Hebrew is quoting from. The point that the author of Hebrews tries to make is that the Melchizedek symbolises a different kind of priesthood from the one that Israelites had. Where Israel’s high priest keeps changing, Melchizedek priesthood has no beginning and no end. It is an eternal priesthood. In Jesus, we have eternal high priest who is appointed by God. Jesus is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. There is no need for rebuild because the bridge between God and his people is permanent in Jesus. It is unbreakable and unchanging. There will never be Jesus 2.0. Jesus is our eternal great high priest.
So Jesus met the first two qualification for the role of high priest. He is human and he is appointed by God. But what about the third qualification? A high priest must be able to identify with his people. Jesus identifies with his people. Hebrews 5:7-8 – In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. This is beautiful. The author of Hebrews writes that while Jesus lives on human flesh, his days are filled with loud cries and tears and prayers and supplications to God. What does it mean? It means that Jesus can relate with our weaknesses. He understand human frailties. Sometime we have wrong understanding of Jesus. Sometime we think of him as superman who does not feel any pain or get troubled. But that is not the Jesus that we see in the Bible. The Jesus in the Bible knows exactly what we are going through. Do you remember what happened at Lazarus’ tomb? Jesus knew exactly what he is going to do. He already told his disciples beforehand that Lazarus is dead and Jesus will bring him back to life. There is no confusion in Jesus’ mind on what he will do and what is coming for Lazarus. Yet in front Lazarus’ tomb, after witnessing the pain that Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha went through, the Bible writes, “Jesus wept.” Jesus knows the feeling of losing a loved ones. He knows how it feels to be rejected. He knows the feeling of being misunderstood. And he griefs because of the pain of loss and suffering. All of Jesus’ life on earth is marked with continuous cries and tears in prayer and supplication to God.
As much as he suffered with weakness throughout his life, none is greater than what happened in the garden of Gethsemane. Mark 14:34-36 – And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” If we ever doubt if Jesus can relate with us in our weaknesses, all we have to do is remind ourselves of this passage. Jesus, the one and only beloved son of God, was in agony. He was sorrowful, even to death. And he cries out to his father, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.” Translation – “God, you are all powerful and there is nothing impossible for you. If you want to, you can let me escape this pain.” Jesus is crying out in desperation to God the Father. Not once, not twice, but three times in the same night Jesus cries out to the Father. Other accounts tells us that Jesus was sweating blood because he was in such deep agony. So get the picture right. This is not superman who does not feel your grief and pain. Every cell in Jesus’ body is telling him to run away from what is coming. Jesus knows what is waiting for him. The pain of crucifixion and the humiliation he has to endure. But above all, the sense separation from God the Father that he has to experience because of sin. That’s why he said, “Remove this cup from me.” But he is not finish. He continues to say, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Despite knowing all the pain and agony that he has to go through, Jesus surrendered his will to God. At the cross, the sinless high priest became sin for us and endured the full wrath of God toward sin. In this way, the author of Hebrews writes that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered. Not in the sense that he was disobedient before, but suffering tested him and he proved himself to be the obedient Son to the end. Jesus is the perfect great high priest.
Hebrews 5:9-10 – And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Because Jesus was made perfect through what he suffered, because Jesus did what no other high priest could do, because Jesus remain obedient to the end and did not sin, Jesus became the source of eternal salvation. Jesus is perfect and because of it he is the source of eternal salvation. Notice, it is eternal salvation. Not a temporary salvation like all other high priests. Not a bridge that need to be rebuild continuously. In Jesus, we have a perfect eternal high priest who offers eternal salvation. Old Testament high priest could only offer sacrifices that delay God’s judgement against sin but it can never remove sin. But Jesus as our eternal high priest offer a single sacrifice once and for all for eternity. The debt has been fully paid. In Jesus we not only have an eternal high priest but a once and for all sacrifice. Something that the author of Hebrews will discuss in chapter 10. But that’s not the end. There is a qualification for you to have Jesus as your source of eternal salvation. Jesus is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. What sort of obedience does the author of Hebrews has in mind? Great questions. For the answer, we need to go back to the verses we skipped.
The throne of grace
Hebrews 4:14-16 – 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If you realize, I switched the order around. The author of Hebrews is giving his thesis and his exhortation first, and then gives the explanation of Jesus as the better high priest. I started with explaining the role of high priest and how Jesus is the better high priest. Now I am giving you the author of Hebrews main thesis on Jesus as the great high priest. He is saying that because we have a great high priest like no other high priest, a high priest who is perfect and eternal, a high priest who has passed through heavens and is sited at the right hand of God, Jesus, the Son of God, then the first thing we are told to do is to hold fast our confession. What is our confession? Our confession is that we are naked and exposed before the word of God. There is absolutely nothing we can hide from God and that we are more sinful than we dare to admit. Our confession is not that we are a good people who need a little help. Our confession is that we are under the wrath of God because of our sin. We need a saviour. We cannot save ourselves. We are fully exposed and naked before the eyes of God. We need eternal perfect high priest. And in Jesus, we have our great high priest. The sinless perfect eternal high priest.
So the first thing that we are told to do is to hold fast to this confession. With another word, do not trade Jesus for anything else. He is the only one who can stand in the gap between you and God. He is the only who will not fail his job. There are temptations every day to forsake Jesus for something else but the author of Hebrew is saying, “Hold fast to Jesus.” In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve, Genesis tells us that they were naked and not shamed. Just think about that for a second. They have absolutely nothing to hide. They can run around naked and feel happy about it. But today, if you run around naked you will be caught by police. So don’t try. But from the moment Adam and Eve sinned against God, Genesis tells us that their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. Then what did they do? They tried to cover themselves with leaves. They think leaves were sufficient to cover their nakedness. Ever since then, human’s tendency is always to cover themselves with things that does not suffice. We try to sew fig leaves in order to cover our nakedness. We think that there is something we can do to cover our shame from being naked in front of God. And when Adam and Eve heard the steps of God, they hide themselves from God. They were ashamed to stand in front of God. But God in his grace sought them and clothed them with garments of skins. This is the picture of what God has done for us in Jesus. Because of Jesus, our great high priest, we do not have to feel ashamed anymore in front of God. We have been clothed with new garments. And this garments is not made out of leaves nor is it made from animal skins. Our garment is the garment of eternal righteousness of Jesus that is given to us when we put our faith in Jesus. Because of Jesus, we no longer need to hide from God. Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus is mighty to save. This is our confession. Hold fast to this confession.
The second thing that we are told to do is to draw near to the throne of grace. To be exact, this is less of a commandment and more of an invitation. The author of Hebrews is saying that there is an open invitation for you to enter the throne of God. And not only we are invited to draw near to the throne, we are invited to draw near with confidence. The word confidence simply means that you are free to come without hesitation. You are free to say whatever you want to say. And this is very different from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the throne of God is symbolized in the form of the arc of tabernacle which is located in the room called holy of holies. And only high priest can enter the holy of holies once a year. The holy of holies is a special place where high priest get to encounter the presence of God and offers his sacrifices. And in order for him to enter the holy of holies, he has to start preparing a week in advance. He has to make sure he meet all the requirements first before he can enter the holy of holies. But here we are invited to enter the throne of God with confidence. How come? Because we have the great high priest who stand in the gap for us. We have the great high priest who knows our thoughts, our hurts and our struggles. And not only that, because of our great high priest, the throne of God is no longer something frightening but it is a throne of grace. So when you come into God’s presence, God no longer looks at you in all your weakness and struggle. God sees you covered by your great high priest. Your eternal high priest guarantees that the throne of God will always be a throne of grace for you. And this is the promise. When you draw near to the throne of grace, you will receive mercy and find grace in time of need. God not only welcome you into his throne, when you come to him, he will supply you with mercy and grace. He is ready grant you your requests. He is ready to help you in your struggle. He is ready to help you persevere in Christian’s life. The mercy of God covers your past failures and the grace of God empowers your present and future lives. God will not leave you on your own. Help is always available for you when you draw near to the throne of grace.
I have two applications and then I am done. First, we need to admit that we are weak people. I know this is counter-intuitive. Everything in our culture tells us to showcase our strength and hide our weaknesses. For some reason we often think of becoming Christian is to become a superhero. We think of a pastor as someone with a cape who can fly and defeat dragons. No, that is not the Bible. I cannot fly and I am scared of mouse. If anything, the Bible constantly reminds us that Christians are weak and needy people. I mean, just look at Apostle Peter for a bit. The man is a mess. This is the man who speaks first without thinking. If Peter is alive today, I am sure not many church want him to be their pastor. He has lots of high-high moment and low-low moments. One time, Jesus asked his disciples who did they think he was. Peter answered, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was impressed and he said, “You are blessed my boy. For you did not come to that knowledge on your own but my Father revealed it to you. And upon this rock, I will build my church.” So now Peter tick the box to be your pastor. After all, he received a personal revelation from God. You want your pastor to receive personal revelation from God right? Then Jesus himself said that he will build his church through Peter. What could go wrong? Except that few minutes later, not even years later, Jesus calls Peter “Satan” for trying to stop him from going to the cross. How would you feel if Jesus call you Satan? Talk about high-high and low-low. Then again at the night before crucifixion, Jesus was telling all his disciples that all of them will forsake him tomorrow. Then Peter says, “Even if they all forsake you, I will never ever forsake you. I’ll die with you.” And Jesus probably smile and say, “I like your spirit Peter but, no. In fact before the morning comes, you will deny me three times.” And that’s exactly what happened. Peter denies Jesus three times.
So probably right now you don’t want Peter to be your pastor. But then comes the Pentecost. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and then he began to preach Jesus. The Bible writes that there are 3000 people who believed in Jesus through Peter’s first sermon. Not bad for your very first sermon hey? The church exploded through Peter’s first sermon. He is up on the list to be your pastor again. And you think that now Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit, nothing can go wrong. But few years later, Peter has to be rebuked strongly by Paul in front of many Christians for his racism. Peter was not walking in line with the truth of the gospel. He still differentiates between the Jews and non-Jews. And to make matter worse, Peter was the first person to receive a direct revelation from God on God’s desire to save the non-Jews people. Peter was a man with many weaknesses. But here is the good news for you and me. God still uses Peter. God is not intimidated by Peter’s weaknesses.
Here is my concern. One of the most damaging thing you can do in your relationship with God is to pretend that you are strong. I tried that and it is not working. Christians are not bunch of strong people but Christians are weak people who are desperate for God’s help. That is why I have no problem telling you all my junk. The last thing I need you to think is that your pastor have it all together. No, I don’t. I am a mess and I need Jesus as much as you do. I am weak and needy but Jesus is mighty to save. Do you hear me? For many of you, you need to stop pretending as if you are strong. Stop believing the lie of our culture that tells us that in order to be somebody we have to be strong. “You are awesome. You are good. You have it in you. Trust yourself.” Stop believing those junks. The best thing you can do is to admit that you are weak and needy. Because then, and only then, you will receive mercy and find grace in time of need. Some of you are still carrying guilt and shame of your past and it exhausts you. You are weary and you are about to give up on Christianity. Hear me on this. There is mercy and grace available for you. What you need is not church attendance. What you need is the great high priest. You need Jesus.
The second application is that we need to become people of prayer. Listen. We are invited to draw near to the throne of grace. But how do we draw near? It is through prayer. There is no other way. The access to the throne of grace is only available through prayer. And let me be the first to confess that prayer is hard. But let me tell you why it is hard. It is hard because I do not realize that I am weak and needy. It is hard because I like to think that I am strong. Prayerlessness reveals our self-sufficiency. As long as we think we are strong, we will not approach the throne of grace. That is why God in his kindness often leads you to a situation that is out of your control to remind you how weak and small you are. And only when we are helpless, we realize we need help. Here is the truth about you and me. We are helpless 24/7. If it’s not the grace of God that sustains us, we won’t be standing today. The reason we are still breathing and are still able to come to church and worship God is because the grace of God enables us to do so. We are far more needy and weak than we think we are. And it is the grace of God to remind us how weak and needy we truly are.
Yet he does not leave us there. There is an invitation for us to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace in our time of need. Your great high priest knows how weak you are. He can sympathise with all your weaknesses. He went through what we went through. He was tempted in every way yet without sin. The kind of temptation Jesus experienced is different from us. Jesus never have to choose between PUBG and prayer. But the essence of the temptation is the same. Jesus also know the temptation of choosing and relying on other things but God. Yet Jesus won over the temptation. And now he promises that when you enter the throne of grace, you will find what you need to help you. There is superabundant provision of grace available for you at the throne of grace. There is grace that enable you to persevere in your walk with Christ. So come to the throne in prayer. He wants to help you. We are far more needy and weak than we think we are and Jesus is far more gracious to help us in time of needs.
Let me close with this. Grace is so much more than forgiveness of sin. Grace is also the power of God to help you in your time of need. Grace is what enable you to trust Christ. Grace is what enable you to obey Christ. Grace is what transform you to be like Christ. Grace is what makes your heart loves Jesus. Grace is what sustain you today. Grace is what forgives you when you sin. Grace is what motivates you to stand back at your feet. Grace is what will carry you to the finish line. Christian’s life from beginning to the end is all about grace. And this grace is available for you 24/7 at the throne of grace. Our eternal high priest has given us forever access to this throne. So let us draw near to this throne of grace. And you don’t have to bring anything with you. You don’t have to make promises or sacrifices. Come in all your weaknesses. All you need to enter the throne of grace is your need. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- Why do we need a high priest?
- What is the limitation of high priest in the Old Covenant?
- Explain “priest after the order of Melchizedek”
- What makes Jesus the great High priest?
- What is our confession and why it is important to hold fast to it?
- Why is it so important that we understand that Jesus can sympathize with sinners? How does that fact affect your outlook on the Christian life? How does it equip you in your fight against sin?
- “One of the most damaging thing we can do in our relationship with God is to pretend that we are strong.” Explain. Give daily life examples.
- What stop you from drawing near to the throne of grace with confidence?