07 Hebrews 4v14-5v10 Jesus Our Great High Priest

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Introduction
Having exhorted his readership not to throw in the
towel and forsake Christ but to press on into God's
rest, the writer now points them to the source of their
greatest encouragement. The high priestly role that
was exercised by Jesus. Martin Luther, commenting on
the writer’s purpose says, “After terrifying us the
apostle now comforts us”.
Throughout the epistle the readership are told to
“consider Jesus”. Here Jesus is set before them as the
church's great High Priest who, it is argued, is superior
the Levitical high priests of the Jewish faith, a faith to
which some of his readers were tempted to return.
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The Role Of The High Priest
As a unit 4v14-5v10 lays the foundation for a more
comprehensive exposition of Jesus‘ priesthood in 7v110v18, where the emphasis will be placed on Jesus’
dissimilarity to the Levitical priesthood.
The contrast which the author will introduce is
established by first, indicating the role and function of
the O.T. High Priest, then by highlighting some of the
deficiencies of those holding the Levitical office. The
following observations are made regarding the Levitical
High Priest.
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The Role Of The High Priest
a. The High Priest alone was able to represent Israel
before God having unique access to the Holy of Holies.
b. The High Priest alone was able to mediate with God
on the basis of sacrifice within the Holy of Holies.
c. The High Priest was in a unique position to be able
to intercede for the people, because unlike the angels
he shared a common humanity with them.
d. The High Priest was also able to deal gently with
those who failed because, being himself human, he
knew the frailty of human nature.
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The Role Of The High Priest
e. The office of High Priest was instituted by God
and not manufactured by men. And as such it was
the God appointed route for a God appointed
representative to access the presence of God on
Israel’s behalf.
f. Clearly the office of High Priest was not a human
appointment and men assumed this office to
themselves at their peril cf. Korah in Num. 16v11;
Saul in 1 Sam. 13v8-14; Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26v16-21.
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The Role Of The High Priest
That said there were clearly limitations
associated with the Aaronic Priesthood.
a. The High Priest was himself a sinner and had
to make sacrifice for his sin.
b. The High Priest had limited access to God
being permitted access to the Holy of Holies on
only one day in the year.
c. The High Priest was constantly required to
offer sacrifices. This spoke both of their
inadequacy to comprehensively deal with sin
and of their symbolical function- pointing to a
reality beyond them.
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Jesus The High Priest
We are now in a position to ask, in what way
was the High Priesthood of Jesus superior to
that of the Aaronic priesthood?
a. After his death and resurrection he enjoyed
perpetual residence in the Father’s presence
4v14. His was not simply a once-a-year visit.
b. He was better able to sympathise with those
who experienced temptation because he has
experienced the whole arsenal of Satan's
temptations v15. Jesus experienced temptation
in every area of his life, as we do.
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Jesus The High Priest
Jesus did not possess a sinful nature, but he
suffered temptation as we do because he
was fully human. Having endured every
temptation successfully he has experienced
temptations more thoroughly than any
man.
We often yield to temptation before we
have experience4d their full intensity. As a
result of his experience Jesus can
sympathise [feel and suffer] with us when
we experience temptation.
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Jesus The High Priest
The writer's point is that Jesus understands us. He
sympathises with us, as one who knew the full extent of
Satan’s temptations.
Let me illustrate the thoroughness of Jesus' resistance to
temptation. Imagine a large rock on the seacoast. Since
it does not move, it experiences the full force of
every wave that beats against it. Smaller pebbles
are moved around by the sea and because they
are moved around they have failed to offer the
same resistance as the rock. Jesus is the rock.
He has experienced a greater intensity of
temptation than other pebble men, pebbles
because we have yielded to temptation.
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Jesus The High Priest
The writer would have us grasp that providing
‘sympathy’ does not depend upon knowledge and
experience of sin but of temptation in all of its fierce
intensity. The weakness of Jesus was the weakness
of his humanity and not that of depravity. The
hymn-writer sums up the matter like this.
There is no place where earth's sorrows,
Are more felt than up in heaven
There is no place where earths failings
Have such kindly judgement given.
The phrase, “deal gently with” [Gk. metriopathein]
means being neither indifferent to moral lapses
nor harsh in our approach to them.
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Jesus The High Priest
Since we have such a High Priest to intercede
for us with God, we can approach God
confidently in prayer [cf. 3v6; 10v19, 35]. Every
Christian can come to the Father’s heavenly
throne. It is no longer limited to the Levitical
high priests of Judaism. Indeed, they could only
approach God at his earthly throne, in the holy
of holies and then only once a year.
Christians approach God’s throne of grace
knowing they are guaranteed access and
welcomed at any time and they do so because
of the sacrifice that has been made on their
behalf by Jesus their High Priest.
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Jesus The High Priest
c. Our High Priest does not leave us to stand outside
the presence of God like Israel of old. He leads us right
in [5v16]. The curtain which once separated the people
of God from his presence has been torn [Matt. 27v51]
allowing immediate access. Christ's was a divine and a
superior appointment. Two Psalms are cited:
i] Psalm 2v7. A quote regularly used in early church to
point to the resurrection cf. Acts 13v33. God’s divine
imprimatur was placed on the High Priestly work and
sacrifice of Christ.
ii] Psalm 110v4. This quote deals with the nature of
the messiah’s high priestly work. The significance of
the order of Melchizadek [Gen. 14v18-20] is that this
priesthood is both universal and eternal.
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Jesus The High Priest
e. During his life on earth Jesus lived a sinless life. His
costly obedience qualified him as a High Priest who could
offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Through this
sacrifice he became the source of our eternal salvation. In
v7 a window is provided through which we can see Jesus
at prayer in Gethsemane. Critics often point to the fact
that other men have faced death with greater poise and
less anguish - think of some of the early martyrs like
Stephen. How then can Jesus’ anguish be explained? In 2
Cor. 5v21 we read that Jesus was ‘made sin for us’. In
Gethsemane,
“He saw the curse of God and the necessity to wrestle
with the total sum of human guilt and with the very
powers of darkness themselves” John Calvin.
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Jesus The High Priest
Verse7 tells us that Jesus was heard because of his
‘reverent submission’ Towards the end of the epistle
in 12v28 the writer used the same word and
encourages his readers to adapt the same mind-set.
The phrase “days of his flesh” [Gk. sarx] draws
attention to the weakness that characterised Jesus'
life during his earthly stay. Jesus' offerings to God in
this context appear to include his prayers from
Gethsemane and the cross. See also Ps. 22v22-24;
Heb. 2v12. However, Jesus' entire passion ministry is
probably in view here. God heard and granted Jesus'
prayers, the evidence of which is rooted in Jesus’
resurrection [cf. Ps. 22v22-31].
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Jesus The High Priest
Godly fear was translated into obedience to
God’s will. How then is this obedience learned?
It involves perseverance in the road of suffering.
Notice that Jesus did not learn obedience
through painful correction of mistakes that he
made but through an undeviating conquest of
the temptation to throw in the towel.
This thought returns us to the recipients of this
letter who were poised to contract out of a path
of obedience to the will of God because of the
cost of suffering. Cross-bearing is not an easy
option but there is no alternative for the
Christian.
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Jesus The High Priest
In what sense was Jesus was made perfect v9? He
retained his integrity in the face of the fierce assault of
temptation. Christ started with the same sinless human
nature which Adam possessed. Throughout his life he
was assaulted by temptation yet he resisted it. His
perfection was unsullied despite all that Satan threw at
him.
The sacrifice he made was therefore one that has been
tested by the fiercest temptation imaginable and yet
Jesus remained sinless. This experience perfected
Jesus Christ in the sense that it completed him by
giving him experiential knowledge of what human
beings must endure without succumbing to sin
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Jesus The High Priest
Although Jesus was the Son of God and as such perfect, he
nevertheless gained something through his sufferings,
namely an experiential knowledge of what being a human
involves. Similarly, Jesus grew in favour with God and man
[Lk. 2v52]. Jesus learned obedience as he obeyed his Father's
will as a human. God's will involved suffering [Phil. 2v6-8].
W. H. Griffith Thomas writes, "Innocence is life untested, but
virtue is innocence tested and triumphant."
Jesus had to suffer, not because but although he was a Son
[huios], which shows that Jesus is Son in a unique sense. As
divine son/huios in the sense of [1:1-2], we might expect that
he would be exempt from such a discipline but he was not!
His divine status was not allowed to dilute his suffering.
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Conclusion
The orientation given to this exposition is
intensely practical. The solidarity of Jesus the
heavenly high priest with the believing
community in its weakness provides a strong
motivation for earnest prayer.
There is encouragement to draw near to the one
who is thoroughly familiar with the human
condition, who suffers with their suffering and is
sensitive to the profound and intense pressure of
temptation. There is none better qualified to be
the mediator of his people than the Lord Jesus
Christ.
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