We Have A Great High Priest!

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.  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.  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.

Hebrews 4:14-16

A major function of the high priests of the Old Testament was to “act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5:1).  One of the major themes of the book of Hebrews revolves around the continual comparison of these Old Testament high priests to Jesus, the New Testament Christian’s high priest.  Here in chapter 4 he again refers to Jesus as high priest.

He starts by pointing out that “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens” before clarifying “Jesus, the Son of God” to be that high priest.  “We” refers to the Christian Hebrew writer and the Hebrew Christians to whom he was writing, and by extension all Christians.  Jesus is the Christian’s high priest.  He offered himself on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  He “passed through the heavens” as he ascended from earth into heaven to sit at his Father’s side (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9; cf. Daniel 7:13-14).  He is now the Christian’s advocate, our intermediary, the One who sits at God’s right hand and intercedes on their behalf.  He is the reason for their hope of salvation.

Talking to first century Hebrew Christians who were considering renouncing Christianity in favor of Judaism to avoid Jewish persecution, the inspired Hebrew author exhorts them to “hold fast our confession.”  In other words, don’t give up on Christianity!  Continue to make Jesus and his will for you the focal point of your life.  The Hebrew author then gives a reason in verse 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” (cf. 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  He was telling these early Christians who were suffering severe persecution – such as public reproach and affliction and even the taking of their homes (cf. 10:32-34) – that their Lord and Savior understood exactly what they were going through.  The same holds true for Christians today.  While Jesus never sinned, he was tempted “in every respect…as we are.”  There is not a struggle with sin, a hardship, a trial, or a discouragement that any disciple of Christ feels today that Jesus himself has likewise not felt.  This is why those early Christians needed to stay the course, and this is why Christians today must continue to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

For this same reason all followers of Christ must “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:16).  It comforts this Christian to know that in spite of all of my failures, sins, weaknesses, and mistakes, I can still approach God’s throne in prayer and receive mercy and grace because of my high priest who is there at his Father’s side.  It strengthens my hope to know that Jesus, my advocate and friend, tells his Father, “I understand what Jon is going through.  I was tempted to do the same thing.  I was tempted to feel the same way.  I was discouraged for those same reasons.  I went through similar hardships.  Yes, Jon sinned and I didn’t…but Father, look at him.  See his sorrowful, penitent heart!  See his heart-felt desire to do better and serve you more fully!  See his longing for mercy!  Please forgive him, Father.”

That’s the best part about being a Christian…the knowledge that one gets Jesus as their high priest when one obeys the gospel through faith, repentance, and baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16), the assurance of continual forgiveness as one walks in the light and continually confesses their sins with a penitent heart (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11)!  Yes, Christians certainly can “find grace to help in time of need!”