November 9: Hebrews 4
Most Protestants are not used to thinking about priests and especially about what makes a good or superior priest. And yet, the language of priesthood is all through this letter to the Hebrews to this point (1:3; 2:17-18; 3:1) and will dominate chapters 7-9. The reason we need a priest before God is found in 4:12-13: God's Word and God's eye will search us, will hold us accountable, will test the intention of our hearts. Our professions will not fool God; in the last day, he will look at our hearts.
Because this is the case, we need someone who will stand before God on our behalf, representing us to the Father and serving the Father's cause for us. The good news of Hebrews 4:14-16 is that we have such a "great high priest": his name is Jesus. He is the supreme priest--that is the point of the double superlative, "great high priest." One would think that the high priest is already the supreme priest; he is the head of the hierarchy, serving before God for that given time.
But the text tells us that Jesus is "great" and "supreme." And his greatness and supremacy is found in the fact that he offers a better sacrifice: himself. While the priests of old offered the blood of bulls and goats, which could not purge the conscience clean, Jesus offered himself once for all.
In addition, his supremacy is demonstrated in the fact that "he has passed through the heavens." He has presented his blood to the Father in the heavenly sanctuary/throne room; his sacrifice has been received as satisfying God's wrath and the elect's debt; and he has been exalted to the highest place, the right hand of God where he now sits and rules (1:3, 8; 2:8).
And yet, this supreme, great high priest is also sympathetic: "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness." Because he has entered into the human condition and known the reality of trial and temptation, he is able to have real empathy, compassion, and feeling for you and me in our struggle.
Here is a pastor who is able to demonstrate real compassion; but this is compassion with a difference. Because the power of Jesus the high priest is found in the fact that he was tempted in all points as we have been "yet without sin." And his compassion and power meet to be able to deliver you and me out of every trial. Let us draw near to him and hold fast to him, this Jesus who is our "great high priest!"
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