Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This passage leads us into the heart of the message of Hebrews…that of Jesus as the perfect high priest. As high priest, Jesus brings the voice of God to man and brings men into the presence of God. The high priest must know both men and God perfectly. This is what the author of Hebrews is claiming for Jesus.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens…” In the Old Testament, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place once a year to atone for the sins of the people. The Most Holy Place was where the presence of God dwelt. It was separated from the Holy Place by a curtain. The high priest would enter behind the curtain into the presence of God, and only with the blood of the sacrifice. Jesus, being both our sacrifice and our high priest, has now torn the curtain and entered into the Most Holy Presence of Heaven. He now stands at the right hand of the Father, interceding on our behalf.

The author of Hebrews encourages us once again to “hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Here we are reminded that our stance is one of faith. We have been saved by grace THROUGH FAITH. It is our faith in Jesus and his work as our sacrifice and high priest that saves us. Why do we hold firmly to our faith? Because we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

What Does it Mean that Jesus is Like us in all Things?

The truth in this passage gives us much hope. Jesus identified with man completely. He went through everything that a man has to go through and is like us in all things, except that he emerged from it all completely sinless. Before we approach the throne of grace, we should consider the depth of what it means that Jesus became like us.

  1. Jesus’ experience gave him the gift of sympathy. Before Jesus came, the Jewish idea of God was that he was holy in the sense of being different. In no way or sense did he share our human experience and was in fact incapable of sharing it because he was God. This is illustrated even more so with the Greeks. William Barclay states, “The Stoics, the highest Greek thinkers, said the primary attribute of God was apatheia, by which they meant essential inability to fell anything at all. They argued that if a person could feel sorrow or joy it means that some other person was able to influence him. If so, that other person must, at least for that moment, be greater than he. No one, therefore, must be able in any sense to affect God for that would be to make him greater than God; and so God had to be completely beyond all feeling.”

In the biblical account, man was created in the image of God. The world was created for them and with     them in mind. Whereas in Mesopotamian mythology, they saw humanity as an afterthought of the gods. In one account, people are created to take over the labor that the gods have tired of doing. Into a world of distant and unfeeling gods, came the Christian religion with its incredible conception of a God who had deliberately taken on human experience and became identified with his own creation. In many cases, Greeks would have thought it blasphemous to involve God in the affairs of this world, down to our own small lives.

In Christianity, not only is God involved, he has identified with the suffering of this world. “It is almost impossible for us to realize the revolution that Christianity brought about in men’s relationship to God. For century after century, they had been confronted with the idea of the untouchable God; and now they discovered one who had gone through all that man must go through” (William Barclay).

  1. Jesus’ experience gave God the quality of mercy. Why? Because now GOD UNDERSTANDS. He understands because he has lived it. It has been his own personal experience. When we come under the weight of intense suffering and extreme temptation, God is not so far removed from what we are going through. He has walked it. I love the story that John Foster tells in one of his books of how, when living in the United States during the thirties, he came home one day to find his daughter crying in front of the radio set. He asked her what was wrong and found that the news bulletin had contained the sentence, “Japanese tanks entered Canton today.” Most people would hear that without the slightest bit of thought or feeling. To most people, it did not make so very much a difference. Why was John Foster’s daughter in tears? Because she had been born in Canton. To her Canton meant a home, a nurse, a school, and friends. The difference was that she had been there. “When you have been there it makes all the difference. And there is no part of human experience of which God cannot say: ‘I have been there.’” (William Barclay)

We do not approach a God who has not been there or who is incapable of understanding what has happened. God knows and because he knows, it is easy to forgive.

  1. Jesus’ experience makes God able to help. The most wonderful part of Jesus knowing our experiences is that he then is the best person to help. Because he has traveled the road we walk, with all its difficulties, trials, pains and temptations, he now can offer us comfort, advice and counsel on our journey through the Holy Spirit. Whatever we need, he is able to give. His joy is now our joy, his peace, our peace, his strength, our strength.

Because Jesus knows our experience, he can sympathize with us, extend mercy to us, and strengthen us with power to overcome. He truly is the great high priest. This revelation then leads us to truly approach God’s throne of grace with CONFIDENCE. I serve and love a God who has become Immanuel, “God with us.” And because he is Immanuel, I always have help in my time of need.