Summary: A look through the book of Hebrews, with the theme, Jesus Is . . . !
July 16, 2017
Have you ever had something happen to you which is not so good? You tell the story to someone, hoping to gain a little support and comfort. But the words you hear are - - - “Oh, I know just how you feel.”
Really, you know how I feel? Have you ever had that happen to you? It’s pretty aggravating isn’t it? Maybe they’ve been through something similar, or they think they know how you feel . . . or even if they’ve been through the same thing, every situation is different. It can really be aggravating, irritating, and often times the conversation shifts to the other person telling you their story, instead of you sharing yours.
Today, we are going to talk about someone who can make that comment to you, and He’s the only one who can say this and get away with it. That’s Jesus! We are in week 7 of our look through the book of Hebrews. Today - - marks a huge shift in the theme to this great book of the Bible. These three verses introduce the next five chapters of the book of Hebrews, which are a detailed discussion about Jesus as our great high priest.
We’ve talked just a little about Jesus being the high priest, but today this theme gets expanded a little. So, let’s look at 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.
As we start to unpack this passage, the best way to understand it, is to look back for a moment to see what the role of the High Priest in the Old Testament was. We need to do this because this passage tells us Jesus is greater than the High Priest.
In the Old Testament, the high priest was the supreme religious leader of the Israelites. The office of the high priest was hereditary and was traced from Aaron, the brother of Moses, of the tribe of Levi. The high priest had to be “whole” physically (without any physical defects) and holy in his conduct.
He wore a golden breastplate on which was inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. When he went into the dark, Holy of Holies, it was as if he brought the whole nation with him to atone for their sins. The priest wore a turban on which sat a crown of pure gold. Inscribed on the crown were the words, "Holy to Yahweh."
He was held to a rigorous standard of holiness. For example, a priest who committed adultery was killed on the spot. The high priest had to offer a sin offering not only for the sins of the whole congregation, but also for himself.
The greatest responsibilities for the High Priest was Yom Kippur. It is the holiest of the Jewish holidays. Leviticus 16 describes in detail the responsibilities of the High Priest on this day, with the overall purpose being that on this one day all of the sins of God’s people would be atoned for. The people would fast and seek God’s forgiveness.
Part of the duties of the High Priest was to take two goats, to sacrifice one and on the other to place all the sins of God’s people. He would put his hands on the head of the goat and recite out loud all the sins of God’s people. Then that goat, now called the “scapegoat,” would be led into the desert and released. This symbolized the carrying away of all the sins of God’s people.
On this one day and only on this one day, would the High Priest enter in the Most Holy Place, or The Holy of Holies. This is the very place where God dwelt – and he would make sacrifices for the sins of the people. It was tremendously bloody, as the only way for atonement to occur was through the shed blood of an animal.
Jewish folklore said that a rope would be tied to the High Priest so that if he didn’t come out, it was because he was not holy and he died in the sight of God because of his unholiness. That’s just a picture of how the people viewed this role.
Jesus fulfilled this role. He made atonement, or provision, for our sin in a way that no sacrifice or scapegoat ever could.