Summary: Jesus had to be made like His brothers and sisters in every respect so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, and so that He might make propitiation1 for the sins of the people.
Lesson #15 [ID1]: Our Compassionate High Priest (HEBREWS 4:14-16)
Scripture: Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)
14.Therefore, since 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus had to be made like His brothers and sisters in every respect so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, and so that He might make propitiation1 for the sins of the people.
The Jews would have been familiar with the procedure of the high priest interceding on their behalf, because it was an essential element of the Old Testament sacrificial system, though it passed out of being with the tabernacle and the Temple. It was a solemn and somber ceremony. One day a year the high priest? and only the high priest? would enter the most holy place of the temple to sprinkle blood from animal sacrifices on the Ark of the Covenant (Lev. 16). The arc was symbolic of the presence of God. Anyone who violated the Most Holy Place or the ark would die (2 Sam. 6:6-7).
Beginning with verse 14 of this chapter the writer of this epistle is going to show that Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood.
14.Therefore, since we have a great high priest3 who has passed through the heavens, Jesus [ His earthly name means “Savior.”], the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [refers to our testimony].
In 4:14 the author identifies Jesus not only as a high priest but as a great high priest. He is great in nature. A perfect high priest must be one who, by nature, is in full communication with God and man. He must bring God to man and man to God. To do that, he must be in touch with God by nature. High priests are prominent throughout Scripture, but only one great high priest exists? Jesus, the Son of God. We have a great high priest who has been faithful to God. He is now in the presence of God, where He acts as our mediator. His identification with us provides a firm basis for our faithfulness, which finds expression when we hold firmly to our confession of Jesus as the Son of God. As the great high priest Jesus redefined the office because even though He was tempted in every way as we are, He has never sinned and He passed through the heavens4 into the very throne room of God to be our mediator. But Jesus didn’t just step symbolically into God’s presence in the temple; He went through the heavens to be literally in the presence of God. And His qualifications as high priest were unsurpassed. That is the past; Not only had He been the spotless, perfect sacrifice whose blood was shed, but He had already shared the human experience with those whom He was defending.
Christ is our high priest. Let me say right away that the Lord Jesus Christ was not a priest when He was here on the earth. The only mention in Scripture of Him making any kind of sacrifice [He never needed to make a sacrifice for Himself, of course.] was the time He told Simon Peter to catch a fish and take the gold piece out of its mouth so that He might pay a necessary temple tax from which the priests were exempt. He did that, I think, to make it very clear that He was not a priest here on earth. To be a priest you had to be born in the line of Aaron, and belong to the tribe of Levi. The Lord Jesus was a member of the tribe of Judah. He was not in the priestly line. Actually, He occupies three offices: (1) He was a prophet when He came over three thousand years ago? that is the past; (2) He is a priest today? that is for the present; and (3) He is coming someday to rule as king? that is for the future.
The pagan notion of priesthood colors our thinking in reference to a priest. A pagan priest actually bared the approach to God, claiming possession of some mystical power essential to bringing an individual to God. A person had to go through this priest who claimed to have this particular access.
Jesus?because He is the great high priest and on account of the superiority of His sacrifice? has entered the very presence of God on our behalf and has now brought us near to God. The author of Hebrews uses this priestly work of Christ as a ground for exhorting His audience to “hold fast our confession.” This confession is a two-fold confession: our confession of the historical Jesus and our confession of the Christian faith.