Though we are constantly surrounded by people, we often feel completely isolated. At our schools, our workplaces, our friend groups, even our own homes. Even amongst all these people, many of whom are working for the same goals, wanting the same things, we feel so alone. It’s easy to think, “it doesn’t seem like anyone is looking out for my well-being.” It is a common sentiment to fell like “no one is advocating for me, but me.”
The sad truth is that proximity does not breed advocacy. In fact, most often the opposite happens: proximity breeds competition.
So what do we do when we live in the fast paced, quickly growing city like Seattle? The problem of proximity isn’t going away, competition isn’t going away, but all of it grows stronger. Reflecting on this may lead to questions like:
- Are we doomed to live in a universe void of advocacy?
- Must we always feel alone and without any help, with no one to turn to but ourselves?
- Is it impossible to find someone to talk to who knows me, understands my situation & wants the best for me?
- Are loneliness, despair, anxiety and crisis all part of this inevitable reality?
The GOOD NEWS of Hebrews is this: No matter our situation, our circumstances, our future prospects, we always have at least one true and great advocate in Jesus Christ. He will not grow tired, nor old, nor will he pass away. He will always be available to hear our plight. He is for us and not against us, he has become like us in every way, so that he might sympathize and empathize with every condition of the heart or crisis of faith we might encounter.
Thus far in Hebrews, we have seen how Jesus is superior to several key elements in the Jewish faith; and this week we will see that Jesus is the greater High Priest.
Before we consider why Jesus is the greater High Priest, let’s take a look at what “the high priest” meant to Israel and the Jewish people that the book of Hebrews was written to.
> Who was the high priest?
A priest was trained and appointed by the people to perform the Levitical or ceremonial duties laid out for Israel by the law of Moses. The high priest also presided over all other priests and the Sanhedrin (the political arm of the temple).
The two main qualifications to be high priest were:
- He must be able to empathize with the frailty of the people he serves.
- He must be called (appointed) by God.
> What were the duties of the high priest?
It was the high priest’s responsibility to see that the ceremonial laws were enforced and to direct people to complete the duties of the temple. He was the prime representative for the nation of Israel before Yahweh (God) and had a tremendous responsibility to direct the hearts of the people towards God and the fulfillment of the covenant.
The high priest was in charge of the regular handling of sacrifices and offerings, the blessing of people, and the annual entrance into the most holy place within the temple during the Day of Atonement.
The Day of Atonement was the central atoning ritual for the entire nation of Israel. Unlike other sacrifices, this sacrifice happened in the innermost part of the temple known as the holy of holies. This was the area behind a large veil that hung from the ceiling to the floor that no one could enter except for the high priest once a year–on the Day of Atonement.
In the holy of holies was the Ark of the Covenant, which held the stone tablets that the Law of Moses was written on. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter this sacred room to make atonement for ‘all the inequities of the children of Israel and all their transgressions in all their sins’. The high priest would sprinkle blood to atone first for himself, since he was sinful and the mediator between God and his people to be ceremonially clean. Then he would sprinkle the blood sacrifice for all the people of Israel.
WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY?
Hebrews 4:13 – “And no creature is hidden from his (God’s) sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him two whom we must give account.”
- “We must give account” – Our lives are laid bare before a perfect and holy God. This account will reveal a lot of unfaithfulness to God, lots of rebellion and flagrant disobedience to his clear directives, a wicked heart, impure motives and general brokenness…
- So how in the world are we supposed to stand before God with confidence?
Answer: (Hebrews 4:14-16) – “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 weakness, 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 the time of need.”
- Our sin is real, our sin separates us from God, and this separation is what leads to a ‘KRISIS of Faith.’
- The only thing that can close the gap and end the krisis is the mediation of Jesus Christ–it’s the unique role that Jesus plays in this drama that allows us to approach God with confidence.
Jesus acts as our High Priest by advocating on our behalf.
Remember the two main qualifications to be high priest? (1) He must be able to empathize with the frailty of the people he serves; and (2) He must be appointed by God. Does Jesus fulfill these? A: YES… read Hebrews 5:1-2
Jesus FULFILLS and SURPASSES these qualifications.
- He empathizes with the frailty of his people–He is able “to act on behalf of men in relation to God” because he knows us, he understands our sufferings, and he has shared in our struggles.
- Many of us are feeling the angst of waiting for our time to come…So did Jesus.
- Many of us struggle to know what will come next…So did Jesus.
- Many of us wrestle with the anxiety surrounding changing careers…So did Jesus.
- Many of us are faced with the decision of whether or not it’s worth doing things God’s way instead of taking a short cut…So did Jesus.
- Many of us know the feeling of not having our biological parents believe in the path we have chosen…So did Jesus.
- Many of us have lost friends because of tough decisions we have made…So did Jesus.
- Many of us have been persecuted and hurt because of those choices…So was Jesus.
- He was appointed by God–He does not “take this honor for himself,” but rather directs the hearts of the people towards God.
- Being both fully God and fully man, Jesus is the only agent actually able to fulfill the role of the high priest in the fullness with which it was intended.
- Only Jesus can actually stand between God and man as the perfect mediator because only Jesus can be related to BOTH God and man fully.
Jesus is the greater High Priest because he is able to relate to the common people in humility and able to relate to God in righteousness. In his similarity he can sympathize with us, but in his dissimilarity he is capable to interact with God the Father on our behalf.
- Jesus was like mankind in every way…EXCEPT that he remained holy as God is holy: without sin.
- The high priesthood of Jesus is of a different order, because it is one that will not end. It is Forever.
PRAYER – Standing in THRONE ROOM of God
Prayer creates a Heavenly Sanctuary in time when a physical one might not be available. We are invited to enter into this sanctuary in our time of need and bring our prayers of petition and supplication and praise.
Why do we so often fail to enter this room with confidence? Or fail to enter at all?
Perhaps we have convinced ourselves that God has no time for us, that He can’t hear us or doesn’t want to hear us. Perhaps we’ve somehow believed that God will not have grace or mercy for us, that He won’t understand our plight, that there are no familiar faces in the throne room of God…
Are we perhaps seeing the throne room as an unfamiliar room that brings us anxiety and fear of the unknown?
And what is it that OVERCOMES this anxiety? Isn’t it the sensation of a familiar face? When you realize someone is there that knows you, where you come from, what makes you tick, what you’re going through right now?
Jesus is that familiar face.
Once we press past our fear of the unfamiliar room and step into the throne room of grace, we will see the most familiar and inviting face of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Who is the greatest High Priest…the greatest of advocates…the one who walked in our shoes, felt what we’ve felt, suffered as we’ve suffered, prayed as we pray, wept as we weep…experienced the full range of life as a human being. It is he who sits in the throne room, and advocates on our behalf…mediating between us and the Father.
His is the most familiar of faces you will find when you enter the often unfamiliar room of prayer.
The throne room of God is the same holy of holies that only the High Priest could enter once a year under the old covenant before Jesus came, lived, suffered and died. But now, in these last days, because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross once and for all…he has become our new high priest, forever, and has made the very presence of God available to us. The throne room of God is no longer sealed to the common man, but it is open for all who call upon the name of Jesus to enter as often as they like…with confidence.
We must no longer be afraid to enter. We are invited to enter that special room again and again.
In your times of need, draw close to the throne of grace. There you will find Jesus, your great and glorious high priest, waiting for you in that heavenly throne room, distributing freely all that you need…the grace, the mercy, and the forgiveness of God.
1. Apply these keys to grow in your confidence of stepping into God’s throne room:
- ZOOM OUT – In the midst of a crisis. Look at the constant message God has delivered over thousands of years through the prophets, the apostles and Jesus.
- APPLY THE JESUS FILTER – Look at everything God has done and said through the lens of Jesus. Being the ultimate revelation of God, Jesus sheds light on all of God’s other communication. God never contradicts himself. Read the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to learn more about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
- TURN IT DOWN – Get into the right posture of hearing — clear the distractions. Turn down the music, give yourself space and time to hear from God, whether that is by prayer, reading the Scriptures, or by creating time in your schedule to worship and discuss Jesus in community. Join a Fellowship Group. We need to teach each other and practice together softening our hearts to the voice of God.
2. Converse about this topic with others:
- How do you imagine God’s throne room of grace?
- What about Jesus makes him the greater High Priest?
3. Reflect personally on the condition of your heart:
- What is restricting you from drawing to the throne with confidence?
- If you don’t yet recognize Jesus’ face as familiar, what are some steps you could take?
4. Listen to this week’s sermon on our website.