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Hebrews 4:14-5:10: He Suffers With Us Print E-mail
Hebrews
Sunday, 23 October 2016

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The book of Hebrews teaches us much about our Savior. We have seen that He is truly God. He is the heir of all things (1:2) and the world was created through Him. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (1:3). He is greater than angels and the revelation that He brought is greater than theirs (1:1-2:9). He is also truly man. He was made like his brothers in every respect (2:17). He is greater than Moses as the Son (3:1-5) and Joshua as the Savior (4:1-13). He is the prophet who has spoken Godís Word to us in these last days (1:1). He is the King whose throne is forever (1:8) and who sits at Godís right hand (1:13). And He is the merciful and faithful high priest, who gave Himself to pay for our sins (2:17). It is this last office, the office of High Priest, that the author of Hebrews will now focus on for the next several chapters of the book (4:14-10:18). The author wants his readers to see that just as Jesus is greater than angels and greater than Moses and Joshua, so is He greater than the Levitical priesthood.

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He transitions to this discussion with two commands at the end of chapter 4. Look at verses 14-16. The first command is found in verse 14: let us hold fast our confession. We have seen this command throughout the letter of Hebrews thus far. The original readers were being tempted to walk away from Christ and abandon their faith. But the author is writing to warn them and encourage them to avoid such a mistake. They must hold fast to Christ. The second command is found in verse 16: let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace. Instead of walking away from Christ, we should draw near to God through Him. Instead of letting trials and difficulties drive us to doubt, they should drive us to the throne of grace, where we will find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

Yet, why should we keep these commands? What reason do we have for holding fast and drawing near? The author of Hebrews grounds these two commands in a glorious truth: Jesus is our great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is not just another high priest, He is a great high priest. He does not just offer sacrifices here on the earth, but He has passed through the heavens to secure our salvation. And He is not some distant high priest, but one who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. The author will go on to explain and develop each of these ideas further in the book. In our passage this morning he writes more about how Jesus is our great high priest who can sympathize. What does he say?

Jesus has been tempted like us, but without sin (v. 15)

How can I know that Jesus really knows what it is like to struggle and suffer against temptation? We know it because we believe that He was tempted just like us. Look again at verse 15. Jesus left glory to become a man and face temptations just like us. We read about some of those temptations in the Gospels. Satan tempted Him after He fasted for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11). Peter tempted Him to avoid suffering as well (Matthew 16:21-23). He struggled in sorrow with His impending death in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-40). And these are just the specific temptations that we are told about. The author of Hebrews is telling us an amazing truth: Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He is encouraging his readers to know that they can come to Christ when facing temptations and difficulties because He is able to sympathize with them. He is a great high priest who knows what it is like.

But we need to note that even though Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, He also knows how to have victory over temptation. How do I know? Because Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Jesus doesnít just know what it is like to struggle, He knows how to overcome! One of my commentatorís writes: ďWe canít say that our God doesnít know what it is like to be human. He is not a transcendent deity who is far removed from us, but he also dwells among his people. His full humanity, however, did not involve failure. We would hardly be helped by one who knew what it was to be human but failed as we have. No, here is one who suffered all the pains and anguish of human life without ever yielding to sin. He knows what it is like to be tempted by sin with all its allure and charm, but he never turned to selfishness. He always did the will of the Father.Ē1 We have a great High Priest who can sympathize without having sinned!

Jesus has been appointed by God to be our Mediator (5:1-6)

Can we really say that Jesus is a high priest? The author turns to this discussion in chapter 5. He points out that a high priest is one who has been appointed by God to be a mediator between God and man. Look at verse 1. Under the old covenant, the high priest was appointed by God to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Because he was a sinner, he had to offer sacrifices for himself as well, which the author of Hebrews notes in verses 2-3. Look at those with me. Since the high priest is human, he can deal gently with the weaknesses of men. In this way, Jesus is able to sympathize with us because He became human. Of course, Jesus was not like the other high priests who had to offer sacrifices for their own sin, as the author will later point out (see 7:27). He is here just pointing out that Jesus is our Mediator who is able to sympathize with us because He became a man. And just like the high priests under the old covenant, Jesus was appointed by God. Look at verses 4-6. Just as the Father appointed Aaron to serve as the high priest under the old covenant, so has He appointed to Christ to serve as our High Priest. Of course, Jesus was not born in the line of Aaron and so the author will go on to explain how Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the priest who received tithes and offerings from Abraham in Genesis 14. The author will go on to demonstrate how Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek. His point here is simply that Jesus was appointed to be High Priest just like all the others.

Jesus has been perfected through suffering (5:7-10)

A high priest is the mediator between God and man. Jesus could be that Mediator because He took on flesh and became a man. Look at verses 7-8. Again, the author is showing us how Jesus is the great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus can do that because He knows what it is like to be human. He knows what it is like to grow tired and hungry. He knows what it is like to face temptation, as we saw earlier. And He knows what it is like to cry out to God in prayer, just as we saw in our call to worship from Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus was filled with sorrow and cried out to the Lord to save Him from death. Yet, He was willing to do the Fatherís will. In one sense, we might say that the Father did not save Him from death because He died on a roman cross the very next day. Yet, in another sense, God did in fact save Jesus from death, because three days later, Jesus arose victorious over the grave. Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross and we know the Father accepted His sacrifice because He saved Him from death through the resurrection.

In this way, through Jesusí struggles in life and ultimately through His death on the cross, He learned obedience through what he suffered. The author is not saying here that Jesus was ignorant or that He had to learn obedience because He had been disobedient. No, Jesus learned obedience through His experience of suffering. He knows what it is like to suffer. He knows the cost of obedience. Rich Mullins has a song entitled ĎBound to Come Some Troubleí and in it he writes: ďThereís bound to come some trouble in this life, but that ainít nothing to be afraid of/ thereís bound to come some trouble in this life, but that ainít no reason to fear/ I know thereís bound to come some trouble in this life, but reach out to Jesus and hold on tight/ Heís been there before and He knows what itís like/ And youíll find Heís there.Ē I think is the encouragement that the author of Hebrews is giving us in these verses. Jesus can sympathize with us. The term sympathize means Ďto suffer with.í Jesus can suffer with us when we suffer because He knows what it is like to suffer. He tasted death for us all. What a great High Priest!

In fact, He is a perfect High Priest who is able to offer us eternal salvation. He was made perfect, or made complete, through His suffering and death at the cross. The Father accepted His sacrifice and raised Him from the dead. And if we turn from our sins and trust in Him then we can have eternal salvation through Him. Saving faith will lead us to obedience and demonstrate that we have been saved by Christ. What a great High Priest indeed!

Conclusion
The author has demonstrated how Jesus is our great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. He is able to suffer with us and save us from our sins eternally. What then are the two commands that he gave us at the beginning that we are to do in light of this truth? First, we are to hold fast our confession. The theme of the letter is the necessity of perseverance in the faith because Jesus is better than anything else. He is our great High Priest who has saved us from our sins, so how can we not hold fast to our faith in Him? Second, we are to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. I need this exhortation. There are times when I am hesitant to draw near. I remember when we first found out that there would be problems with Ianís adoption. I was devastated and confused and angry. We were in Kansas City at the time and I remember taking a walk down to a creek that ran beside our friendís house. I argued with God the whole way. I was upset. I did not know what was going to happen. I thought I was going to lose my son. It was one of the hardest moments in all of my life. And you know what this passage tells me? It does not answer all of my questions. It does not tell me why bad things happen or difficulties arise in life. No, but it tells me this: I have a great High Priest who was with me and able to suffer with me on the side of that creek in Kansas City. He was not distant. He was not aloof. He suffered with me. Brothers and sisters, how could we not draw near to such a High Priest in our time of need? He suffers with us because He suffered for us. Hold fast and draw near to Him today. Amen.

1 Thomas R. Schreiner, Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation: Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2015), loc. 3362.

~ William Marshall ~

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