OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST
Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Verses preceding the lesson text were written by the author of this epistle to etch into the minds of every Christian the need for obedient belief in the commandments of our heavenly Father. Dutiful labor is required to enter into that rest, that is, eternal salvation in heaven. Disobedience, due to unbelief, was the reason most of the Israelites were not allowed to inherit the land of Canaan - the "Promised Land" that was given to them by God. Christians should never forget this biblical example. The writer tells us why this is necessary: lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief (Vs. 11). These "lost" Jews came short of the promised haven of rest because they refused to hear and obey the word of the Lord. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Vs. 12). This fully describes, in no uncertain terms, God's divine revelation to mankind.
in the passage quoted above, God's word is said to bequick - it is living, in that it is the divine law under which mankind of all ages, past, present, and future, are to live. God's word is powerful. No other law can negate, alter, or add to it. It is God's law; it cannot be changed by the power, or will, of mankind - it will remain, as originally given to mankind, forever. God's word is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is sharp enough to penetrate the very heart and soul of mankind. It is sharp enough to cut through, lay open, and reveal the thoughts and intents of the heart. The word of God is the source of eternal life to those that obey His will, but is also the source of condemnation to those who reject it. Verse 13 tells us that all mankind is subject to His will. No one can hide from God's sight. The thoughts and deeds of every man and woman are known to Him. The warning to all is that God cannot be deceived. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
The previous chapter of this epistle opened with this revealing statement about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to Him that appointed Him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. The linage of Aaron served as High Priest of the Jewish children of God.
The fact that Jesus is, today, the High Priest of all Christian children of God, is the subject of the lesson text and is the theme of chapters 5 through 10 that follow. Since this epistle was written to Christians, of Jewish descent, the comparison of the Levitical priesthood to the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, was extremely important in order to establish their New Testament faith through, which they received the hope of eternal salvation. And, indeed, it serves the same purpose to every Christian today.
During the Mosaic Dispensation, the high priest was the spiritual ruler over the house of God. His physical requirements and his duties are summarized in Leviticus 21:10-24. He was responsible for, and oversaw all spiritual aspects of the Jewish nation regarding their worship to God. Only the High Priest conducted the religious rites required by God on the Day of Atonement. The High Priest made atonement for himself with the required animal sacrifice, he sanctified the mercy seat by the sprinkling of the sacrificial blood, and he made atonement for all the people of Israel for their sins that had been committed during the past year.
Reading ahead in this epistle in chapter 10, we find the imperfections of the sacrifices offered by Jewish high priests. Such atonements were not lasting - they were only for a one-year period. They did not take away the sins forever, only moved them up one year at a time. The same sins, in addition to those committed during the present year must be atoned for each year with the same sacrificial rites. The writer of this epistle to Jewish Christians, and to us today, fully explained this by saying, For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins (Heb. 10:4).
Knowing this, the inspired author of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us exactly why Jesus Christ was then, and is now, far superior to the high priests of the Old Testament. Indeed, He is our great High Priest, and we, as Christians, are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice (Himself) for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool (Heb. 10:10-13). It was the sacrificial surrender of the body of Christ that enabled obedient Christians to become sanctified in the eyes of God, and reconciled to Him by having their sins forgiven once and for all time. What the blood of bulls and goats could not do for mankind, Jesus Christ was able to accomplish through the shedding of His innocent blood on the cross of Calvary.
Jesus is our great High Priest because He offered the greatest atoning sacrifice ever made for mankind. He offered His own body, and shed His own blood, that the sins of mankind could be remitted and reconciliation could take place between sinful mankind on earth and our righteous Father in heaven. Unlike many Old Testament high priests, our High Priest, Jesus Christ had a heart that was touched by human trials and tribulations. He sympathized with the poor and needy, with the sick and physically impaired, with the distraught and grieving, and with the repentant sinner. In Him we find the kind affections of a loving brother. Like all mankind, Jesus, too, was tempted. He was persecuted and despised by His own people, yet He never succumbed to the sinfulness of the world. He is our example, but to a higher degree to the spiritual benefit of mankind, He is our great High Priest, because He lived on earth and yet was without sin.
With our sympathizing, and loving, elder Brother, Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, we can come boldly unto the throne of grace. It is here that Christians can obtain mercy, and final grace to help in the time of need. Here at the mercy seat of God, our great High Priest will intercede for all Christians, and beg forgiveness from our Heavenly Father, for every penitent soul that comes to God in prayer. Mercy and the pardon of all sin is required for all seeking eternal salvation. Indeed, our High Priest, Jesus Christ, has shown us the way required by God that leads to the true rest in the Promised Land called heaven. The unbelieving, disobedient Israelites were excluded from the Promised Land of Canaan. Through unbelief, so will men and women of all ages, that refuse to hear, and obey, the voice of Jesus, will be excluded from eternal rest in heaven.
Jesus Christ is the answer to eternal salvation for mankind. It is necessary that we hear His warning contained in this lesson text, heed His call, and obediently serve Our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ!