Hebrews 4:14-15 (NKJV) 4 Seeing then that 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 was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Yesterday we looked at the fact that we still need a High Priest in our relationship with God and the covenant. We no longer need an earthly priesthood like Israel did, because we now have an High Priest who has passed into the heavens. Jesus is our High Priest and he sits at the right hand of God making intercession for us.
In the Old Testament, the High Priest changed through the generations. Some were good, and some were bad. Hebrews 7:22-25 tells us that Jesus is a High Priest who never changes. He is a perfect priest and his priesthood will continue through eternity. Because of this, he is able to save us “to the uttermost.” There are no limits on what salvation in Christ can do in us and through us because he is praying for us and working in us by the Holy Spirit. I believe this passage in Romans 8 is pointing to the High Priestly ministry of Jesus.
Romans 8:26-28 (NKJV) 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We see here that we do not always know what to pray for or how to pray. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts, the hearts of people we will be dealing with and the will of God. He prays for us according to all these factors and more, causing all of them to work for our good. This is part of how our High Priest saves us to the uttermost.
Anytime the term priest is used in relation to ministry, it is referring to holiness. The priestly ministry in Israel was there to offer the sacrifices necessary to maintain the nation in a state of right relationship to the Lord and by extension the covenant. That is holiness. Holiness means to be separated from the World and to God. Israel was separate from the rest of the world by their covenant with God. To be holy meant to be right with the covenant. Without the priesthood, they could not have maintained that separation.
We need a High Priest for the same reason. We are born again in the spirit. Something happened inside of every person who believes in the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for their sins and who receives him as the Lord and master of their lives. However, that does not mean that we are no longer subject to temptation or sin. Jesus paid for all of our sin, but the wages of sin is still death. I am not talking about eternal separation from God but the influence of death over our daily living.
Our High Priest remains at the right hand of God pleading our case before the Judge of the universe. When we sin, Jesus reminds the Father that his blood already paid the price for that sin. This maintains our relationship with God even when we fail. However, there is another side of priesthood.
A priest is a mediator between God and man. I mentioned that I grew up Catholic. They call their ministers priests because they believe we still need that kind of earthly mediator. Catholics go to the priest to confess their sins. There are “sacraments” or sacrifices that they cannot offer for themselves. Only the priest who is set apart by God and the Church can offer them. Again, I mean no disrespect to Catholicism, but I disagree with that point of view. We do need a mediator, but he sits at the right hand of God.
1 Timothy 2:5 (NKJV) 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
When we sin, we have an advocate with the Father and 1 John makes it clear that we can go to him.
1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV) 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
1 John 1:8-10 tells us that if we confess our sin God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We come with our advocate, our mediator, and our advocate pleads our case with the Father. Jesus stands as our High Priest and mediator.
As mediator, the High Priest was always supposed to be one of the people, but one set apart to God for service. All of the priests in Israel were prohibited from the business of life. They were supported by the tithe, so they did not have to work in the world. This gave them a focus on the things of God that others did not have. However, they were still people. They were not supposed to be so separated from the rest of Israel that they could not relate to them. A mediator must be able to touch both parties.
In the course of their history, the priests became more and more separated from the people for whom they were supposed to mediate. This was especially true of the High Priest. He lived apart from them. He was elevated to a point where he could not relate to the people and the people could not relate to him. Our High Priest is different.
We see in verse 15 that our High Priest is able to sympathize with our weakness because he lived life just as we do. The bible says he was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. The fact that he did not give in to the temptation does not mean it was not real. He knows what it means to be man.
On the other hand, he is God. Our minds cannot fully understand that. The King James Version says he is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Yet John 1:1 tells us that the “Word” was with God from the beginning and that Word was God. Jesus is the Word made flesh.
Our High Priest is God, but he is also man. He is the perfect mediator. He knows how we feel. He did not live in our modern world, but that does not matter. He was tempted in every way you and I can be tempted. Temptation is temptation. The substance never changes only the methods change.
When we come to our great High Priest he understands how we feel. We can confess our sins to him because he knows the power of temptation. He also overcame temptation and can help us do the same. He understands our weakness. He knows what it feels like to be human. When I am struggling, it is a tremendous comfort to know that.
Do not forget about the ministry of the High Priest. God tells us about him because we need him. He is our mediator. He is our mediator because he died to pay for our sins. However, his role as mediator did not end there. He is our mediator, our High Priest, today. You can go to him. You can confess your sins and weakness to him. He has not forgotten what it means to be human.
This does not mean we are excused from living in line with the principles that God puts in his Word. We must stay in harmony with the New Covenant to reap all of its benefits. It does mean that we have someone who understands us and is there to help us not condemn us when we come to him.
Go to him today. Do not try to clean up your life and present it to him. Take your life as it is and let the High Priest help you grow into the Christian that God wants you to be. Then you will become a channel for his life to your family and community.
How does this relate to grace? We do not deserve the High Priestly ministry of Jesus. This is one of the things grace provided for us so that we can live as real Christians even in this modern, trying world.