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Intro: The message of the Gospel is entirely rooted on who Jesus is and what He has done. Last week we viewed the words of Zech. 9:9 as a springboard to study about Jesus as the fulfillment of those words – Our King coming with salvation. Tonight I want to go again to the prophetic words of Zechariah in order to view our Lord in the fulfillment. There is no more meaningful picture of Jesus’ person & work in our behalf than Jesus as our High Priest. This morning we viewed a vision of Zechariah concerning Joshua, the high priest of Israel during the ministry of Zechariah. In that vision God revealed the coming on the Branch of David, the Messiah. He was coming to provide forgiveness and unprecedented access to God, as the priest sitting upon a throne: Zech 6:13 – Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”‘
Can we appreciate what Jesus has done for us?
The writer of Hebrews specifically to the work of Christ as our true and superior high priest.
- 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 cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
I. Jesus is God’s Only True High Priest. All others, no matter how faithful, were but symbols of His priesthood.
A. The focus of Hebrews”; In chapter 1 He is seen as the One who has made “purification of sins” (v. 3). In chapter 2 He is “a merciful and faithful high priest” (v. 17) and in chapter 3 He is “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (v. 1). Chapters 7-9 focus almost exclusively on Jesus’ high priesthood. Heb. 8:1-2 – Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
But let’s go back to Hebrews 4 and take a closer look at the Character and Work of Our High Priest
II. Jesus is Our High Priest in Heaven: (ministering before God) vs. 14 – 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. (4:14)
- What was the work of the High Priest in the O.T.?
- How does Jesus fulfill that work?
A. The priests of Israel were appointed by God to be mediators between Himself and His people. Only the high priest could offer the highest sacrifice under the Old Covenant, and that he did only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
B. All the sins of the people were brought symbolically to the Holy of Holies, where the blood of a sacrificed bull and a goat were sprinkled on the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, called the mercy seat, as a sacrifice to atone for them.
1) As we learn from Lev 16, before the high priest could even enter the Holy of Holies he had to make an offering for himself, since he was also a sinner.
2) Not only that, but his time in the Holy of Holies was limited. He was allowed to stay in the presence of the Shekinah glory of God only while he was making the sacrifice.
C. “passed through the heavens” – The phrase in Heb. 4:14 is significant and appropriate. To enter the Holy of Holies, the priest had to pass through three areas in the Tabernacle or the Temple. He took the blood and went through the door into the outer court, through another door into the Holy Place, and then through the veil into the Holy of Holies.
1) He did not sit down or delay. As soon as the blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, he left and did not return for another year.
2) The process was never ended, because the priesthood was not perfect and the sacrifices were not perfect.
3) Jesus, our great High Priest, after He had made the one-time, perfect sacrifice on the cross, also passed through the heavens into the presence of God, the Father. Heb 9:24-26 “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
a) After Jesus made this atonement, He did not have to leave. The sacrifice was perfect, and so He sat down at the right hand of God. Heb 10:11-14 – And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
b) The power of this atoning exercise is also verified in the resurrection of Christ. He is alive and continues to make intercession forever.
- Heb 7:16 – 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. Vs. 22-25 – 22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. 23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
D. No Christian priesthood was established by Christ or the apostles. The Levitical priesthood, as an element of the Mosaical covenant was temporary and ended with the death of Christ.
- Peter does refer to the church, that is to all believers, as a “holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). There are at least 4 important ways in which Christians are now a priesthood before God.
1) Christians are priests, in the sense that we can now approach God. By faith & obedience in Jesus Christ any person can enter directly into God’s presence. When Jesus died, the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Access to God was thrown wide open to anyone who would come on His terms.
2) Christians are priests, in the sense that we proclaim the holiness and glory of God. 1 Peter 2:9 … that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
3) Christians are priests in the sense that we are to be completely dedicated to the service of God. – We have been separated for the purpose of serving our King – Titus 2:14 – 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
4) Christians are priests in the sense that we can now offer ourselves as sacrifices to God. Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
5) But we are not priests in the sense that we can atone for our sins or the sins of others. Jesus is uniquely the Priest of our atonement. Any formal religious priesthood on earth now implies that the final and perfect atonement for sin has not yet been made. It is rebellion and wicked presumption.
III. Jesus as Our Ministering High Priest (ministering before the People) Heb. 4:15 – “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.” (4:15)
A. Jesus became a human to share in every aspect of flesh & blood: Heb 2:14 14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, (NAS)
1. The distinction in Jesus’ acquired humanity is brought out in the NIV reading of Heb. 2:14– 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (NIV)
a. Share = to have fellowship, communion, or partnership. It involves having something in common with others. All human beings have flesh and blood. Partook is from a very different word, means taking hold of something that is not naturally one’s own kind. Jesus willingly took hold of something which was not his own kind. Through Him we become “partakers of divine nature” – we become like Jesus. (2 Peter 1:4).
b. The conclusion of Heb. 2:14 seems to be that Jesus incarnated so that he might experience death; which he would not experience except as a human – “that through death He might”
c. There can be no more paradoxical picture than to realize that the Creator of all things actually cried, perspired, felt pain, frustration, disappointment, and as a result He sympathizes with my forgetfulness.
B. Our great High Priest perfectly understands…
1. He sympathizes with my weaknesses- Weaknesses does not refer directly to sin, but to feebleness or infirmity. It refers to all the natural limitations of humanity, which, however, include liability to sin. Jesus knew firsthand the drive of human nature toward sin. It is here that Jesus faced and fought sin.
2. “He was tempted in all things as we are…” How can this be? There are temptations toward sin and particular lusts that may not have existed in Jesus’ day. Was Jesus ever tempted to cheat on his wife or be mean to his children?
a. Illustration: extreme pain brings a temporary numbness, or fainting that keeps us from experiencing pain in its most extreme point. (David going into shock and fainting) Our bodies have ways of turning off pain when it becomes too much to endure. In other words, the amount of pain we can endure is not limitless. A similar principle operates in temptation. We succumb to the temptation and we do not experience its most extreme measure. John MacArthur writes… “There is a degree of temptation that we may never experience simply because, no matter what our spirituality, we will succumb before we reach it. But Jesus Christ had no such limitation. Since He was sinless, He took the full extent of all that Satan could throw at Him. Since He never succumbed, He experienced every temptation to the maximum. And He experienced it as a man, as a human being.”
3. In all of this struggle Jesus was without sin. He was completely apart from, separated from, sin. These two Greek words express the absolute absence of sin. Though He was mercilessly tempted to sin, not the slightest taint of it ever entered His mind or was expressed in His words or actions.
a. His sinlessness increased His sensitivity to sin. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb 12:3-4). If you want to talk to someone who knows what sin is about, talk to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ knows sin, and He knows and understands our weakness. Whatever Satan brings our way, there is victory in Jesus Christ. He understands; He has been here.
IV. Jesus Provides For Us – Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
A. Drawing Near with Confidence: Most ancient rulers were unapproachable by the common people. Queen Esther risked her life in approaching King Ahasuerus without invitation (Esther 5:1-2). But the contextual drawing near is that of the priest as he approached God in the tabernacle. It demanded holiness (sanctification) Heb 10:19-22 “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
1. What is this new and living way? It is a living way in that it truly imparts life. Because Jesus is alive and not a dead sacrifice. Barnes says… “It is a way that conducts to life. It is ever-living as if the blood which was shed always retained the freshness of what is flowing from the vein. And it is “perpetual” and “constant” like a fountain that always flows-for it is by a sacrifice whose power is perpetual and unchanging.
B. Throne of Grace: a throne of judgment has been transformed into a throne of grace. All the blood of all those lambs did not change the nature of the “mercy seat”. It continued to be a place of judgment as it awaited the offering of another sacrifice, and thus it was “unapproachable”.
1. “that we might receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need”. Some suggest that mercy and grace are distinguishable here in the sense that “mercy” is our initial forgiveness of sins, and “grace to help” is God’s protective care for us as His children. Jesus provides both.
a. 1 Cor 10:13– “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it”
Conclusion: What a High Priest we have. He sympathizes and He saves. What more could He do?