Pentecost 23

SERMON                                                       Pentecost                                      October 2018

Text Hebrews 5:1-10


            A Christian man was told he wouldn’t be hired. This was, he was told, because his Christian conservatism didn’t fit with the company’s workplace environment. --- In Syria a Christian was beheaded by ISIS simply because he was a Christian. Why mention this? Not just because we can also be persecuted in this day and age. But what would we do if we were? Would we give into the temptation of renouncing our faith?  There cane real difficult tests of faith.

            In our text the Hebrew (Jewish) Christians were being persecuted. Christianity had been outlawed. These Jewish Christians could lose their property, be separated as a family, or even put into prison. But the Jewish religion was not outlawed. Thus, the original readers of this letter were contemplating returning to their old Jewish religion. The Holy Spirit inspired this letter in order to teach them what a mistake that would be. Our text in Chapter 5 is one of the highlights of the letter. It points out that in Jesus these believers have the greatest and best High Priest. Better and more necessary than any Jewish high priest. In fact, all believers must have Jesus as their High Priest. This is true also for us. So, let’s study our text and learn about Jesus, The Great High Priest, of All Believers.

            Our text begins, Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 4And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.” We note the following. The High Priest in Israel was an adult male. Aaron, from the tribe of Levi, was the first such high priest under the God given ceremonial Law. Aaron and succeeding priests from the tribe of Levi were chosen by and placed into office by God. Secondly, we note that he represented the people before God in spiritual matters. This position or office entailed the work of offering gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. The High Priest also offered prayers for the people.

            Jesus fulfilled these requirements and thus could be and was a High Priest. He was born of Mary and fully human. He was chosen by God for the High Priest hood. Our text says, “In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”  Notice the writer distinctly says, “Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest.” God chose him just as he chose all the high priests. How? By revealing that Jesus was his Son. Being God’s Son meant that Jesus was not just human but also divine. So, note this, being both Man and God, Jesus could best represent mankind before God. He knows what it to be human but he also is intimately linked to God. More on this is a minute.

            We need to look at one more comparison between the Jewish high priests and Jesus. Our text says, “He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.”  As a human being the high priest could clearly understand the temptations the Jewish people faced. He also faced them. He understood how at times they sinned. For the high priest also sinned. In fact, on the Day of Atonement, the H.P. had to first offer up a sacrifice for his own sins. Then he could offer up such a sacrifice for the people.

            Concerning Jesus our text says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” We note that Jesus fully understood the human condition. He faced temptations each and every day. Knowing human frailty, he helped people every day; he didn’t just heal the sick, but counseled the people to know and trust God. But Jesus was different, he didn’t sin. He didn’t have to offer up a sacrifice for himself. Yet, he knew all about the burden of sin. In our text we see him in the Garden praying fervently for strength. He willingly was making himself responsibile for the sins of the world. But this was extremely difficult even for HIM. The sins of the world were ugly, and abhorrent to him. He was and is the holy Son of God. His Father heard his prayer and gave him the strength necessary to die for our sins. And notice this irony, is Jesus died because of the action of a Levitical high priest named Caiaphas. He died even for those who rejected him.

            I hope and pray we can appreciate that Jesus suffered greatly for us. I say this for two reasons. We always are in danger of taking our sins lightly. In fact, we sometimes we don’t realize we have even committed a sin. For instance, I say something to someone or about someone. But what I thought was all right to say, actually was wrong and sinful. One example is American humor of teasing people; it can hurt others quite easily. Likewise, there are actions I take which have unintended consequences. It hurts others as well as myself. Finally, we don’t always realize that how harmful sin really is, even to ourselves. It damns us for all eternity!

Secondly, we hear of Jesus death for us every week as we should. But there is the danger that we don’t ponder enough the marvel of Jesus willingly dying for us. We can think we heard all that before. We don’t need to hear about it again. But we do! Consider this example. You know, there are sins we have committed that we consider terrible, ugly, hurtful. We wish we hadn’t ever committed them. We will remember those sins for the rest of our life. So, we need to hear again and again, I’m pardoned. Jesus took away that sin. Jesus, MY High Priest, the true and holy Son of God, died for all of my sins. That’s what we have to ponder. Then we will not be led to again doubt God truly loves us. Then we will rejoice that Jesus is our great High Priest.

Finally, our text says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus “learned” (according to his human nature) that there was no other way to save mankind from sin except he would die. “He was obedient unto death” (Phil 2) He came to understand and trust his Father’s plan. “Once made perfect” is better translated, “Once he reached his goal” (EHV). He said on the cross, “it is finished” and gave his spirit into his Father’s hands. As he did that “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”. Whoever believes in him, (“Obeys him”) receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life. That is you, fellow believer! You have all your sins, known and unknown forgiven.

Because did this, Jesus was made a Priest King forever.  Melchizedek was both a king and priest of the true God at the time of Abraham. In fact, Abraham brought to him an offering for God. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. In his office as king-priest, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. Jesus, as High Priest is the greatest of all priests. He now sits at the right hand of God ruling heaven and earth. Thank God this is true. He also, as High Priest, continues to hear your prayers and requests. Thank God this is true. Rejoice, that all this is true.

The writer of this letter was saying to the Jewish Christians, don’t turn away from Jesus no matter what happens in life, no matter what you have to suffer. There is no substitute for Jesus and what he has done. God today through this Word is saying the same to you and to me. And you won’t turn from faith in Jesus, if you remember that HE is your King Priest. He rules over all things for your good. He hears and answers your specific prayers. No mere human does that. Review this chapter of the Bible. Ponder the great significance of this truth for you. Jesus, the Son of God, is your great High Priest. Amen.

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