Our Sympathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) – Sonnenberg

Pastor Dan helped us see just how great a High Priest we have in Jesus Christ. He was fully human, and as such, he experienced all the same kinds of struggles, temptations, frustrations and disappointments that we face today. Yet he did not sin- or “miss the mark” of God’s expectations in his behaviors, reactions, etc.  He understands us. But he is also divine, and so he has the power to help us deal with those things in our lives.

(Sorry, no audio this week. Slight technical problem.)

Hebrews 4:14-16 – 5:10 (ESV) 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. 15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,  that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

When you’re suffering emotionally – maybe you just lost a friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe you just failed a test in school or are so behind in your work you think you’ll never catch up, maybe you just lost your job or were passed over for a job, maybe you’re being persecuted for your faith, maybe you’ve been sick or injured for a very long time, maybe you find yourself tempted by or addicted to some kind of substance or some habit, maybe you’re frustrated with how your life has turned out, maybe you’re in a very dark place and you’re not even sure how you got there, maybe you’ve even considered taking your own life.

You may be in so deeply, you don’t know what to do. Maybe you think you’re the only one who has ever gone through this, so no one could understand or help you. Maybe you’ve thought of asking someone for help, but you’re too proud, or too fearful, or too ashamed to ask. Maybe you’ve asked for help before, but no one seemed interested or to be able to help.

This passage tells us three things about these times in our lives. When you’re experiencing temptation, suffering or persecution, it tells us:

1. What we should do;  2. How we should do it;  3. Why we should do it

First, it tells us

1.     What we should do: 

It tells us in v14 to hold on to what we believe

              14  let us hold fast our confession

We are to hold on to our faith in God through Jesus Christ. This means we should hold onto what we have believed, what we have confessed to be true in the past about Christ. We are being told simply to hold on to Christ, to hold on to our faith in Christ, to hold on to what we have believed about Christ in the past in spite of the difficulties we’re going through right now.

But when we’re in pain, it’s hard to do that, isn’t it?

Illustration:

A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued:

“Is anyone up there?”

“I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?”
“Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer.”

“That’s all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch.”

A moment of pause, then: “Is anyone else up there?” –Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 3.

We’ve been told what we should do – we’re to hold on to our faith.

Second, we’re told,

2.     How we should do it: 

We find this in v 16. We are to hold on to our faith by confidently drawing near to God in prayer to receive the help we need when we need it.

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The verb here means “to approach,” to move in to God’s presence, to draw near to him.

We are told further to draw near with confidence. This is the same word we saw last week. In this context it means “confident self-expression before God,” especially in prayer. And we are promised when we do this we will receive God’s help in our time of need.

“Mercy” probably refers to our past sins, and “grace” probably refers to our contemporary and future needs.

“Time of need” means that we will receive the help we need in a timely manner, that is, when we need it. However, as we know, God’s time, is not always our time. We may have to wait longer than we expect or wish.

We’ve been told in times of persecution or suffering or temptation we are to hold on to our faith in Jesus by confidently coming to him with our concerns in order to receive the help we need in a timely manner.

But the crux of this passage is the third point,

3.     Why we should do it:

And there are two reasons.

  1. Because Jesus understands our weakness
  2. Because Jesus can help us in our weakness

These two are somewhat difficult to separate, however.

Let’s look at the first reason. When we are suffering or tempted or persecuted we should come to Jesus

  1. Because as our high priest Jesus understands our weakness

Look at verse 15.

15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

The author uses a double negative to emphatically say that Jesus understands our pain. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness” means we DO have a high priest who is able to sympathize.

The phrase “sympathize with our weaknesses” here refers to weaknesses especially that result in sin. Jesus can understand our weakness because he too has experienced the same temptations, yet without sin.

It says that Jesus has “been tempted in every respect as we are.” We may object by saying, “But he was God, so he wasn’t as tempted as I am.” He had the ability to resist that we don’t have.

But what this is telling us is just the opposite. Even though he was God, he was fully man as well, and as man, he was tempted “in every respect” as we are. In order to become our sympathetic high priest, in order to sympathize with our weaknesses, he had to be tempted in exactly the same ways as we are tempted. If he hadn’t he couldn’t understand what we feel. We are being told that Jesus can feel our pain, he can feel our temptation because he experienced the same pain, the same temptation in his earthly life.  He fully participated in humanity during his earthly life.

In fact, he suffered in ways that are greater than any other human because he experienced the full wrath of God on the cross. That’s why he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” And later in Hebrews, we read, Heb 12:3-4 (NAU), “..consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” So it’s not fair or true to say that he can’t understand what we feel because he was God. He was also fully man and therefore can sympathize with us in our time of need.

Have you ever shared one of your weaknesses with someone who had never gone through what you were experiencing? Through no fault of their own, they simply can’t understand what you are feeling. They can’t sympathize with you because they don’t know what it feels like.

They cannot share your pain because they have not experienced your pain. They cannot say, “I know how you feel,” because they have never felt it, or if they do say they know how you feel, it sounds hollow because they really don’t know through their own experience.

But if you’ve shared the same weakness with someone who has experienced it, they can truly sympathize with you because they have had the same experience. When they say they know how you feel, it rings true because they have had the same painful experience.

This is telling us that Jesus has experienced every temptation that you have felt, are feeling and will feel. He knows from experience the temptations you are going through right now, and therefore he can sympathize with you. You can be assured that when you come to him in prayer about this issue, that in his humanity he has experienced the same thing and therefore can sympathize with you.

But this passage tells us, not only can Jesus sympathize with our weakness,

The second reason we should come to Jesus when we are suffering

           2. Because as our high priest Jesus can help us in our weakness

How do we know this?  First, because verse 15 says,  yet without sin. 

He can help us because though he experienced the same temptations as we do, he did so “without sin.” He triumphed over the temptations he experienced. He can help us in our temptations because he learned from difficult experience how to overcome temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

And 2 Peter 2:9 (NLT) …the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment.

Illustration: the people who have sympathized with you the most are those who have gone through it themselves. They can listen sympathetically to what you are feeling and acknowledge those feelings.

How do we know Jesus as high priest can help us?

We know he can help us second, because verse 14 says, “he has passed through the heavens.” He is exalted to the right hand of the Father because of his sinless life and his sacrificial death and Heb 7:5 “he ever lives to make intercession for us.”

A high priest is a mediator between God and man. Because of Jesus’ continuing ministry as our high priest in heaven on our behalf, we have direct access to God and all the resources at his command. Therefore, we can count on his promise of help.

Illustration: the people who can help you the most are those who have overcome the difficulty.

Summary:

This passage tells us three things about these times in our lives. When you’re experiencing temptation, suffering or persecution, it tells us:

1. What we should do – hold fast

2. How we should do it  – by confidently drawing near to God through Christ in prayer to find help in time of need

3. Why we should do it –a) because Jesus sympathizes with our weakness; b) because Jesus can help in our weakness

 

For those who use these:

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