A Great High Priest
Where do you turn when you have sinned? If we’re honest, it’s not always to the throne of grace. When we have grown irritated, frustrated, or angry; or when we let an entire day go by without thanking God for the many blessings He has given us; or when jealousy and envy pervade our hearts, we don’t usually feel confident about drawing near to God. Oftentimes we want to hide, make excuses, or blame another person, or circumstance. But if you, like me, have tried to go to anyone or anything except the throne of grace in the wake of sin, you know that it isn’t helpful. However, when we go to Jesus we find “a great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14).
Jesus is unlike any other priest about whom the Scriptures speak. He is not only superior to every other priest (Heb. 5:1-4), He is also from a different order of the priesthood (vv. 6, 10). Furthermore, after accomplishing the redemption of God’s people, He “passed through the heavens” (4:14) and “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (1:3-4). Not only this, He is a fully human and fully divine high priest. Therefore, when we are in need of grace, we have no reason to turn away from the faith, or waver from the faith, or doubt the faith that we profess and hold so dear. Instead, we have every reason to “hold fast our confession” (4:14) and go to the throne of grace.
Sometimes, in the wake of sin, it is tempting to think that God is incapable of empathizing with us. What wonderful news, then, that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). If you read the gospel accounts, you will not only be encouraged, but will soon realize that when Jesus came to earth He experienced what it was like to be human, so that He can help us in time of need. Remember, we are too weak to carry out God’s will in our lives. We don’t have the power to persevere, but God does.
At other times, after we sin, we are tempted to think that God has not been tempted like we are. It is encouraging, then, when we learn that Jesus has “in every respect…been tempted as we are” (Heb. 4:15; italics mine). Think about that. We’re prone to focus on the cross, and rightly so, but by doing so we can forget about the other tests in the life of Christ. Consider the time Jesus was tested in the wilderness for forty days. Satan tempted Him to be dissatisfied with a lack of food, but Jesus was satisfied with God’s word. Satan tempted Him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple unharmed, but Jesus would not put the Lord God to the test. Satan tempted Jesus to gain rulership of all the kingdoms of the world in the wrong way, but Jesus would only gain His reign God’s way (see Matt. 4:1-11). Jesus was tempted just like we are tempted, yet, even through all the testing, He never sinned. He never failed. Even at the last and greatest moment, on the cross, He never broke under the pressure of temptation. Therefore, He is the very best person for us to run to when we sin. Why, then, do we so often run to other people, places, or things?
Think about it. If we talk to our best friend, mother, neighbor, or coworker, we don’t have lasting peace. If we run to the bar, the bed, or the beach, we don’t find lasting rest. If we pick up a magazine, movie, or mocha, we don’t find lasting fulfillment. So what keeps us from running to Jesus? We lack confidence. We don’t really believe He wants us to draw near to Him. We don’t really think He will give us greater grace. We can’t imagine receiving more mercy. We tend to think that someone or something else will help in time of need, but not Jesus. Maybe we think we’ve sinned too badly, or too many times, to go to Him again. Perhaps we think we can handle our weaknesses and sins on our own, or with a little help from a friend. But the author of Hebrews provides us with every reason to confidently draw near to Jesus, “Since then we have a great high priest…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:14, 16; italics mine).
Believers can approach God confidently because of the person and work of Christ. And when we do, we can be confident that we will “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). What a gift! We are never left to fend for ourselves during our weakest moments. We are never left to ourselves in the wake of sin. Our beloved Lord and Savior, “Jesus, the Son of God” who is “a great high priest,” has opened the way to God the Father, so that we might go to Him whenever we need to be forgiven of our sins, or need help to fight against the temptation to sin.
So where will you turn the next time you sin? Will you hide, make excuses, or blame another person, or circumstance? Will you seek forms of entertainment to dull your conscience? Will you try to assuage your guilt in a myriad of other ways? Don’t. Run To Jesus. When you do, you will find “a great high priest who has passed through the heavens” and is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:14-15).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.