Jesus Gets It! Our Great High Priest In Heaven
What practical benefit is there for us in Jesus being our great high priest in heaven?
There are people who say that there is . . .
No benefit at all . . .
Because the whole story of Jesus is a myth. The idea of Jesus functioning as our high priest in heaven is a religious fantasy. It is meaningless at best and at worst it is a harmful delusion of reality. This, of course, is the non-Christian response. But before we dismiss the non-Christian response as something we would never do; let us think carefully. Do we really know what it means that Jesus is our great high priest in heaven? Do we believe that we should want to know and understand the importance of Jesus has our High Priest in heaven? When we read Hebrews 4:14-16 do we just skim over it and think, well, that’s nice. If there is no knowledge, no desire to understand, and no effort made to grasp the importance of Jesus as our High Priest in heaven do we not act practically as a non-Christian would act toward this doctrine? Even though we may affirm its doctrinal truth, we act as if it has no benefit at all to us.
Other people find in these verses an . . .
Emotional and Psychological Benefit
This is what I call the comfort response. That is to say that Christians can find an emotional and psychological comfort from knowing that Jesus is their high priest in heaven. We may not grasp exactly why having Jesus as our high priest in heaven is important, but because we believe the Scriptures, we know there must be a benefit in there somewhere. It is comforting to know that Jesus is in heaven doing something on our behalf.
We should find real comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is our high priest in heaven. However, if comfort is all we find in this Jesus our High Priest we risk two errors. The first is thinking this passage is all about us and our emotional and psychological comfort. This naturally leads to the second error, which is ignoring the responsibilities we assume when we receive this comfort. We will talk more about those responsibilities later in the message.
Other Christians might say that there is a definite
. . . connected to the assurance of our salvation. Jesus as our high priest confirms that Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and one day - by and by - we will be with him. The comfort response finds in our great high priest emotional and psychological comfort in the here and now. On the other hand, the assurance response finds a spiritual benefit in the assurance of eternal life with Jesus in heaven in the future.
Certainly, we should find assurance of our salvation in knowing that Jesus is our great high priest in heaven. However, if we stop there, we will miss the practical help Christ makes available to us day by day in the here and now.
Jesus our high priest in heaven brings to us real benefits that are not a religious fantasy. Jesus our high priest brings to us real benefits that certainly include our emotional and psychological comfort, and which include the assurance of our salvation. In addition to comfort and assurance, Jesus our Great High Priest in heaven brings to us real time help in the way we need it, when we need it.
This is possible because . . .
Jesus is a One-of-a Kind High Priest
Jesus is the only high priest who ascended into heaven
On Ascension Sunday, we celebrate that we have a great high priest who ascended to heaven. The image is one of Jesus traveling through a series of created heavens. In Jewish thought of the day there is a series of created heavens which separate the earth from the ultimate, unshakable realm of God that is beyond the created order.
The Apostle Paul calls us to rejoice that we have a Great High Priest who has passed through the heavenly places controlled by the forces of darkness to live in the highest heaven. Paul prayed that the spiritual eyes of the church in Ephesus would be open to understand the great benefit that Jesus their high priest in heaven is to them. Here the joyous words of Paul,
Ephesians 1:18–23 NIV
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Notice that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.” All the powers of evil must bow to Jesus “not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Because this is true, the Father exercises “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” It is power so great that it makes God’s people – the church – “the fullness of him [Jesus] who fills everything in every way.
Because we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus fills us, his church, with power to fill this earth with his presence and do even greater works than he did on earth.
Jesus is the only high priest who is the Son of God
All other high priests were men who represented people to God. Only Jesus was the Son of God before the world began. Only Jesus was . . .
John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Hebrews 7:27 NIV
Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
John 3:16 NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Only Jesus, the Son of God, is our Great High Priest who gives himself as “the lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus is both Priest and Sacrifice because
Jesus is the only high priest that did not sin
All other high priests had to first offer a sacrifice for his own sins and then for the people. Our passage tells us that Jesus, our Great High Priest in Heaven, “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.”
“Yet he did not sin” is the most important phrase in the whole passage. If this were not true, nothing else matters. If this is not true, we can just never come to worship again. If this is not true, then Jesus died as a martyr and not as a Savior. If this is not true, then Jesus is not the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. There is no remedy for sins. If there is a holy and just God, but there is not a sinless Savior- we are without hope of escape from our just eternal punishment.
But, Jesus did not sin and we will not endure the eternal punishment due our sins because . . .
Jesus is the only high priest to go through hell for us
What do we mean when in the Apostle’s creed we say that Jesus descended into hell? There are various interpretations and more than one of them may have elements of the truth. However, I think John Calvin captures the fundamental meaning, upon which other elements may be added. Calvin believe the creed should be change do read, “suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, descended into hell, dead, and buried.”
It was Calvin’s view that Jesus’ experience of hell took place while He was on the cross. That’s what the atonement was all about—He received the full measure of punishment for sin, enduring the wrath of God as it is experienced by those in hell.
Of Christ’s descent into hell, the explanation given to us in God’s Word is not only holy and pious, but also full of wonderful consolation. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No—it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked!.
God became human and subjected himself to the very worse agony that a human could experience - deep physical and emotional agony - and then total abandonment by God - complete hopelessness. Jesus in his last moments on the cross experienced the torments of hell sufficient to pay the penalty for all sin for all time.
The greatest benefit that we have from our Great High Priest in heaven is that
Jesus gets it!
Jesus empathizes with our weakness because he was severely tempted.
Jesus gets it! Jesus knows how difficult it is to live a holy life with ever-present temptation all around.
Are you feeling lost, alone, abandoned, hopeless?
Jesus gets it! Jesus gets it because Jesus knows what no other human this side of the great judgement knows: Jesus knows what it means to be totally abandoned by God in our greatest moment of need.
Jesus gets it and he is eager to help us in our time of need. Jesus says to us, “come up to me. Come up to God’s throne of mercy and grace. Come with confidence my children. Come with confidence my brothers and sisters, for I have paid the price for your endless mercy and grace. Come up to me my friends run to the throne of mercy and grace in your times of weakness, in your times of need. At the throne of grace, you will find merciful pardon for every sin for which you should expect punishment. At the throne of grace, you will find every graceful favor that you could never deserve, but which I delight to pour out upon you.”
Can we hear? Will we hear the voice of our Great High Priest in Heaven promising us every mercy and grace that we need when we need it. We will have what we need, not just in the by and by but, in the here and now. We will have more than mere emotional and psychological comfort. We will have the very power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of the Father coursing through our souls.
Our part is to
Receive And Respond
To the great mercy and grace of our Great High Priest
The first step to receiving mercy and grace is to recognize our weakness, to name our need. Are we willing to be honest with ourselves about where we are weak and where our need really is?
The second step to receiving mercy and grace is to go with confidence to the throne of God’s grace to receive what God promises us.
What will keep us from running to the throne of God’s grace in our weakness and time of need? Here are three possibilities:
· We would rather play the victim than change our ways.
· We are to proud to ask for help – even from God.
· We avoid reality. We do not want to think deeply about and honestly confront our real weaknesses and needs.
We respond to God’s mercy and grace by . . .
holding firm to the faith. In gratitude for all our Great High Priest in Heaven does for us, we commit ourselves to him forever. The original audiences of the Book of Hebrews understood that a person or group that received grace and mercy was then under obligation to . . .
extend grace and mercy to others. We see this in Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant. The servant’s King forgave the servant’s large debt. However, the servant did not extend the same mercy and grace to someone who owed him a much smaller debt.
““Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
Then Jesus pointed out,
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.””
(Matthew 18:32–35, NIV)
The practical benefit for us in having Jesus as our Great High Priest in Heaven is that . . .
Jesus gets it!
Jesus knows our weaknesses. Jesus knows our needs. And Jesus totally gets it. Jesus says to us, come on up to the throne of grace and receive all the mercy and grace that you need. In gratitude for the mercy and grace that is ours, we hold firmly to our faith in Jesus and, like Jesus, we extend mercy and grace to others. That is one of the most important ways that we make the presence and power of Jesus visible in this world.
Let us pray
Father, we thank you that we have such a great high priest in heaven - Jesus, the Son of God. We bless you because our High Priest Jesus understands our weakness and needs completely.
We thank you that our Lord experienced temptation in every way just as we experience it – but he did not sin as we do. Because Our Lord did not sin, our Great High Priest was himself the perfect atonement for the sins of the entire world.
Now we approach Your throne of grace with confidence. Now we receive mercy when we fail because our Great High Priest himself paid the penalty in full. Now we receive grace in our time of need because Our Great High Priest knows exactly the grace that we need in every situation.
Because we own such infinite mercy and grace, we can hold firmly to the faith that we profess, for we belong to you body and soul in life and in death. By the power of the life of Jesus in us, grant that we will extend to others the same mercy and grace as we endlessly receive from you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
 Evans, C. A., & Bubeck, C. A. (Eds.). (2005). John’s Gospel, Hebrews–Revelation (First Edition, p. 215). Colorado Springs, CO; Paris, ON; Eastbourne:
 Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:12
 Revelation 13:8
 Sproul, R. C. (2009). John (p. 377). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.
 Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1, p. 515). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
 Evans, C. A., & Bubeck, C. A. (Eds.). (2005). John’s Gospel, Hebrews–Revelation (First Edition, p. 215). Colorado Springs, CO; Paris, ON; Eastbourne: David C Cook.