Jesus - A High Priest Worthy of Our Faith

Christ Superior to All  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:53
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A shallow understanding of Christ’s work leads to a shallow faith. 4:14 & 5:9

One of the things that I am continually confronted with is the shallow understanding of Christ’s work demonstrated by those who claim to follow him.
It shouldn’t surprise me, but I continually find myself wondering at what some people say in regards to the teachings of Scripture and their understanding of Christian theology.
So often when you look on social media you see stuff that is just plain wrong, yet people claim it as Christian teaching.
This is especially true in current times with all sorts of rubish about faith in Christ being a vaccine.
Or certain prayers will secure your safety.
Now we could put all this down as the work of nutters but sadly we also see a shallow understanding of Christ’s work having an impact amongst the educated and impacting public policy.
The case that always comes to my mind is that of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who in seeking to defend his position on changing the marriage act misrepresented the teachings of Jesus.
He claimed that the Gospel of the New Testament is only about love and then sought to discredit the Bible by claiming it says that slavery is the natural estate of humanity.
It was actually Aristotle a Greek Philosopher that said this.
I was particularly pleased when the Sydney Anglican community gave a robust and damming condemnation of Kevin Rudd’s misquoting & misrepresentation of Scripture and his hypocrisy in claiming he is a Christian and then setting out to discredit the Bible, the book on which Christianity is based.
When you have a shallow understanding of Christ’s work you will end up with a shallow faith.
To claim that the Gospel of the New Testament is just about love is a shallow understanding.
An understanding that leads to a willingness to abandon a clear teaching of the Scriptures for the sake of convenience.
The Gospel is about love, it is also about the sinfulness of humanity, it is about our utter depravity and utter dependence on God’s Grace.
It is about the suffering of Christ and it is about our suffering for Christ.
Only when we truly understand the depth of Christ’s work will we understand what it really is to live for Christ.
Only then as Hebrews 4:14 says will we hold firm.
Only then as Hebrews 5:9 says will we obey.
These are words of power, of determination, of conviction.
Not words of shallowness & convenience.
Sadly so much of what passes for Christianity is nothing more than platitutes, shallow slogans and telling people to think happy thoughts.
In the west it leads to an empty faith, in places where faith in Christ actually has a real cost it leaves destruction.
Scene 2: When we understand the depth of Christ’s suffering for us, our faith will be strengthened.
READ Hebrews 5:7-8
Hebrews 5:7–8 NLT
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.
Clearly the writer to the Hebrews is referring to Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We read of this agony in Luke 22:39-46 and in the Gospels of Matthew & Mark.
Repeatedly Jesus asks for the cup of suffering to be taken away from him.
It was not just the physical suffering of death by crucifixion, horrendous as that was going to be!
For Jesus it was the knowledge that the sins of the whole world for all generations where about to be placed upon him.
That his heavenly Father would have to turn away in pain, not able to look upon his son in the midst of his suffering.
It was a suffering of unimaginable magnitude.
An ordeal beyond our conception!
It is a suffering which Jesus knew was coming as it had been prophesied by Isaiah.
Isaiah chapters 52 & 53 speak of a servant who will be exalted through suffering.
The suffering of the servant is graphically described.
He bears the infirmities and diseases of human beings.
He takes on their rightly deserved punishments.
He stands in their place.
One paying the price for the sins of the many.
The central picture is of a sacrificial lamb.
An innocent creature that is sacrificed in the place of the person who sins.
One in place of another.
This picture is one of substitution.
Just as you would substitute one item for another, or one player for another and in this case one person’s life for the life of many others.
Jesus, the suffering servant is the substitute for our sins.
This picture is also one of paying the price for our sins.
Of making things right.
But the problem is that we can’t do that ourselves.
That is why Jesus was the substitute.
In our place he was punished.
In our place he took the burden of our sin.
In our place he made things right with God
In our place through his suffering our sins where atoned for.
We call this the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. [1]
This is what Jesus faced.
This is what he asked to be removed.
But again and again, he said not my will but yours be done.
Scene 2: And when we understand the depth of Christ’s obedience as an example to us, our faith will be strengthened. 4:14-16, 5:1-6
In the midst of suffering Jesus revered his heavenly Father.
In the midst of having to make a choice to face death as part of God’s plan; or to run away and forever hand over the world to Satan.
Jesus chose to obey.
He willingly chose the path of suffering.
Not because of any desire on his part.
Not because it was the easy path, clearly it was not.
But out of obedience.
Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews 4:14–16 NLT
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Grace demands mercy for sinners.
Jesus accepted the requirements of that demand.
He suffered and died so that Grace could be revealed.
And as a result of our experience of that Grace our faith in God is strengthened.
The puritan preacher Richard Sibbes said,
“When we see the humility and obedience of Christ, when we look on Christ as God’s chosen servant in all this, and as our surety and head, it transforms us to the like humility and obedience.”[2]
Humility & obedience.
Obedience is not placing ourselves above Scripture.
Obedience is not placing ourselves above Christ.
Humility means that we have understood the depth of Christ’s obedience.
That we cannot equal it.
That he faced all we do but without sin.
Jesus knew what humility was.
Hebrews 5:1-6 makes it clear that Jesus was chosen to be High Priest & Sacrifice.
In humility & obedience he took on the role.
In humility and obedience he lived among us.
Facing the same temptations that we do.
A faith which is humble enough to admit our need of Christ, obedient enough to live according to Christ; is a faith that will experience the grace & mercy of Christ.
The great writer Oswald Chambers puts it like this;
Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear; you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25.).
The tiniest thing we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is quite sufficient to account for spiritual muddle, and all the thinking we like to spend on it will never make it clear. Spiritual muddle is only made plain by obedience. Immediately we obey, we discern. This is humiliating, because when we are muddled we know the reason is in the temper of our mind. When the natural power of vision is devoted to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the power of perceiving God’s will and the whole life is kept in simplicity.[3]
Scene 4: When we understand the depth of Christ’s suffering for us, when we understand the depth of Christ’s obedience as an example to us, we can begin to understand the depth of Christ’s victory over death, for us.
Then our hope will be assured.
Hebrews 5:9-10
Hebrews 5:9–10 NLT
In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
This is an eternal victory.
A victory won through suffering & obedience.
A victory which reunited the role of Priest & King in one person.
Moses’ brother Aaron was anointed as High Priest.
Before his time we have mention of this mysterious character Melchizedek.
Both King & Priest of the most high God.
No mention is made of his beginning or end.
And it is his kingship, his priesthood, his lack of beginning or end which is used in Psalm 110:4 and developed in Hebrews chapters 5 & 7 as a precursor to Christ.
A High Priest & King forever.
Without beginning or end.
Just as Revelation says at the beginning and the end of the book.
He is the Alpha & Omega the beginning & the end.
Before death there was Christ.
After death there is Christ.
Death is therefore temporary for those who believe.
For in Christ there is life.
In Christ there is hope.
We can trust what we believe because Jesus has shown us the path through his own suffering, obedience & victory.
Scene 5: So let us serve him wholeheartedly.
In suffering learn obedience.
In obedience learn humility.
And in humility learn hope.
[1] Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. [2] Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. [3] Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering.
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