Dr. Chris White April 7,2013
A few people are waking up to revealing news this week. The Inter- national Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, D.C., partnered with 86 journalists from 46 countries to unpack 2.5 million files and 2 million emails related to offshore businesses, bank accounts, and trust funds. While many of them are legal, the reports are laying bare the details of 120,000 companies and funds that, at a minimum, hide unreported income and unpaid taxes that create the financial crisis like that of Greece. At the far end, the accounts serve as safe storage for criminally gained assets. A fair number of the world’s wealthiest are about to have their best kept secrets revealed.
It is that gnawing, human dread of being found out that is at the heart of Hebrews 4:14-5:10. This passage begins with a “Therefore” and refers to a clear warning in verse 13: Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. It’s great to talk about God, but there is a clear price to be near God. We are literally naked before Him, uncovered—meaning, there are no secrets. And that is a problem. We do not do so well when we cannot keep secrets. We do not intuitively wish for a relationship with God where all stories are known for their full actions, reactions, motives, and consequences. It’s hard to be confident under these circumstances. And that is why Hebrews 4-5 makes the argument for Jesus as our confidence.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Our confidence: Jesus, the great, high, sympathetic priest.
The Scriptures speak of Jesus as a great high priest, a label any first century Jew would have understood. It was for the priests to cross the barrier between humans and God, and only that with an offering appropriate for the need. Someone had to stand on behalf of the people and make peace with God and God’s judgment on sin and sinners. Jesus, Hebrews says, is that priest. He is high and he is great. But he is also sympathetic. He is sympathetic toward us because he was tempted in every way we have been tempted. He is like us in human experience, and so he understands Paul’s words from Romans 7:21: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Because Jesus was truly human and fully human, he knows the weight of temptations. He is like us and therefore sympathetic.
On the other hand, he is not like us. Unlike us, he did not give in to temptation. He is without sin, and so he enjoys a different standing before our Father. His voice in the ear of His Father and our Father is a voice unlike any other voice, and it is a voice he uses on our behalf. He earned the right to plead his case. More important, he has made our case his case. We have a bad case before a tough judge, but we have a good attorney. And his death on the cross for our sins is his argument on our behalf. It is a bad case before a tough judge, but it is a great argument. This is why we approach the throne of grace with confidence.
The passage goes on:
Every high priest is selected from among men and appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who 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. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place. “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizadek.”
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizadek.
Our confidence: Jesus, the high priest designated by God.
My favorite scene in the Wizard of Oz is the uncovering of the Great Wizard. It is a supreme letdown for Dorothy and the crew when they discover the little man with lots of excuses and no greatness behind the smoke. The Wizard of Oz was self-appointed and could only go as far as himself. That was his problem and his fatal weakness. It is the case that we see plenty of “authorities” revealed as self-appointed. They cannot help us.
Jesus, Hebrews says, is a high priest designated by God. He did not call himself up from the crowd or the minor leagues. He is in the tradition of Aaron beside Moses and Melchizadek receiving tithes from Abraham. His is an ancient priesthood and a God-appointed priesthood. He is an authority like no other.
But there is more to it than even this. What Hebrews tells us is that Jesus stands with unequalled integrity before God. Like us, Jesus knows a thing or two about praying and petitioning and calling on God as the one who could save him from death. Unlike us, He knows a thing or two about submitting himself to God’s will, even as God’s will meant death. He knows what it is to remain obedient through suffering and even to change through suffering. Unlike us, he became perfect through suffering. Unlike us, Jesus is known for his reverential submission to God. All this is to say that Jesus stands before God with a credibility we will never own.
And it is a credibility he offers on our behalf. And so we are confident as we go to the throne of grace.