I want to thank Antonio for an email he sent that shared a bible verse that was truly encouraging. For the last several weeks, he has been guiding our mid-week bible class through a study of the book of Hebrews. This letter is most likely written to Jews who had converted over to Christianity: that is, placing their confidence in Christ as both Lord and Savior. Last week I did a lesson from Hebrews and in it I shared the following verse, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us…” (Hebrews 12:1). Once again, I love the simplicity of the ETRV which says in part, “So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall.” The battle with sin is very real! There is a spiritual war that goes on within many of us (Galatians 5:17). Thoughts which conflict with the righteousness of our Savior and ones we are called to “capture…and make it give up and obey Christ” (2nd Corinthians 10:5). For the last several Sunday’s, I have sought to paint a picture of our glorious Lord and the beauty of His amazing grace. Thanks to Antonio, I wish to stroke that picture once again with the paint brush of God’s word, reminding us again of how God wants us to see Jesus.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” (Hebrews 4:14)
Never quit! Have you ever quit something? I know, that is a rhetorical question. I guess the better question could be, “Why did you quit?” Well, if there was ever a reason to quit that sounds reasonable from an earthly perspective, it is found in Hebrews 11:36-38, which says, “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” I have used this text many times and struggle to wrap my head around what it is saying. I know the apostle Paul taught that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2nd Timothy 3:12). What would keep them from quitting? It is found in the exhortation which says “…let us hold fast our confession.” HOLD ON! The word hold means to use strength, i.e., seize or retain. Hold on to what? What they had come to learn about Jesus Christ and the hope that is found only in Him. He is the “great High Priest,” who “with His own blood…entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Why? Hebrews 9:28, “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” For these early Christians, they needed to cling by faith to the reality that “you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). Okay, I know the reason why I need to hold on, but what can help me know as I wait?
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Seeing someone accomplish an extraordinary task is inspiring to me. These early Jewish Christians came from a system that they would have revered in many ways the high priest in the Levitical priesthood. Yet, that high priest was just like them, a sinner in need of redemption. Hebrews 5:3, “Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.” Jesus was different and far superior. On the one hand, He can “sympathize with our weaknesses.” The Greek word translated weaknesses carries the idea of feebleness or frailty. The word sympathize means to have compassion. As the ETRV says, He is “able to understand our weaknesses.” Well, so could the earthly high priest. This is where the superiority of Christ is revealed, for although He was “tempted as we are,” He was “without sin.” This word tempted means test and/or entice. One commentator writes, “These words show the nature and the limits of this sympathy of Christ. He suffers with His people, not merely showing compassion to those who are suffering and tempted but taking to Himself a joint feeling of their weaknesses. He can do this because He has passed through trial, has Himself been tempted.” He knows what it is like to be human and the challenges that it brings. If there is anyone who can help us become victorious over the sin that so often entices us, it is the One who has been there and was victorious every time. Let Jesus be our inspiration.
When we by faith grasp the superiority of Christ, it opens opportunities for His followers. We can “come boldly to the throne of grace” because He has compassion on His followers. He invites them in and to do with confidence. Why? Because He know we need mercy, and He promises to provide it. He knows within us, we are incapable of being victorious over sin, but through Him we can find “help in time of need.” What is the greatest need we have, forgiveness. Hebrews 2:17, “For this reason, Jesus had to be made like us, his brothers and sisters, in every way. He became like people so that he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then he could bring forgiveness for the people’s sins.” Thank You Jesus for coming to this earth and becoming like us, Your creation. Thank You for Your compassion and willingness to give Yourself on the cross to redeem us from the consequences of our sin. May You be praised every day for the hope we have and the promise of eternal life.