“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
(Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV)
I have been thinking recently about the privilege that we have of meeting with God. We are blessed to be able to have a relationship with God and to be able to approach him. This passage develops the fact that we have a great High Priest.
To understand the high priest language we must go back to the Old Testament. Although Aaron was a good high priest, Jesus is a great high priest. No Old Testament priest could claim such a title. So, Jesus is a great high priest, but what makes him so great?
Jesus’ greatness begins with the fact that he is both God and Man. He is the God-Man. He is the Son of God, but he also had humanity and a ministry on earth. The title “Son of God” affirms his deity. He is fully God and fully man. He is one person with two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. In his unique person, Jesus Christ unites God and humanity, so that he can bring people to God.
His greatness involves more than his person. He is also great in his position. Aaron and his successors ministered in the tabernacle and in the temple area. A human high priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year. In contrast, Jesus ministers as a high priest in a heavenly tabernacle, not an earthly one.
But there is another aspect to Christ’s position. In addition to being in heaven, he is also enthroned on a “throne of grace.” If his throne was not grace, we could not have confidence to approach Christ.
According to Old Testament law, the common people were not permitted to enter the holy areas of the tabernacle and the temple. Even the priests only went as far as the veil. Only the high priest went beyond the veil, and only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). By contrast, all believers are invited to boldly approach the throne of grace. Entrance to God’s throne is available to all believers.
The throne is great because of the Great High Priest who ministers there. Jesus, our Great High Priest, is enthroned in heaven. However, that is not all that makes him great. He is ministering mercy and grace to those who come to him for help.
Mercy means that God does not give us what we do deserve; grace means that he gives us what we do not deserve. No Old Testament high priest could minister mercy and grace in that way. Jesus is a Great High Priest
When an Israelite was tempted, he could not easily run to the high priest for help. That person could not enter the Holy of Holies to ask for God’s help. Common people were not allowed access into God’s presence. However, as believers in Jesus Christ, we can run to our High Priest at any time, in any circumstance, and find the help that we need.
We can draw two conclusions from the fact that Jesus Christ is the Great High Priest. First, there is no reason to give up our profession of faith, our confession of faith, even though we may be going through testing and trial. There is no good reason for giving up our confession of faith in Christ and our confidence in him.
The second conclusion is that we can come boldly into the presence of God and get the help we need. Jesus is in God’s presence, and therefore we can come to God boldly. Through the work of Jesus we can find mercy at the throne of God. We will never encounter a trial too great or a temptation too strong for Jesus to give us what we need.
It could be objected: “But he is the perfect Son of God! What can he know about the problems that sinners like us experience?” But that is a critical part of his greatness! When he was ministering on earth in a human body, he experienced all that we experience.
Christ was tempted, yet did not sin; and he is therefore able to help us when we are tempted. In his perfect humanity, he is familiar with every difficulty we experience as humans. He was tempted without succumbing to the temptation. He knows all about sin without having sinned.
His final familiarity with sin came when he took our sin upon himself at Calvary. This passage is rich in the promise of help and comfort for us as Christians. We have the promise of continual help. We can receive mercy, grace, and help at the throne of grace.
Do we realize what a privilege it is to be able to approach God? Through the work of Christ, we can approach the Creator of the Universe with confidence. Let’s approach God with both boldness and reverence!
(Credit is due to Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary)