I have to tell you, and I'm sure many of you understand this: your thoughts, your prayers, your words of comfort meant and mean so much to me. You have sustained me through this tough period. What makes your words and presence even more meaningful is the simple fact many of you have gone through similar situations. When Anna Anglin tells me she’s praying for me, when Sherry Krajca tells me she’s thinking about my family, when I look around and see Greg Coile, Larry Davis, Kem Ventrca—I could keep on naming names—I take great comfort in the fact that not only are you praying for me, but you’ve been in a similar situation. You know just how to pray. You know what I am experiencing. You don’t tell me that—you don’t have to! There is a solidarity there that makes words unnecessary.
It is an important and powerful truth: the presence or concerns of one who has gone through similar struggles strengthens and heals me. Solidarity is a powerful thing.
The next few weeks we are asking the question: Why Did My Savior Come To Earth? These past two weeks have illustrated for me an answer to that question. The Hebrew writer deals with it a little more in detail. Hebrews 4:14-5:10:
According to the Hebrew writer Jesus became “High Priest” for all mankind. The Jewish concept of High Priest is one who expresses solidarity with those he serves. This may come as a surprise to you: but the High Priest’s primary concern is not to represent God to man. The role of the priest is to represent man to God. He is the intercessor. That’s why a priest has to be human. An angel can’t represent mankind—how could a completely different being be representative of the human race? The priest must have solidarity with the ones he represents. For someone to represent humanity, he must himself be human.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, 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 empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is 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 ignorant and 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. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on 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 Melchizedek."
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, 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 Melchizedek.
Of course, the question is: Is Jesus qualified to be priest; to represent man to God? The Hebrew writer briefly points out his credentials: first, Jesus doesn’t take the role of priesthood for himself. It is conferred upon him by God. Secondly, although he is not a Levite—he is qualified because his order is much older than is Levi. He is from the order of Melchezedik. For us perhaps the most important qualification is that Jesus is capable of representing man to God, because he is God who became man! As a human he can deal with us gently, he can be empathetic with us—as the Hebrew writer says: he was tempted in every way yet was without sin.
Now we run into a confusing thought—Though Jesus was without sin there’s that pesky little phrase “once Jesus was made perfect' through his suffering--I thought as God, the Son he was already perfect. Actually, the word can mean mature—or better in this case: qualified. As God he was not qualified to represent man to God. It was only in becoming man and then suffering pain and experiencing death and the fear of death would he become fully qualified to represent us. That is what the writer means.
And the truth is, Jesus was imminently qualified to represent us before God, because he knows our plight, he’s felt the pressure—even greater than we have. He was subjected to weakness and gave himself over to God’s will and once made perfect, became the source for eternal life for us.
And look what he accomplished for us! Not only do we have eternal life, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need! That’s a powerful thought! We can approach this eternal God—this magnificent and mysterious Other with confidence knowing that he will give mercy and grace as we face our struggles and temptations. As we hurt and cry and are tempted to quit!
But wait a minute—if that’s true, if God really cares and wants to bring to bear mercy and grace then why do we still face the pain and tragedy in our lives? What about my dad, Dwain, R.B., Reta, Mildred and others? These are real situations, not just intellectual exercises! We’re talking about people we know—we’re talking about ourselves! And when we face these struggles we need help in making sense out of them. And that’s what the Hebrew writer does for us. He reminds us that Jesus himself faced this pain and cried out to the one who was able to deliver him from death and he was heard!
But wait! He still died! Yet he was delivered from death, too! Through the resurrection he was delivered from the ultimate slavery of death and in so doing he freed us from the fear that death will rule us forever! Death is not the final word! Resurrection is!
Why did my Savior come to earth? One reason is so he can come beside us in our struggle and pain—to fully understand our plight and to be qualified to stand before God on our behalf—to open the door so we can walk in the presence of God ourselves, unafraid.
So, in this Christmas season, may you come to appreciate the gift Jesus gives. May you fully grasp this truth: when you sit in an emergency waiting room, when you stand beside the grave stone, when you are lying in that hospital bed—Jesus understands better than any one. He stands beside you and is present with you. He takes you to the very throne of God to plead your case. May you experience his presence by faith, and may you take comfort.