I don’t mean to be too critical of the Holy Spirit here today, but if I was behind the inspiration of Scripture, I would have saved today’s three-verse passage for much later in the book of Hebrews. It really is a pinnacle statement. So I would have given all of the history behind it, explaining all the pictures and details, building up to this grand conclusion! Yes!! But, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes this summary statement, and he will then go on in subsequent chapters to delineate all of the color and background that gives these words such rich meaning.
If you were with us this past Sunday, you may have noticed that I quickly went through some of the background material in chapters five and seven, before having Tim Lester finish off at the end with these three verses we read today.
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.
As most of you know, I give some occasional time to historic interpretation with groups that come to the Antietam National Battlefield. Before leading quests around America’s best-preserved battlefield, I do an orientation talk from the high ground behind the visitor’s center – pointing to the various mountain ranges that can be seen, including being able to see four states without moving your feet.
Pointing to the northeast, I always mention the South Mountain and Catoctin ranges, telling guests that Camp David is just up in those hills … humorously saying, “But there is no sign there that says ‘Welcome to Camp David,’ and I would not advise walking aimlessly through the woods at that place!”
What happens to people who jump the fence at the White House and run toward the door? They get tackled (or at least they are supposed to!)
And a couple of decades ago when in England and at the gate of Buckingham Palace, there were these really big dudes with foofie hats and bright outfits, but they looked like they’d kill you if you went past them (which they would).
You can’t just walk up to the Pope, the Queen of England, or the POTUS and act like you own the joint. Nope, you’ll get taken down in a hurry if you try. So surely God (who is actually bigger than the illustrations given … really, HE is!) cannot be approached either.
But wow, these verses say that we can boldly come into God’s very presence in the time of need to receive help. We are welcome; we are invited; we are encouraged to come before him! That is amazing stuff!
How can this be?
That is what the subsequent chapters will explain and lay out in detail, relating it back to the high priest in the Old Testament. And we’ll even talk about how it dates back to a guy named Melchizedek in Genesis, and even before that to Adam himself.
But for today, the point to be made is that Jesus is the ultimate high priest – the ultimate representative with access to God. He’s not an earthly high priest, as warm and fuzzy and comforting as the physical presence of such was to these Hebrews who were contemplating giving up following Christ. Jesus is a high priest who is right there with God, and having paid for our debts has secured our bold and welcomed access into God’s presence as the adopted children of the King.
Malia and Sasha Obama aren’t stopped by the Secret Service while walking around the White House. Kate Middleton isn’t tackled by the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham, St. James, Windsor, or Balmoral when she is there.
And we are welcome in God’s presence – not through anything we have done, but because of our great high priest Jesus. We are family. The previous barriers have been taken down because of what Christ has done and our identification with him through faith and repentance. For us, the throne is not to be feared, but is a throne of grace.
Follow with us over the next several weeks of writings as we describe how all of this came to be possible in the unfolding revelation of God – tying together all of Scripture into one great story.